Sassafras albidum

 

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Family: Lauraceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sassafras

 

 

 

Sassafras is a genus composed of three species native to North America [1], China [1] and Taiwan [1]. The name sassafras is a Native American name used by the Spanish and French in Florida in the middle of the 16th century. In 1577, the use of sassafras by Native Americans was reported and in 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh brought it back to England from the Virginia Colony. In the early 17th century (1602—1603), several ships were dispatched from England to the colonies to collect sassafras roots; the colonists used the wood to build forts. These forays were known as the Great Sassafras Hunts.

Sassafras albidum-ague-tree, black ash, cinnamon wood, common sassafras, file-gumbo, gumbo-file, red sassafras, sasafras, sassafac, sassafrac, sassafras, sassafrasso, saxifrax, saxifrax tree, smelling-stick, wah-en-nah-kas, white sassafras.

 

Distribution

Sassafras is native to North America from Maine through Ontario, Michigan, Iowa, and Kansas, to Florida and Texas.

 

The Tree

The tree can reach a height of 90 ft (27 m) and a diameter of 5 ft (1.5 m). The leaves vary in shape from simple (entire) to mitten-shape to tri-lobed on the same tree. Sassafras produces greenish-yellow flowers in the spring and bright red, yellow, and orange foliage in the fall. It has thick, dark red-brown bark that is deeply furrowed. Trees are either male or female, although the flowers may appear perfect. The fruits are olive-shaped to spherical, with a dark skin and thin flesh. Sassafras is a pioneer species, the first to invade abandoned fields. It spreads asexually by root runners, forming small groves of the tree. Sassafras grows alongside persimmon, oak, sweetgum, dogwood, ironwood and pawpaw.

 

The Wood

General

Sassafras heartwood is pale brown to orange brown, resembling ash or chestnut; the sapwood is a narrow yellowish-white. The wood is coarse-grained, straight, brittle and soft, with a spicy aromatic odor. Sassafras is a ring-porous species.

Mechanical Properties (2-inch standard)

 

 

 

 

Compression

 

 

 

 

Specific

gravity

MOE

x106 lbf/in2

MOR

lbf/in2

Parallel

lbf/in2

Perpendicular

lbf/in2

WMLa

in-lbf/in3

Hardness

lbf

Shear

lbf/in2

Green

0.42

0.91

6,000

2,730

370

7.1

520

950

Dry

0.46

1.12

9,000

4,760

850

8.7

630

1,240

aWML = Work to maximum load.

Reference (98), except hardness (59).

 

 

 

Drying and Shrinkage

Type of shrinkage

Percentage of shrinkage
(green to final moisture content)

0% MC

6% MC

20% MC

Tangential

6.2

5.0

2.1

Radial

4.0

3.2

1.3

Volumetric

10.3

8.2

3.4

References: 0% MC (98),
6% and 20% MC (90).

Kiln Drying Schedulesa

 

Stock

Condition

4/4, 5/4, 6/4

8/4

10/4

12/4

16/4

Standard

T8-D4

aReferences (6, 86).

Working Properties: Sassafras is easily worked and takes a finish well. It glues well and holds screws better than nails.

Durability: Sassafras is very resistant to heartwood decay in exposed, damp conditions, making it good for fence posts and the sills of houses.

Preservation: No information available at this time.

Uses: Lumber, furniture, posts, fence rails and posts, kindling, boxes, cooperage (slack), general millwork, small boats, oil from root bark, colonial dye (orange) from bark.

Toxicity: No information available at this time.

Additional Reading and References Cited (in parentheses)

6.?Boone, R.S.; Kozlik, C.J.; Bois, P.J.; Wengert, E.M. 1988. Dry kiln schedules for commercial woods-temperate and tropical. Gen. Tech. Rep. FPL-GTR-57. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory.

13.?Carrol, C.F. 1973. The timber economy of Puritan New England. Providence, RI: Brown University Press.

29.?Elias, T.S. 1980. The complete trees of North America, field guide and natural history. New York: van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

55. ?Little, Jr., E.L. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. U.S. Government Printing Office.

59. Markwardt, L.J.; Wilson, T.R.C. 1935. Strength and related properties of woods grown in the United States. Tech. Bull. 479. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. U.S. Government Printing Office.

68. Panshin, A.J.; de Zeeuw, C. 1980. Textbook of wood technology, 4th ed. New York: McGraw—Hill Book Co..

74. Record, S.J.; Hess R.W. 1943. Timbers of the new world. New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press.

86. Simpson, W.T. 1991. Dry kiln operator's manual. Ag. Handb. 188. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory.

90. Summitt, R.; Sliker, A. 1980. CRC handbook of materials science. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Inc. Vol. 4.

98. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1987. Wood handbook: wood as an engineering material. Agric. Handb. 72. (Rev.) Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture.
466 p.