It’s tough to choose a “most beautiful” from the deciduous plants decked out in their fall finery, but some individual plants are truly outstanding. This small sassafras, shot growing along the Perimeter Trail, was eye-catching. Sassafras (S. albidum (Nutt.) Nees) is common in our forest. Many of us know of sassafras tea, which is made from the root. The original root beer also used root extracts, and the herb file is made from dried and ground leaves.
Sassafras is a clonal plant. The small plants shown here are actually offshoots of the clone’s underground root system. The little ones, which can sometimes cover the forest floor, are what people collected for culinary uses. Sassafras is a host of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly, spicebush (Lindera benzoin (L.) Blume) being another member of the Lauarceae family.