Sassafras, An Ozarks Beauty

I know that there are sassafras trees all over the country, but I always think of it as an Ozarks tree. They are usually spotted along the fence lines, a small understory tree. Though, I understand that they can grow to towering heights, I have never seen one that I would consider to be a large tree.
The roots were originally used to flavor root beer and candies, the chemical in the oils were shown to cause cancer in rats, so the natural flavoring from sassafras was taken off the market years ago. Though I do know folks that make tea from the freshly dug roots. The leaves are still used when dried and ground to powder to flavor gumbo and other cajun dishes.
I love the tree in every season. In the spring, it is one of the last trees to bud out. It always looks like a rustic chandelier, holding its bright green buds up to the spring light. With three different shaped leaves, it is a beautiful small tree in the summer. But I think its best season is fall with brilliant color -orange, scarlet and fushia. And in winter, the lovely shape and rough, dark gray bark stand out against the cold landscape.
I keep an eye out for this lovely inhabitant of the Ozarks throughout the course of our seasons.
Take a look at this from the Missouri Conservation Dept.

Click to access fallcolors2011.pdf

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