Meridian Star

June 28, 2013

Sassafras tree oddity

By Mark Anderson / guest columnist
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     My preacher and I were rambling around the Noxubee River swamp when we encountered a tree. “Preacher, do you know what this is” I questioned him. “No, what is it,” he asked.

    “That's a sassafras tree. It provides the flavor to root beer. They take the cambium layer bark from the root of this tree and extract the flavor for root beer. Thus the name root beer. Indians used it as a herb medicine. Something else is very peculiar about this tree. It has single lobe leaves, double lobe leaves and triple lobe leaves.”

    “Good gracious Marcus, I never heard of that before. You are teaching me something new today.”

    We found a tree with leaves and pulled samples of the leaves. I wonder how many other people never heard of this common but special that is plentiful in Mississippi and Alabama.

    I made some sassafras tea several years ago and only added sugar. There was no problem knowing this was the flavoring in root beer. We have so much to see and enjoy if we observe and hike around the beautiful fields and woods in our native Deep South.