Saturday, October 24, 2015

Seven Sassafras

After many years, multiple attempts and lots of failures, I have a stand of sassafras trees growing on the back hill. They are at different stages of maturity -- some are just young saplings, a few were eaten to the ground and are only now regrowing, and two of them are 9 years old and tall. There are seven thriving trees lined up along the slope and I call that a grove.

Sassafras albidum is a funny tree, with mitten shaped leaves and a Raggedy Ann look. In fall each of my seven trees has distinctly different fall coloring. In bright sunshine through the camera lens it's hard to distinguish the variations on orange, but really each one is quite different.

The largest one is still leafy and green well into October. The second one, with a strongly tiered shape, is butterscotch yellow. A small sapling is bright pumpkin orange, another is rusty burnt orange, and yet another has copper colored fall leaves.

One is a deep red, with green leaves still mixed in.

The last of the seven sassafrasses had cinnamon brown foliage before dropping most of its leaves to show bare branches while the others were still clad.

This may be a grove, but it's a group of seven individual personalities. Even in summer when they are all green, they show their separate dispositions.

With root beer flavored roots, whimsical leaf shapes, and a funny name, sassafras is a character in the woods. It's hard to grow if you plant it, but an aggressive colonizer on its own terms growing in any newly open space. If you cut it, it runs, sending up shoots everywhere and forever. It has no cultivars that I know of. It has no common name, unless you use the children's term "mitten tree".

It's a wild child, and if you get seven of them growing together, you get to see how each one is an original. It's taken me years to get this group of young trees to take, and even as they grow into the grove I envisioned, each one is doing its own thing.

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