Sassafras, or Sassafras albidum

Riverview Cemetery has but one Sassafras tree in its plant collection, that being a weather-beaten specimen in Section K that is likely more than a hundred years old. A deciduous tree, Sassafras albidum is native to Eastern North America where it generally grows from 40 to 50 feet in height in its northern range. Larger specimens are found in its southern range.

Sassafras in Section K at Riverview Cemetery in summer and fall colors

Sassafras is unusual in having three distinct leaf patterns — unlobed oval, bilobed, and trilobed — on the same plant. The leaves are bright green in the summer and turn a brilliant yellow-orange and red-orange in the fall.

Richard E. Weaver Jr., in the January 1976 issue of Arnoldia, the quarterly bulletin of the Arnold Arboretum, writes “the color and the effect of the fall foliage is about as spectacular as that of any tree, the leaves typically turning orange with tints of yellow, red, and salmon, and for this reason alone the tree deserves more recognition as an ornamental.”