Sassafras (Sassafras albidium) is an easily identified tree. If you find a tree with three types of leaves -- entire or with two or three lobes -- and a pleasant fragrance when you scratch the stem, you've likely found Sassafras.
Sassafras is found throughout much of the eastern US, but is less common north of Massachusetts. It grows abundantly in Plainville, where I typically find families of young trees along sunny forest edges.
Dried, crushed, and added to soups, Sassafras leaves provide both a unique flavor and a thickening quality. I've not used them in large enough quantities to notice the thickening action, but I do enjoy the flavor. Commercially, dried Sassafras leaves are sold as filé powder and are a traditional thickener of many Louisiana gumbos.
Once you've found this tree, give a young twig a scratch. Smell it once and you'll never forget it.
Sassafras flowers early in the green season. I found these female flowers in late April.
Whether you eat the leaves or not, do take an opportunity to acquaint yourself with this spicy tree. And if you missed the first post in this series, check out Foraging Fragrant Leaves: Sweet-fern.