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Sassafras

Sassafras

It is a beautiful and pale creamy grey to white normally but can be streaked with rich browns and black heart.

The timber

Of all Tasmanian timbers, sassafras has the most variable and dynamic colouring. It is a beautiful and pale creamy grey to white normally but can be streaked with rich browns and black heart. So, it is available in two major groupings; Golden sassafras and Blackheart sassafras.
Finishing to a grey and golden tone, golden sassafras is particularly attractive as a veneer or as a solid timber with knots providing figure. If the tree is infected with a staining fungus it produces Blackheart sassafras. Blackheart is a timber with distinctive dark brown, black, and even green streaks running through the wood. Blackheart is highly prized for decorative work and bowl turning as no two pieces are ever the same.
Sassafras is versatile.While the wood is light and strong, it is rather soft and easily worked. Renowned in furniture use as a solid, a veneer, or as a laminated board, sassafras is used for panelling, mouldings, joinery, veneers, cabinet making and turnery.

The resource

Sassafras can be found in Tasmania’s native forests. It generally grows in well-drained rainforests in cool damp conditions, where it is one of the dominant species. Sassafras prefers gullies and along creek lines and grows from sea level to around 800 metres.

Sassafras can grow well on sites of moderate fertility and it seeds heavily. However, seedlings are favoured by native animals and its successful growth can be restricted by browsing.

In Tasmania, Sassafras is found in most areas of the state, except for drier areas of the east coast. It is common on both the eastern and western mountains ranges. Approximately 82% of Tasmania’s forests containing Sassafras are held in reserves.

The Tree

In ideal conditions, Sassafras can grow up to 45 metres tall, obtain a diameter of 1 metre, and reach ages of 150–200 years. As an understorey species, it reaches heights of 25m and 75cm in diameter. The tree has a conical crown and is often partially covered in lichen.

Flowers are unisexual, with both sexes found on the same tree. Each flower is surrounded by a pair of bracts that appear in winter. The female flower is contained within a cup-shaped receptacle.

The leaves of the Sassafras tree are lance-shaped with a saw tooth edge. They are about 4cm long and 2cm wide and have a strong Sarsaparilla scent. Juvenile leaves are dark green with a white underside, that turn yellow as they age.

The bark is light grey to dark brown with numerous pores. It contains tannin, resin and essential oils, which smell strongly of Cinnamon.

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