LIMITED SUPPLY Culture: Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, acidic, loamy soils. Tolerates dry, sandy soils. Large taproot makes transplanting of established trees difficult. If root suckers are not removed, tree will spread and begin to take on the appearance of a large multi-stemmed shrub.
Noteworthy Characteristics: Sassafras is a native, ornamental, small to medium-sized deciduous tree which occurs in wood margins. Shrubby in youth, but matures to a dense, pyramidal tree up to 60' tall. Spreads by root suckers to form large colonies in the wild. All of the trees in a colony may rise from the same parent. To Native Americans, sassafras oils were freely used in tonics as medical panaceas. Culinary uses: have included: sassafras tea (bark), root beer flavoring (root oil) and a gumbo-thickening agent called filé. File' (pronounced fee-lay) is the traditional table condiment used on gumbo. Because of this, sometimes it is called "gumbo file". The early Cajuns learned to use file' from the Choctaw Indians of the Gulf coast, who evidently used it to thicken soups. File' is ground sassafras leaves. How to Make File. (link) More recently, Sassafras oils have been determined to contain (safrole) and many of the former uses for the oils are now banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.