In early to mid-Spring Sassafras shrubs and trees produce flowers before their leaves are fully developed.
Lemony yellow flowers cluster together near the ends of branches in roundish clumps. The clusters of blossoms can be seen from a distance against the backdrop of the browns and grays of the awakening forest.
The sexes are separate so that certain shrubs or trees will have male flowers and others will have female flowers.
Sassafras blossoms look very similar, but overall the male flowers
look fuller and bushier. The male flowers are full of stamens while the female flowers have a central pistil and a set of small stamens.
Three concentric circles of stamens for a total of nine stamens makes the male sassafras flowers look bushier than the female flowers.
The distinct lemony-fresh scent was delightful when walking near the blooming Sassafras.
Look near the edge of the forest almost anywhere in the Eastern U.S. to find Sassafras. Sassafras trees and shrubs will be blooming around the same time as dogwood trees and the woodland flower Rue Anemone.
Sassafras trees and shrubs are noted by their green stems and their growth habit. At the edge of the forest look for the way the branches curve upward as seen in the photo below.
Eventually, fruits will grow on the female plants so I’ll be visiting these woods again to see how they develop. Photos taken 8 May 2014 in Juniata County, PA.