Notable Tree

This sassafras tree is Hamden's Notable Tree for November.

Contributed photo

The Hamden Tree Commission has named this sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum) as the Hamden Notable Tree for the month of November. The tree is located at the home of Irving and Kathleen Mitchell, in the Dunbar Hill neighborhood of Hamden. The sassafras is a deciduous tree, native to North America. This particular tree measures 61 feet high, with a trunk circumference of 101 inches. The canopy spread is 56.5 feet wide, making it the largest measured sassafras canopy in the State of Connecticut!

The sassafras tree is known for its unusual leaves, stunning fall color, pleasant aroma, and culinary and medicinal uses. A rarity in nature, the tree has three distinct leaf shapes -- bilobed and trilobed mittens as well as a unilobed leaf, more oval in shape. The leaves create a striking yellow-orange-red display of color in autumn. The leaf has a sweet, citrus smell and its powdered leaves, called fife, are used in Creole gumbos. The root has a different, distinct smell and is the original source of the flavor of root beer; however, the roots are now known to contain a carcinogen and are no longer used in food. Sassafras root was one of the earliest exports of the Plymouth and Jamestown colonies and for centuries was used to treat maladies such as fevers, bronchitis, and skin problems.

The Mitchells noted that it was a sizable tree when they first moved to their home 47 years ago. They were surprised to learn about the significance and historical value of their tree. "We have always loved our tree, never realizing how special it was,” says Kathleen.

If you have a tree you would like to nominate, please send its location and a few sentences describing the tree to: help@hamden.com. Please include your name, address, email and phone number as well. Or you can mail your nomination to the Hamden Tree Commission care of the Mayor’s Office, Hamden Government Center, 2750 Dixwell Avenue, Hamden, CT 06518.