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Sassafras vs Northern Spicebush

Sassafras and spicebush are usually easy to distinguish, but young plants can often be confused, especially when sassafras exhibits only simple leaves. The two species are closely related and the leaves have a similar appearance as well as similar aromas. Both can occur in the same habitat, but sassafras can grow on drier sites and spicebush can tolerate deeper shade.

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

A large shrub to medium tree with aromatic leaves and roots and variably-lobed leaves.
A native understory shrub of rich deciduous forests in eastern North America.
Usually has some leaves with 2 or 3 lobes.
Photo © Andrew Conboy, CC BY 4.0.
All leaves are entire (without any lobes.)
Photo © Michael Ellis, CC BY 4.0.
Ripe fruit is dark blue, almost black.
Photo © Judy Gallagher, CC BY 4.0.
Ripe fruit is red.
Photo © Christine McAnlis, CC BY 4.0.