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How to Harvest the Sassafras Root

By Kimberly Johnson ; Updated September 21, 2017

Sassafras trees have leaves and wood that has the scent of root beer when they are crushed. This edible tree can be made into tea, boiled down to make syrup or simply ground up and used as a spice for flavoring food. According to Martha's Vineyard magazine, the flavor of the sassafras roots is much stronger than the flavor of the leaves. If desired, you can harvest your own sassafras by digging up the root system.

Wait until the fall and locate a small sassafras tree with a 2-inch diameter trunk. Sassafras trees have a combination of three flower shapes: oval, a leaf with two lobes that look like a mitten and a leaf that has three lobes. When you find a tree with all three, tear a leaf to see if it smells like root beer.

Insert a shovel into the ground 1 foot away from the base of the sassafras tree and lean back on it to lift the base of the seedling out of the soil. You may need to loosen the soil on the other side of the tree before lifting it.

Brush off the excess dirt from the root system so that you can easily identify the larger roots.

Cut off the largest horizontal roots near the base of the sassafras tree using a sharp knife or hand pruners.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Knife or hand pruners
  • Hand spade (optional)


  • If you want to leave the tree planted, dig down 3 to 4 inches with a hand spade until you identify a root. Cut off an 8 to 10-inch piece using the hand pruners and fill the hole back in with soil.
  • You must boil the roots to extract the flavor from them.

About the Author


Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.