Leaves and twigs are spicy fragrant when crushed or scratched. Leaves occur in three distinct shapes: oval, bilobed (mitten-shaped), and trilobed (three-pronged). Young twigs are green. Small yellow flowers are produced along with the young leaves. The olive-sized black fruit is produced in a distinctive red cup. This small tree is typically found in open woods and thickets.
Sassafras leaves are an important food source for white-tailed deer, rabbits, muskrats, and other small mammals. Sassafras flowers from March to May and fruits ripen from June to September. The fruits are drupes and are commonly eaten by a variety of songbirds.