Sassafras – Hard to Control Root Sprouts
Q: Over the last six months, I have made great strides at developing our landscape. However, for the past two years during the spring and summer, I have had hundreds of unidentified saplings uncontrollably sprouting in my front yard. Can you please help me identify this plant?
A: The distinctive leaf shape tells me the sprouts are sassafras. This attractive native plant is host to the spicebush butterfly. My bet is that a large sassafras tree once grew in your landscape and was cut down. The plant loves to spread by root sprouts, so with the “mother” tree gone, the roots are desperately trying to make leaves and survive. I suppose you could control them by religiously cutting the sprouts as they appear. I recommend you decide on a spot where an existing clump could grow into a couple of trees and dig out anything that doesn’t suit you.
Do not try transplanting a clump from one spot to another. The Internet is rife with tales about how hard it is to move a sassafras tree. I have attempted it four times and failed each time.