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For Your Garden - December 2010

Native plants provide not only beauty but food and shelter for wildlife. Are you using native plants in your yard and garden? Native species are adapted to the Illinois climate. They require little or no watering and are resistant to drought, insects and most diseases. Because they are perennials, you can welcome their presence year after year.

sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Photo © Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Guy Sternberg, Photographer

Sassafras grows in the southern three-fourths of Illinois in upland areas with dry soil. It is often found in forest edges and fence rows. The sassafras tree may grow to a maximum height of about 70 feet. The bark is red-brown and furrowed. The leaves are arranged alternately on the smooth, green twigs. Three different leaf shapes can be found on a single tree. All of them are smooth along the edges and smooth on the upper leaf surface. The leaves provide brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange in fall. Flowers are yellow-green with male and female flowers produced on separate trees. Dark-blue berries are produced in the fall, and they provide a good food source for birds and other wildlife.

Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.

Illinois Range

Native Plant Information

For more information about Illinois native plants, visit our Native Habitat Descriptions, Requirements, and Plant Lists page. The following publications are available from the IDNR on our publications page.


​Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Laurales
Family: Lauraceae

Illinois Status: common, native