Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
1 rating

Wednesday - January 11, 2012

From: Florence, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: General Botany, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Allelopathy in Sassafras albidum
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Sassafras albidum description says "Sassafras is allelopathic and can discourage the growth of certain other plants within its root zone." My question is: WHICH plants are susceptible? Or not susceptible?

ANSWER:

Sassafras Sassafras albidum (Sassafras) is a moderately fast growing, aromatic tree that is found in forest stands from southwestern Maine, south to northern Florida, and west as far as eastern Oklahoma and Texas. This description from “Silvics of North America, vol. 2 “ from the USDA has a very good chapter on Sassafras albidum, which addresses the question of allelopathy. It references the paper "The allelopathic influences of Sassafras albidum on old-field succession in Tennessee" Gant, R. E., and E. E. Clebsch. 1975. Ecology 56:604-615.  (click here to see abstract)

The following is a summary of the results of that study.

Vegetative surveys of 12 different stands of Sassafras albidum located in various study areas across the state were made. The vegetation was sampled to document which ground cover species occurred beneath and which were found outside the sassafras canopy. In general, more species were present and the percentage cover was higher outside the canopy.

Of the 37 species found in the survey, 17 were consistently higher in percent cover beneath or outside of the sassafras canopy. Ten of the 17 species that occurred outside  the canopy were as follows: 

annual herbs, Ambrosia artemisiifolia (Annual ragweed)and Cassia nictitans;

perennial grasses Andropogon virginicus (Broomsedge bluestem), and Tridens flavus var. flavus (Purpletop tridens);

biennial herbs Daucus carota, Rubus allegheniensis (Allegheny blackberry), and Rubus hispidus (Bristly dewberry);

perennial herbs Lespedeza striata, Plantago macrocarpa (Seashore plantain), and Solidago spp.

Seven perennials were more successful beneath the canopy; Asplenium platyneuron (Ebony spleenwort), Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry), Lonicera japonica, Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)., Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper), Paspalum setaceum (Thin paspalum), and Toxicodendron radicans ssp. radicans (Eastern poison ivy)  (also known as Rhus radicans).

Another part of the study tested the effect of some of the terpenoid compounds produced by sassafras on seed germination.  The following species  showed reduction in radicle growth in these tests.
Acer negundo (Ash-leaf maple), Acer saccharum (Sugar maple), Albizia julibrissin, Pinus virginiana (Virginia pine), Sorghum halepense, and Ulmus americana (American elm).




 

From the Image Gallery

More Trees Questions

Bark damage to Tulip Tree
August 10, 2006 - I have a tulip tree planted. It is about 9-10 years old. Two years ago the tree looked as though the trunk was cracked. Maybe hit by lightning after a storm. This year the bark on the side of tree...
view the full question and answer

Native plants of Taos and Los Alamos NM from Houston
April 07, 2012 - Hi, Mr. Smarty Plants, can you recommend a guidebook for the native plants of the Taos/Los Alamos region? (I'm most interested in forbs.) I'll be headed there in May--is there anything I should es...
view the full question and answer

Wildlife and bird friendly hedgerow for Chicago suburb
November 30, 2013 - Want to plant a wildlife/bird friendly hedgerow in suburban Chicago. Looking for a recommended mix of understory trees as well a shrubs and grasses. Site is part shade with average to wet soil and tr...
view the full question and answer

Destructive landscape crews in The Woodlands TX
October 20, 2012 - Hi. We need help. We recently moved to a house where landscape crews have been blowing away the leaf litter from the front yard for many years. The underbrush was also cleared long ago. The result...
view the full question and answer

Re-landscaping in Stephenville, TX.
November 17, 2012 - I prefer native plants. We are re-landsacaping, so I need grass, ground cover, vines and flowers to plant in our back yard. We have many trees and the whole yard is shady. A small area might be con...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.