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Genus of the Week

Week of January 18-24

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This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of all available Web resources for a particular genus.
If you like this page, you should also visit the Land of the Glandular Trichomes , a microscopic look at plants in the Lamiaceae family.

This week's genus:


Subclass: Dicotyledoneae
Superorder: Magnoliidae
Order: Laurales
Family: Lauraceae
Subfamily: Lauroideae
Number of Species: at least 2
Root: The Spanish botanist Monardes (16th century) thought this genus to be named after Saxifraga, an unrelated genus whose name is derived from the Latin for "rock-breaking" (in reference to that genus' tendency to sprout up between rocks).

Plants in the genus Sassafras are trees or shrubs, often with characteristic mitten-shaped leaves existing on the same plant along with elliptical and 3-lobed leaves. There have been many economic uses of this genus over the centuries. The oil derived from the bark and berries has been used in perfumes, while the wood is used in the timber industry and a yellow dye can be extracted from the bark. Sassfras oil was formerly used in some carbonated beverages and also has been used to make tea, but this volatile oil is also known for its poisonous and cancerous side efects.

Here are some links to information concerning the genus Sassafras:


  1. Grieve, M. (C. F. Leyel, ed.). A Modern Herbal. London, Tiger Books International: 1973.
  2. Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
  3. Little, Elbert L., ed. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Eastern Region. New York, Alfred A. Knopf: 1980.

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