I am a hobby gardener with an acreage in Zone 4b/5a. I’ve been trying to get a Sassafras tree for years with no success. Are you aware of any retailer in Ontario that stocks these right now? Several, like Connon in Waterdown, have them on their website, but have not been able to source any recently. I would like to get one now for my daughter in Toronto. Thank you!
Thank you for your question about sourcing a Sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum). It is quite a delightful tree with showy greenish-yellow flowers in the spring and great fall colour with purple berries on scarlet stems. One interesting trait are the “mitten-shaped” leaves which are three-lobed and bright green.
It is native to Ontario and indigenous communities employed the tree oil as a tonic. The bark produces sassafras tea; root beer flavouring comes from root oil and from the stem pith – a gumbo-thickening agent called filé.
Sourcing this tree in Ontario will be a challenge because of its rarity. Although it is a native to Ontario, and any specialty nursery handling native plants may be able to order it for you. Halton Master Gardeners website has a list of native plant nurseries:
Halton Master Gardeners native plant list
Landscape Ontario has an informative website with native plant resources:
Landscape Ontario native plants
One other possibility is to research wholesale plant/tree nurseries in Ontario which likely stock native trees such as Sassafras. Landscape Ontario could direct you to a commercial landscape company with an account at a particular wholesale nursery. They might be able to order the tree for you.
Best of luck on your Sassafras quest. It will be a remarkable addition to your daughter’s garden.