Fragrant Quote for January 3rd, 2013-Studies of trees in winter By Annie Oakes Huntington

Sassafrass albidum

Few trees are more interesting in winter than the sassafras. The color of their smooth, bare stems is an exquisite shade of green, the terminal buds are large for the size of the slender twigs and tiny leaf-scars, and the delicious, aromatic taste and fragrance when the twigs are broken are most unusual. The branches often have a curious spirally twisted appearance, a corkscrew effect, which with the rough bark of the trunk give the tree an ancient weather-beaten aspect when it is comparatively young. The sassafras was one of the first American trees which became known in Europe. In the middle of the sixteenth century the French in Florida were told by the Indians about its curative properties, and from that time it was sought after, — sassafras roots having formed a part of the first cargo exported from Massachusetts. J. C. Loudon, an English writer on trees sixty years ago, had an original theory, that the discovery of America was largely due to the sassafras. "It was its strong fragrance smelt by Columbus," he says, in the third volume of his "Arboretum," "that encouraged him to persevere when his crew mutinied, and enabled him to convince them that land was near at hand."
Thoreau in his walks through the winter woods about Concord in February says: " When I break off a twig of green-barked sassafras, as I am going through the woods now, and smell it, I am startled to find it as fragrant as in summer. It is an importation of all the spices of Oriental summers into our New England winter, very foreign to the snow and the oak leaves." This Oriental spiciness may be partly accounted for by the fact that our sassafras is related to the camphor and cinnamon trees of the tropics.