Doryphora sassafras or Australian Sassafras is an evergreen tree native to the temperate rainforests of New South Wales and southern Queensland, Australia. In nature, trees will reach approximately 100 feet (30 m) tall. In containers, the size is easily controlled by selective pruning and container size. Our plants at 15 years old is only about 6 feet (1.8 m) tall. The dark to medium green lanceolate leaves with serrated edges will reach up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long on plants grown in containers. Leaves have a strong sarsaparilla odor when crushed. The lumber is used in cabinetry and a tonic is made from the bark, which also has insect repelling properties. They are fairly easy plants to grow in containers.
Blooming: Our plant has never bloomed. This may be due to trying to keep the specimen small. In nature, the white star-shaped blooms cover the tree at canopy level in the rainforest.
Culture: Doryphora sassafras needs partial shade to full sun with a moist well-drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 2 parts loam to 2 parts coarse sand. The plants are kept moist at all times. We fertilize them monthly with a balanced fertilizer. Since the plants come from a temperate rainforest, we grow the plant as close to our evaporative cooling system as we can so they stay at high humidity. This also helps to keep the plant a bit cooler in our very hot Oklahoma greenhouse summers. During the winter months water is restricted, but the plants are never allowed to dry completely out. We never let the winter temps fall below 50°F (10°C).
Propagation: Doryphora sassafras are propagated from seed. The seed are very small and are best sown on equal parts peat and sand. The seeds germinate in 80-100 days at 70°F (21°C).
Doryphora sassafras was featured as Plant of the Week February 2-8, 2007.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.