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Three useful native trees

While I was researching how early Native Americans used various plants, shrubs, and trees for food, medicine, and building materials, I remembered two columns I had written in 2015 about three of my favorite native trees: sassafras, pawpaw, and persimmon.

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), pawpaw (Asimina triloba), and persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) are all native to the eastern and central United States and provide food and shelter for a wide variety of wildlife. All three trees are easy to grow and are affected by few diseases and insect pests.

Sassafras roots and bark were used by Native Americans to treat wounds, burns, fevers, and other health problems. The trunks sometimes were used to make dugout canoes. Early settlers used sassafras for its medicinal properties and shipped the roots and bark to England.

Sassafras tea was a popular drink for many years, and boiled sassafras roots were used to flavor root beer, but the roots contain safrole, a chemical compound that was f...

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