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Southern Sassafras

Southern Sassafras

Atherosperma moschatum

This is a slow-growing, dense, fire sensitive, narrow, conical tree to 30m high.

It has velvety cream perfumed flowers during autumn and winter with nutmeg scented leaves when crushed. Leaves have distinctive serrated edges.

It grows in gullies, and southern aspects in high rainfall cool areas.

A. moschatum
Photographer - Ross Field
A. moschatum
Photographer - Ross Field
A. moschatum
Photographer - Ross Field

Sassafras may have been used by Aborigines to treat venereal disease - a practice taken up by European settlers.

Bark was formerly marketed in England as 'Victorian Sassafras' to make a tonic drink. It was the cause of a great debate with pharmacist J. Bosisto and doctors in Melbourne believing sassafras oil to be poisonous, but British doctors insisted it was safe to take large quantities.

Sassafras was the first Australian plant from which an alkaloid was isolated.

The leaves are food for caterpillars of the MacLeay's Swallowtail butterfly, the only swallowtail butterfly in the cool temperate forests of south-eastern Australia.


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