Osage? A locust? Chestnut? Sassafras?

I hate that I am creating one of those types of posts, but I am going to put on my big boy britches, climb that mountain and get over it.

I am reasonably good at identifying the naturally occurring trees in the wilds of Georgia. It takes me only a glance to identify these three specimens as sourwood at varying stages of maturity.

Where I could use some improvement is in the correct identification of rarities, such as these three, again in varying stages of maturity.

Alas, they have all passed on the great tree hereafter and will not be creating any further leaves to aid in identification.

A friend posited chestnut, and I’ve looked at pictures of that, osage orange, sassafras, black locust and honey locust, but I don’t feel confident in saying that they are any of those species. Any thoughts to offer?


Sure looks like a ‘Friesa’? black locust trunk I had in the 80’s…

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I think it’s a persimmon

That was my first thought.

Really?! I hadn’t even considered a native persimmon. I don’t recall having ever seen the bark of the native persimmons grow in those long, sloping but interconnected blocks. The way that I quickly distinguish persimmon from sourwood solely from glancing at the bark is that the sourwood has more of the long furrows, whereas the persimmon is blocky and disconnected.





Did they die on their own? Many Black Locust here in TN are now gone…

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Saw the title and then the first picture and was like, huh, I’d have thought sourwood. Felt pretty good about my gut instinct there.

Definitely not persimmon, at least not any persimmon I’ve seen in NC. “Alligator skin” describes persimmon. I’ve never seen that kind of coarse woven texture on persimmon.

Seems the right texture for black locust, but too red. My guess would be Osage. But no thorns so hmmm. That dead section without bark sure looks like black locust in the borer-infested South, haha

Revising my guess to sassafras.

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Honey locust and osage would most likely have large thorns on the trunk or branches, black locust would have smaller “rose bush” thorns on the branches. Sassafras will have very green colored twigs and a very strong aroma when the twigs are broken.

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I looked at the persimmon pictures I have and would agree it’s not that.

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If I saw branching above it would be easier to guess sassafras, but my guess is sassafras. I’ve pulled down some really big ones to install as root wads on a streambank stabilization project.

Whack it and see if it SMELLS like sassafras.


Are these all the same species or could they be three (or two) different species? And I’m assuming they’re all deciduous - no needle like leaves.

Also, it’s a bit hard to get a sense of scale for the size of the ridges. Are these are smallish diameter (a foot)?

If you could put a quarter on top of the ridges of the third pictured tree and the quarter would fit on top of the ridge - I would say it is sassafras.

Second one looks oak -like.

Black locust tends to have a checkerboard kind of pattern on the ridges, so I agree none are black locust.

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I believe that they did die on their own.

I have only owned the property since May of 2022. I didn’t discover the first one until last year, and the other two dead ones in this year. They are all in good bottom land where the creek has deposited alluvial soil during overflow events but they are well away from the creek bank. I would hazard that the nearest is 75 feet distant.

I do have sassafras on the property, and at the house that I used to own I had the second largest sassafras that I’ve ever seen in-person. The bark was very different, as well as the trunk shape. Unfortunately these 3 are so dead that I suspect I wouldn’t get anything but dust.

They have unfortunately been dead long enough that their tops are all gone, along with any ability for me to discern deciduous versus coniferous. I might resort to cutting one down to get a picture of the end grain as well as ripping to show the cross grain. I think that they are all the same species. They are within about 75 feet of each other.

I can get a picture with a BANANA FOR SCALE (bad Internet joke), or some with a uniformly sized object that everyone will recognize, maybe a SKY HOOK (1940s engineer’s joke), or just a plain ole United States of America quarter dollar coin. I like the idea of having a little scale to the pictures. Maybe I should use one of those SMALL POSTAL SCALES that every office has laying around.

Okay, enough cutting up for tonight, rest well everyone and thank you for all the input you have already offered.


OH! If they could be needle leaved they all look a bit like eastern hemlock. I don’t know how far south you are…

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Sassafras is typically a short lived species. The recently dead ones should still smell like it if you cut them down.

Fun fact- there are apparently still a few sassafras tree ‘pipes’ around Pittsburgh that used to be drainage pipes before plastic was used. They were naturally hollowed /rotted out and cut and placed together.


If they are yours, cut them down.

Black locust is bright yellow, good for fence posts/fire wood
Osage Orange orange, used in golf clubs 40 years ago, guitar wood today
Sassafras, tan with big grain and smells so nice. Camp fire wood

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That 3rd pic down is a sourwood.

I just cut a bunch of those mixed with oaks and hickory, cedar, etc … here on my place.

Clearing some land for our new home build.

If you look in the tops of sourwood now… most you can still see the spent sourwood blossoms.


Below is a pic from google of sourwood bark.


Honey bees love em… make great honey.

The wood is clean burning… not as hot as oak or hickory but still good for firewood.


This is a wild DV… just off my back yard.


especially the middle two with those reds in the bark. An occasionally flooded creek bottom would make sense as habitat as well. Just my two cents, less familiar with southern species

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esp. the 2nd pic. we still have some big hemlock around as it has little timber value. looks very similar. maybe killed by the woolly aeglid.

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For those that are interested, I really like this book called “Bark” by Michael Wojtech. The idenification part only covers the northeast, but it’s got tons of interesting stuff about bark. It’s just a different way to think about trees vs. the super in your face parts (flowers, leaves).

It’s also driven me to REALLY LOOK at some of the features of my fruit trees. When I first got my house I couldn’t tell the difference between an apple tree and a pear tree. Now, I think it’s so obvious!

Unfortunately, if it isn’t a tree type I’ve gotten a chance to study- I’ve still got no clue… but I’m getting better all the time. And I really enjoy looking at trees and trying to figure them out - so these pictures are fun.