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Tree to 12 m or more, and 0.7 m dbh. Branchlets robust, glabrous, reddish brown with lenticels and prominent leaf scars. Leaves deciduous, alternate, 10–15(–16) × 3–6(–7.5) cm, rhombic to ovate, entire or with two to three lobes (lobed leaves only on infertile branchlets), upper surface green and glabrous, lower surface glaucous and glabrous, midrib prominent on both surfaces, seven to eight secondary veins on each side of the midrib, apex acute; petiole 3–5 cm long. Inflorescences terminal or subterminal, racemose and ~3 cm long. Flowers unisexual; staminate flowers with a short (~0.4 cm long), six-lobed perianth tube that is pubescent inside, nine fertile stamens in three whorls. Fruit globose, ~0.6 cm diameter, with a shallow cupule. Flowering February, fruiting October (Taiwan). Liao 1996b, Flanagan 1998, Li et al. 2005. Distribution TAIWAN. Habitat Evergreen broadleaved forest, between 900 and 2400 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 9. Conservation status Vulnerable, due to habitat loss, and suffers from poor regeneration due to seed predation. Illustration NT773.
Sassafras randaiense has a very limited existence in cultivation, following its introduction from Taiwan by Mark Flanagan and Tony Kirkham in 1992. As recounted in their book (Flanagan & Kirkham 2005), they found the species growing as an understorey to Taiwania cryptomerioides near Chilan Shan, Taiwan, but the trees were not fruiting. The seed they brought home was a gift from the Taipei Botanic Garden and the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute. Resulting seedlings were distributed to mild gardens in the British Isles, including Mount Usher (where it now thrives: M. Flanagan, pers. comm. 2007), as well as being planted in the Evolution House at Kew and outside at Wakehurst Place (where it did not survive). The only outdoor specimens seen in our research are at Tregrehan, and these have rocketed up as single-stemmed, very straight trees, reaching 8 m when seen in 2005. The foliage is less lobed than might be expected in Sassafras, being more deltoid in outline, but it has an attractive spring flush and good autumn colours of yellow and reddish orange, and when seen against a dark background the pale yellow-green flowers are quite conspicuous (T. Hudson, pers. comms. 2005, 2007). The bark remains green for several years before becoming corky from the base upwards. A tree in the greenhouse at the Savill Garden, Windsor grew up to 10 m very fast but was impossible to propagate (including by root cuttings), and had to be removed (M. Flanagan, pers. comm. 2007).