En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - October 14, 2012

From: Middlesex , NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Trees
Title: Identity of fragrant oak-like leaves used at funeral
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

In the early 1950's I attended my grandmother's funeral in the Southern West Virginia area. At the gravesite, the funeral home had provided what looked like dried oak leaves, (red brown and gold colored) attached by wire to tiny green pointed sticks that could be placed on the grave. The wonderful scent they gave off has stayed with me my whole life, but I've never found it again. Is there an oak-like plant that has a naturally wonderful scent, or was this just probably artificial?

ANSWER:

This is a challenging question and I have thought about it a lot and asked the opinion of several people.  The best candidate any of us can think of is Sassafras albidum (Sassafras).  There are 3 varieties of leaves that appear on the tree and one of the variations definitely has an oak-like appearance.  In the fall, the leaves turn shades of red, orange and yellow.  All parts of it are aromatic—roots, bark and leaves.  Florida Forest Trees, Assateague Naturalist and GardenGuides all mention that the leaves and other parts of plant have a spicy or lemony scent.

 

From the Image Gallery


Sassafras
Sassafras albidum

Sassafras
Sassafras albidum

More Trees Questions

Problem with Live Oaks in Mesa AZ
March 26, 2013 - I have two Evergreen Live Oaks in central Arizona. One is flourishing and getting new spring leaves from top to bottom. Its trunk is rough, has large grooves, and the spots where I've pruned look li...
view the full question and answer

Live oak bark splitting in Katy TX
October 03, 2011 - We have a 7 yr old live oak that looks like its bark is splitting open in branches and top leaves look wilted. If that sounds like oak wilt, do we need to have the tree removed? We live in a subdivisi...
view the full question and answer

Will Mountain Laurels be harmed by juglones from my pecan tree?
May 06, 2009 - Hi. I just bought a house. It has a big pecan tree at the edge of the front lawn next to the street. I guess it's about 25 feet from the front of the house. I was thinking of planting mountain la...
view the full question and answer

How soon after stump grinding can something else be planted?
January 18, 2009 - How soon after cutting down a Mulberry and grinding up the stump can we plant a new tree in its place?
view the full question and answer

Sticky white substance from Arizona Ash tree in Arlington TX
June 11, 2009 - Our Arizona Ash Tree is producing a white substance that floats down from the tree almost like a snowflake the size of a bb. You cannot see it on the tree/leaves. When it lands on the car, it takes th...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center