En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Lifespan of pecan from Austin
February 26, 2014 - What is the lifespan of a pecan tree? I've seen several places say up to a thousand years, but I'd always thought it was closer to around 300 years. Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Is yellow tulip poplar alive from Gilbertsville PA
March 30, 2013 - How can I tell if my yellow tulip poplar is alive? thank you
view the full question and answer

Evergreen Privacy Hedge for Long Island
June 29, 2012 - I live on Long Island and want a privacy evergreen hedge partial sun.
view the full question and answer

What is causing leaf drop on oak in Morgan Hill CA?
June 23, 2010 - Dear Mr Smarty Plants: We have a large, young Valley Oak (about 20 yrs) which is dropping leaves even now in early summer. I have a feeling that the problem might be an invasive weed that is flourishi...
view the full question and answer

When is the best time to trim oak trees in Driftwood TX?
September 09, 2010 - When is the best time to trim oak trees?
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center