En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Identity of fragrant oak-like leaves used at funeral

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

Plants dying in circular garden in Killeen, TX.
July 31, 2012 - I have a large circular garden in my backyard out in the country in Killeen Texas. Last year two elms died. This year the Rose of Sharon has been dying one by one. One bush will completely die off bef...
view the full question and answer

Problems with red oak trees in North Central Texas
July 13, 2013 - What is the disease effecting Red Oak trees in North Central Texas; causing them to lose leafs in Spring/Summer and turning the remaining leaves light yellow/lime green in color. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Fruit on Mexican olive in Austin
June 05, 2008 - Does Mexican Olive set fruit in Austin? Does there need to be a male and female tree or not. How old does the plant have to be to set fruit? Mine is three years old but no olives. I need to know ...
view the full question and answer

Dry browning leaves on Monterrey Oak from San Antonio
August 08, 2013 - I have a Monterey Oak that was planted four years ago and was doing great until the last two weeks. It has turned brown and the ends of the branches are very dry and brittle. The root flare was cov...
view the full question and answer

Will Black Walnut trees grow in Boerne TX?
June 01, 2011 - Was curious if any one sells Black Walnut Trees??? They used to be around the Boerne, TX area and I wondered if we could try to grow them.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center