The answer to last week’s mystery is sassafras, Sassafras albidum, pictured in photo #2.
Sassafras is a thicket-forming tree native to much of the eastern US, and can have three types of leaves: ovate, mitten-shaped and three-lobed.
Because of its aromatic qualities, sassafras was one of the first trees exported from North America to Europe and commanded premium prices. Ground sassafras leaves have a lemonade-like aroma that some people liken to Fruit Loops, but with hints of camphor and old wood, while sassafras roots are the original source flavor in root beer.
Sassafras leaves are traditionally ground into a spice called filé powder which is a mainstay thickener and flavor of Creole cuisine including gumbo.
Adkins Mystery Monday is sponsored by the Spy and Adkins Arboretum. For more information go here.