Butterscotch smell in the woods?

Hiking regularly, I often smell butterscotch in the woods. My companions do too. What is it???

Ponderosa pine is famous for this, but it’s a Western US tree. Jeffrey pine also. I’m hiking in the area between Baltimore MD and Wilmington DE, mostly Chester and Cecil and Newcastle counties. I just smelled this very strongly the day before yesterday, but it’s happened over some range of dates or seasons. It’s typically in deep woods, with greenery all around, not any flowering plants. I’ve sniffed around and looked, and haven’t been able to identify any suspects. I’ve never smelled it in open fields.

By the way, I actually collect smells. I can say this smell is much like gamma nonalactone, also known as aldehyde C18. Some say butyric acid smells of butterscotch but I disagree. This makes the mystery all the more interesting!

I wouldn’t be great at differentiating the smells between sweet smelling trees and something as specific as butterscotch so don’t know if the following would be close enough to be what you’re looking for.

Katsura trees are said to have a candy like smell. Native to Asia they’ve been transplanted to the Atlantic coastal regions.

Sassafras trees are known for a variety of aromas. Mainly the odor of old fashioned root beer, but known for other sweet scents.

Very interesting! I will look for Katsura the next time this happens! Sassafras I’m long familiar with; they’re common on walks and indeed in my yard. I’ve never noticed anything but a root beer or sarsaparilla smell, and that only when they’re cut, but I might learn something new. I’ll check for them too, and smell them closely!

Thanks, TriPolar!

Anybody else?

Possibly a Chestnut tree? More specifically Chinese Chestnut which has been imported to replace the seriously imperiled American Chestnut. It has what my wife and I call a sickly sweet smell and is currently in bloom in our area (eastern TN). It sports large clusters of long, very yellow catkins and is usually pretty easy to spot.

Could it be Candy Cap mushrooms?

These species are particularly distinguishable by their scent, which has been variously compared to maple syrup, camphor, curry, fenugreek, burnt sugar, Malt-O-Meal, or Maggi-Würze . This scent may be quite faint in fresh specimens, but typically becomes quite strong when the fruiting body is dried.

Great ideas!

BTW I should have mentioned Anise and Spicebush, both common and familiar, definitely not either.

Spice bush and sassafras both smell nice.

Of course, they also say Canadian paper money smells like maple syrup.

It’s not that creepy old relative waving Werther’s Originals around…?

It’s most often described as more of a Vanilla smell. It sounds like you got quite the Hooter, there. I’d suggest avoiding the Carob Tree

Because, like US $20 bills covered in cocaine, your Canadian bills have all been rolled up to snort syrup?

When I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney, we smelled Ponderosa Pines almost the whole way (until we got above the tree line, of course). That’s the first thing I thought of, but you’re talking about eastern woods, so nope.

Growing up they used to sell bubble gum cigars and sticks of sweetened chalk meant to mimic cigarettes. These are now far less common. You don’t want to use treats to model unhealthy habits. Except maybe for pixie sticks, straws full of sweet powder…

I think I just want to commemorate the Cicada hatch. A double brood in 2024. They secrete something that the press called honeydew. But they stink when they die off.
cicadas can drink 300 times their weight in plant sap on any given day and pee up to 10 feet of fluid per second. Cicadas also release a fluid known as “honeydew” and can pee up to three times stronger and faster than humans, Associated Press explains.May 24, 2024

Credit given where credit is due. But I think the broods hatching this year aren’t in my region. They’re further south and west.