Forensic botany: Plants are now being used to help solve crimes

Reporter: Rich Kolko Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
forensic botany
Credit: WINK News

Plants are being used to help solve crimes. The pollen and seed s they can leave behind can often become key pieces of evidence. But, how does this all work?

While plants aren’t able to testify in court, they are able to provide evidence about guilt or innocence. Forensic botany is the use of plants and plant parts, which includes leaves, seeds, flowers, fruits, etc., in the investigation of criminal cases.

The first surfacing of this underused science was during the Casey Anthony trial in 2011.

By looking at the type of plants growing near recovered evidence, or even a body, prosecutors and defense attorneys can make their case.

Jim Derrane is a retired FBI agent. “The two things it can identify is time and location, so whether it’s a body, a piece of evidence, an article of clothing, by studying what is on that, you can show where is was and when it was there,” Derrane said.

A scientist trained specifically in botany can examine clothing and shoes for evidence of different plants and possibly provide a location from that. Experts can even use algae found in a pond to make a determination about evidence and a timeline. Both of these can be presented in court.

The use of forensic botany has grown in the past few years. Reports say at least 60 cases have applied this science.

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