Plants Hold Secrets

Forensic Botany

Forensic botany is the application of plant based scientific knowledge to help interpret the events surrounding a crime. Evidence derived from the regrowth patterns of brambles or vegetation fragments on the sole of a shoe can help bring criminals to justice. Forensic botany has the potential to be used in a wide range of criminal investigations such as murder, attempted murder, violent assaults, sexual violence, criminal damage and arson, burglary, terrorism, wildlife crime and veterinary work.

Forensic Botany Services:

Since 2008 I have worked on many serious crime cases in the United Kingdom. My casework experience covers, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Murder
  • Sexual violence
  • Criminal damage and arson
  • Burglary
  • Domestic Terrorism
  • Wildlife crime (inc. CITES) and veterinary cases

I have also assisted in determining whether a death is due to suicide or not and have investigated contamination of commodities being traded internationally. Whilst my work is largely focussed within the United Kingdom, my knowledge of botany is extensive, and I am happy to discuss potential casework from further afield.

Forensic botany is often most useful when applied in conjunction with other disciplines such as soil science, entomology (insects), forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology. Some aspects of forensic botany that require specialised facilities or equipment, such as palynology (pollen) and wood anatomy, are best undertaken by suitably qualified people. I regularly work with specialists in these disciplines and I can provide advice or professional contacts.

Vegetation fragment identification

  • The identification of vegetation fragments is a useful tool to link suspects to crime scenes and/or victims
  • Vegetation fragment data can be integrated with pollen, soil and entomological data as a means of determining unknown localities
  • Examination of digestive tract contents can identify toxic plants and last meal eaten

Missing Person Searches

  • Landscape and vegetation interpretation, potentially integrated with other detection methodologies especially forensic archaeology and GIS

Grave and Deposition Site Examination

  • Estimation of minimum time intervals at deposition scene (potentially integrated with forensic entomology)
  • Assessment of points of entry and physical damage of vegetation as a means of determining the potential course of events
  • Retrieval of botanical data and exhibits for comparison with evidence from associated scenes