Forensic botany

David Hershey dh321 at excite.com
Tue Sep 14 00:34:50 EST 1999


One of the most famous examples of forensic botany was in the
high-profile Lindbergh kidnapping case where the wooden ladder used by
the kidnapper was the key piece of evidence. Arthur Koehler, a wood
technologist, was an expert witness and identified the ladder as mostly
Ponderosa pine. Based on the planing marks on the lumber, Koehler
narrowed the possible lumber mills it came from first to 1,598; then to
25; and then to one in the Bronx, the area where the ransom notes
originated. Later they matched a rung on the ladder with a missing
floorboard in the suspect's home. How accurate Koehler's analysis of the
lumber mill might still be debatable but certainly intriguing. Perhaps a
lab on wood anatomy, tree rings, xylem elements, etc. from the
standpoint of identification could be linked to the Lindbergh case. 

Botany was also useful in revealing information about the ancient man
found frozen in the Alps a few years ago although not the cause of
death. 
 
I saw a lab once where a crime scenario was presented and blood typing
was done to determine the culprit. A botanical twist on that could be
put together with a little imagination. 

http://spot.colorado.edu/~norrisd/forensic.htm lists the following
references among others:

Lane, M.A., Anderson, L.C., Barkley, T.M., Bock, J.H., Gifford, E.M.,
Hall, D.W., Norris, D.O., Rost, T.L. and Stern, W.L. l990. Forensic
Botany: plants, perpetrators, pests, poisons and pot. Bioscience
40:34-39. 

Bock, J.H. and Norris, D.O. 1997. Forensic botany: an under-utilized
resource. J. Forensic Science, 42: 364-367.

David Hershey
dh321 at excite.com

Nancy Harrison wrote:
> 
> In article <37DCF88E.D28E8D94 at trentu.ca>, cmaxwell at TRENTU.CA says...
> >
> >Dear Plant edders,
> >
> >Students always seem interested in forensic aspects of botany, and I was
> >thinking of developing a lab or part of a lab with a forensic aspect.
> >Before re-inventing the wheel, I was wondering whether anyone has come
> >across such a lab? I haven't, even though I have looked.  Alternatively
> >does anyone have suggestions?
> >Thanks
> >Christine
> >
> I have always been interested in this aspect of botany myself!
> I've never heard of any labs on it, but you could create one yourself
> perhaps. I would suggest a trip to the local medical examiner's to
> interview someone on this! (Quincy, here she comes!) - NH
> 
> --
> ---Nancy Harrison, SRJC Life Sciences, Santa Rosa CA 95401
>    http://www.sonic.net/~vulpia/index.html (with link to CNPS in Sonoma
> County)



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