Inside and out

The plants found inside a person can be even more telling than those found on them. Stomach analysis is part of a medical examiner’s job, but when they find plant matter in the digestive tract of a victim, it’s often up to a forensic botanist to determine what it was doing there. A botanist might examine the condition of organic material in the stomach or intestines to put a limit on the time of death (after all, the victim must have been alive the last time they ate), or an expert like Cholewa could confirm the presence of certain plants that might have poisoned or drugged the person.

Want to know more about the part of plants in criminal investigations? Leave your forensic botany questions for Anita Cholewa, and check back on www.sciencebuzz.org for the answer!

In some cases, the microscopic, identifying features of a tiny seed could tie a suspect to the scene of a crime.


Photo courtesy fluor_doublet via flickr.com