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Plants tell stories: Murder most Florid Mark Spencer Wednesday 21 March 2018

Plants can be silent witnesses to crimes. Their presence in many crime scenes can help an investigator identify a suspect or locate a victim.

Apparently mundane plants such as brambles and nettles can provide valuable insights into when a crime was committed. Fragments of leaves and seeds embedded in soil on the footwear of a suspect can place them at the scene. An understanding of landscape history and land use helps an investigator discriminate between a clandestine burial and a mediaeval feature in a woodland. Forensic botany is not a new science; plants have played a role in solving major cases for decades, including the infamous murder of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s infant son.