Plant Structure, Function, and Use

Plant Uses

What was one of the most famous criminal cases involving forensic botany?

Plastic “corks” are replacing natural cork for wine stoppers—and for a good reason. During the 1980s and early 1990s, bad cork was traced to the fungal contaminant called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, TCA. Not only is it not good to drink such a fungus, but TCA also flattens the taste of the wine—removing the flavors the winemaker worked so hard to produce.

Forensic botany is the identification of plants or plant products used to produce evidence for legal trials. One of the first criminal cases to use forensic botany was the famous 1935 trial of Bruno Hauptmann (1899–1936), who was accused, and later convicted, of kidnapping and murdering the son of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The botanical evidence presented in the case centered on a homemade wooden ladder used during the kidnapping and left at the scene of the crime. After extensive investigation, the plant anatomist Arthur Koehler (1885–1967) showed that parts of the ladder were made from wooden planks taken from Hauptmann’s attic floor.


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