Volume 32, Issue 5 (September 1987)
Estimating Time Since Death Using Plant Roots and Stems
A number of methods have been used successfully in estimating time since death of long dead individuals, including physical decomposition of the corpse and clothing and the succession of insects. Using these sources, however, it is usually impossible to estimate accurately time since death for bodies which have been exposed more than a year. Roots and stems of perennial plants may be used as complementary sources of information. Stems and woody roots of perennial plants have annual growth rings which may be used to establish the minimum number of growing seasons since death. To be used, these plant parts must grow through the clothing, other personal effects, or bone or be affected indirectly by soil disturbance or body decomposition. Procedures for collecting, preserving, and examining these specimens and the limitations of the approach are presented.