Volume 42, Issue 3 (May 1997)
Forensic Botany: Trichome Evidence
Stellate trichomes (epidermal, star-shaped plant hairs) recovered from the stored wreckage of an aircraft's engine were used as a basis for arguing that faulty engine design led to the plane's crash near Ruidoso, New Mexico. Light and scanning electron microscope analyses of the trichomes recovered from the engine wreckage and other associated debris, when compared with trichome samples taken from the nightshade (Solanaceae) and cotton (Malvaceae) families about the storage site and elsewhere, provided positive identification of the trichome source. These data, when interpreted in relation to basic ecological and plant life cycle information, confirmed that the trichome presence was the result of post-crash rather than pre-crash events.