A microwave digestion method for the extraction of phytoliths from herbarium specimens

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Parr, JF, Dolic, V, Lancaster, G & Boyd, WE 2001, 'A microwave digestion method for the extraction of phytoliths from herbarium specimens', Review of Palaeobotany & Palynology, vol. 116, no. 3-4, pp. 203-212.

Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology home page available at www.elsevier.com/locate/revpalbo/503359

Publisher's version of article available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0034-6667(01)00089-6


The extraction of phytoliths from herbarium and/or fresh plant material to obtain a suite of comparative reference samples is an essential component of palaeobotanical studies for the accurate interpretation of fossil phytolith assemblages. A number of established methods have been employed to extract phytoliths from plant material including dry ashing and acid digestion. However, while these methods produce good results, they can be time consuming and have the potential to produce results with some cross-contamination if not monitored closely. In this study, we trial an alternative method using microwave digestion, and compare the results to those produced using a conventional dry ashing method. The results of this study indicate that the microwave digestion technique is quick, eliminates concerns of cross-contamination and produces comparable phytolith assemblages to those of the conventional dry ashing method.

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