a question about the ethics of "stealing"

Discussion in 'Conversations Forum' started by Annell, Jun 15, 2008.

  1. Annell

    Annell Active Member

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    in a couple of the plant trading threads there have been some comments about getting plants from construction sites or other 'wild' areas, which got me to wondering about the opinions others may have on the practice of 'stealing' plants.

    First let me say that I don't mean stealing from other peoples gardens - where it's clear that the plants are on private property. That's just nasty.

    Nor to i mean taking plants from garden beds clearly tending by the city or district that you live in or from parks. Again that's also nasty.


    What i mean is areas of urban wilderness if you will, or places where you know the plants are going to be destroyed- example a construction area.

    another example - the other day we were out for a walk around the trails in north van. Part of the trail we were walking ran along behind some houses. There were some beautiful white forget-me-nots growing along the path.

    These plants were either garden escaper's, or tossed over the fence in a rash act of yard clean up. either way they were not A) on anyone's property and B) not native to the area.

    So i pulled up a few plants and brought them back to my garden.

    I wonder if other gardeners consider this 'stealing' or an okay sort of practice?

    Personally it sits in a bit of gray area for me. Since i took what wasn't mine without any, human, permission or payment, it feels like stealing.

    (tho no humans were asked, i do feel mother nature was okay with it)

    but i also didn't take all of them, they shouldn't be growing there anywhere nor were there any clear owners so...

    hhhmmmm.... thoughts, opinions?

    a.
     
  2. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    My opinion? Theft is theft. I've had people break into my tropical atrum to steal rare plants. It ticks me more than I can say. The same is true of stealing photographs from this and other websites! I just posted a link as a result of a recent "challenge" on this forum.

    http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=40664
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Some people collecting plants may become covetous, after which a rationale for helping themselves without authorization develops.
     
  4. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    What about all the collections by Linnaeus, Bartram, Douglas, Siebold, Delavay, Wilson, Forrest, Rock, etc., etc.?

    Without them, most botanical gardens would be empty, and most of the plants in our gardens now wouldn't have been available. And very often they collected without the permission of local landowners and/or local governments.
     
  5. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    That was then, this is now. Notice that everyone in your list as a European or North American, usually collecting in areas occupied by non-whites - sometimes as part of a European empire taking away plants as well as everything else of interest.

    The Chinese, for instance are more organized these days and see their wild plants as a commodity no longer available for foreigners to help themselves to for free.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2008
  6. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    In that case, in my personal opinion, that would be OK, as long as it wasn't on anyones land.
    I was lucky as I was a demolisher, and got a great number of plants that were going to be dumped, and some real doozies too...

    Ed
     
  7. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi,

    For me, I find that there is a danger that I could get onto a slippery slope and find myself justifying increasingly dubious plant "liberations". So my personal "rule" is that it is OK to collect seed, cuttings or dislodged plants from open access land (eg open farmland, roadside verge) as long as the plant is common on the site and it is not a rare or protected species and there is not specific provision against collection. I would never dream of taking anything from a garden or park etc. My one absolute rule is to never dig up a plant however tempting or easily justified.

    I am not sure where this places me on the spectrum saint - sinner!

    Ciao
    BrianO
     
  8. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    I guess I fall more on the sinner end of this scale. I'd never steal a plant from anyone, or from a public planting. But I take a pretty broad view of what constitutes "rescuing" a plant that otherwise looks doomed, or that is common as dirt in a given spot.

    For instance, I once grubbed out a bit of the bamboo Phyllostachys nuda that had overflowed from an old planting at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, and spread out into adjacent land along a parkway. And I've got my eye on a stand of Acer pensylvanicum down the road, on undeveloped land along a state highway -- someday I'm planning to stroll down there and look for a little seedling to bring home. I just don't see anything wrong with this.
     
  9. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    As far as I go, I will take a cutting of things I'm interested in having in my garden, and only in very rare cases, when a cutting will not propagate, I take the whole plant. However, if it's in somebody's yard or in public parkland, I won't touch it. If it's somebody's yard, I might ask the owner where they got it or if I can have a cutting, and they're normally happy to oblige me. Finally, regardless of where they are I will not take orchids home.

    This said, I live in Ecuador, and most of the places I end up are primary forests. I don't want to damage their delicate ecology, so cuttings makes better sense than just snatching a whole plant.
     
  10. The area in which I live used to have tons of ladyslippers. People have picked them, tried to transplant them.. and now there are barely any in the woods. Not a good thing.
     
  11. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Cold climate orchids tend to be associated with pristine conditions such as ancient forests and are apt to vanish soon after disruptive occurrences begin. Last to arrive, first to leave. All it may take is the building of a road through dense woods, along which squirrels or elk come.
     
  12. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Depends on the species. Some, e.g. the Cypripedium cited by MimiCT, that is true for, but others, e.g. many Dactylorhiza species, are primary colonists of bare ground, commonly found on such sites as mining industry spoil tips. Also all orchid seeds, by their minute size, are well adapted to long-distance dispersal, so they also need not at all be last to arrive.
     
  13. DGuertin

    DGuertin Active Member 10 Years

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    In with several others on this one... If I see it, and it's not very obviously someone's personal property, I'll nab it. In any case, they have a better chance at survival with me than left to the whims of nature. Maybe I'm playing God, but my heart is in the right place. I'd never steal from a nursery or someone's garden, nor a park, not botanical preserve, but when I'm out traipsing through the woods, as I am often want to do, if I find anything of interest, I'll pick it up.

    At the same time, I'm often also keeping an eye out for things that should not be there. I have dug shopping bags full of escaped Nephrolepis sword ferns and Cyrtomium holly ferns to take home, pot up, re-establish, and give to friends. I've pulled up several other bags of Lygodium Japonicum to bring home and burn to ash, along with several escaped Nandina.

    Am I a sinner or saint? Pretty evenly both and neither. I care deeply about taking care of what I find if it is not terribly detrimental to the environment, and if it is, I remove it and destroy it to try to keep the woods around here (what little is left of them) as normal and natural as possible. The Nandina and Lygodium are good examples of detrimental plants I've destroyed, the Rapidophyllum hystrix that were planted around my office building, and then hacked, ripped, dug, torn, and in all other ways decimated and destroyed when building management got bored with them are ones that I've dug and kept to reestablish. Even just yesterday, I found two new ones I hadn't seen before, and picked them up.

    So, in a lot of cases I can easily justify removing something I find from where I find it. I take a more careful view of collecting seeds, actually. If it's a native, I will usually have a good look around the area to take a quick census, and establish the cultural availability. If this one lad is all on his lonesome, and growing somewhere it's not likely to survive, for me it depends on what it is. If it's a native, I may grab a few seeds from the ground. If it's introduced, I may take the whole thing, and if it's a known invasive, I'll absolutely take the whole thing, as well as all surrounding ground litter, and burn the lot of it to a crisp.
     
  14. Rosemarie123

    Rosemarie123 Member

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    Sounds like a "rescue" to me !!
     
  15. Debby

    Debby Active Member 10 Years

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    I think taking ripe seeds is okay, but not entire plants.
     
  16. Rosemarie123

    Rosemarie123 Member

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    In re-reading the original post, I see your point...I thought they found it on a pile of discarded material..which would have been fair game...But really, it was only a Forget-Me-Not !!!
     
  17. LilyISay

    LilyISay Active Member

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    Personally, I feel it's okay to take cuttings and seeds from the wild, but not without permission if it's a personal garden. I'm iffy on the taking of anything from a public path, even if it's not a park or anything. I just feel I'm taking the enjoyment away from the next person. Maybe a lot of people admired the li'l patch of forget me nots. Hiking on deer paths, if it's abundant I don't feel I'm doing wrong to divide and lift the odd tuber or rhizome, but I'd never take something that was a real 'find'. Pictures are best.
     
  18. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I am prone to cuttings from peoples gardens with their permission, I am on a Salvia collecting spree at the moment. I am trying to screw up courage to ask some one near by if I may have a cutting of a nice blue one. I remember years ago I had an open to the footpath flower bed with a rich apricot pink pelargonium in it. It was regularly being raided so in the end I put a sign say please ask if you want a cutting please don't pinch. After that they were left alone and I had a couple of requests. Our natives grow best from seeds and do not transplant readily. However in the past there was a real trade in tree ferns and grass trees. There is some sort of government tagging system on them these days and people can be fined for selling untagged stock.

    Liz
     
  19. Rosemarie123

    Rosemarie123 Member

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    I find most gardeners to be very generous with cuttings, seeds, advise...you are right...asking is the best thing to do.I had not given it much thought,as it's something I have never done..(ie: "steal") plants!!
     
  20. Debby

    Debby Active Member 10 Years

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    I salvaged two different bearded irises from the property across the street AFTER the house had been demolished. And back before we had giant yardwaste bins I would sometimes take seeds or plants. That's how I acquired lunaria annua and lychnis coronaria--seeds. One year many plants of queen ann's lace were growing on a vacant lot nearby, a commercially zoned lot that has yet to be developed; so I collected seed and grew some plants on our back lane. Back-lane exploration in Vancouver is fun and sometimes productive.
     
  21. Annell

    Annell Active Member

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    Wow! I've been away for a while and what a lot of responses to the question. So many opinions and statements - I want to comment on a few that stood out for me.

    First in my own defense the forget-me-nots looked as tho they had either been dumped or seeded, there were at least a dozen plants and i took three. I agree that other people walking by would enjoy them, so i wouldn't ever take all of them, and they are certainly not natural to the environment that they are now growing in.

    The comments about the lady slippers and orchids stood out too. I personal would never try to transplant such sensitive plants - even if they did grow wild around me. It's too bad that more people don't know how delicate and endangered they are. I believe both are protected? Which would make it illegal to take them? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    That being said - hardy plants that grow in abundance around me I would be okay with digging up, if cuttings didn't work - tho i'd try cuttings first. This changes the argument a little as it implies a level of knowledge about the plants and it's adaptability.

    I think we all agree that taking plants from personal property, parks and protected areas is just a nasty thing to do. I feel horrible for those of you who mentioned having plants stolen! Gardeners should know better!!! I'm glad the bulk of us do!

    Tho, really if anyone wants to steal any of my dandelions or bishops weed - i'll look the other way!
     
  22. Flaxe

    Flaxe Active Member

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    ^Might someone look the other way if they knew dandelions have great medicinal properties?

    Regarding the topic in general, admittedly I have taken a couple of rose cuttings from a local public park (all cuttings from the same tree). This is the extent of my taking, but I have not put considerable thought into "the taking" of much since I have an awful lot at my disposal at our greenhouses, gratefully.

    Should the situation arise, I may consider taking future small cuttings or seeds from public areas. I am of the mindset that I am encouraging future growth and greater enjoyment or popularity of a particular plant by cultivating it to the best of my abilities so that others may hopefully be just as inspired. And then together we create "green" and warm spaces to share with others, even if it's on our own personal property.

    This vaguely reminds me of some years I spent working at (historical and ethnographic) museums where I was constantly torn between the items I was handling and their unique histories (not without their share of colonial and post-colonial baggage). It is silly in more ways than one that I invested so many years in the study of such items, and career-time, but eventually discarded this career path because the majority of what I felt was... very uncomfortable. This is not to say I did not appreciate the educational value that these items and their histories had/have. I tip my hat to those who continue to study and handle them with respect to the people and cultures involved but it is not enough for me to really find fulfillment in.

    Having mentioned the above, I see "taking" cuttings of live and growing "items", without damaging the parent plant, in a similar but entirely different light. I think youth today are too encompassed with ipods, computers, subways, concerts - which is wonderful. But there needs to be a balance that I hope my generation will continue to cherish and foster for many many generations to come, a sincere dedication to wildlife and plantlife; it is the appreciation and genuine love of plants and greenery, including the know-how and fondness that comes with welcoming them into our homes and onto our land (property). For every tree that is cut down for a house, so there must be ten more in its stead sprung up from the earth. And I sincerely hope to do this at least in some small part, as best I can on the little space I own.
     
  23. honoryourlife

    honoryourlife Member

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    Hey! Some of us Teens are not all interested in that stuff! Or we are but love nature and plants too! :P

    I take plant cuttings from alot of my friends/or their parents with permission.

    I want my earth to be healthy, clean and beautiful.

    -Ryan,
     
  24. Debby

    Debby Active Member 10 Years

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    Perpetuating themselves is what plants "want" to do, so I see helping them along as legitimate, as long as the taking of seeds or cuttings does not disfigure the plants or take me onto private property.
     
  25. Annell

    Annell Active Member

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    As an herbalist, I know the medicinal properties of dandelions, so if someone were to dig them up and take them I'd figure they did too and their need was greater than mine for a tonic, so I'd still look the other way. *grin*

    I liked your comparison to museum artifacts. As you said there's a vague connection to the taking of plants and the taking of artifacts from their natural environment. One might argue that leaving such things in the ground, in the middle of no where, doesn't allow for study or allow 'regular people' to experience them. Just as botanical gardens allow 'regular people' to experience plants they may not otherwise ever see, as well at the study of plants by experts.

    Yet, taking things from their natural environment, be they plants or artifacts, destroys their context and one might argue doesn't show the 'big picture' of the natural environment in which they were found.

    An interesting debate, one that I do not have enough knowledge to fully engage in.

    However, I would compare the Forget-me-nots (which lead me to start this conversation) to picking up garbage in the forest. Where I found the Forget-me-nots was not their natural environment and though not as invasive as the periwinkle spreading out near by, they did not belong in the woods. Same as how I pick up garbage along the trail because it doesn't belong and could do damage to the environment, un-native plants can also harm the environment when left laying around.
     

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