Rare Plants Stolen from Private Garden

Discussion in 'Conversations Forum' started by Eric La Fountaine, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    sw USA
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    If the particular specimens involved were being used for conservation efforts, then they may now have been made unavailable. This could be a setback. Otherwise, it will just be an instance of rare trophies being moved from one private collection to another (unless they die). Stripping of public collections (and wild populations) is quite another matter.
  3. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    sw USA
    That is certainly happening too. Maybe more people need grow this plant to preserve it. I was just about to point out where some beautifull specimens were located in Vancouver, but thought better of that idea.
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    Beautiful specimens of what? That something exists can be of interest, even if its exact whereabouts are perhaps best not divulged.
  5. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Generally what is being taken now out of Botanical
    Gardens and Aboretums are not one of a kind plants.
    If it were so that the plants are the only ones there
    would be attempts made to propagate them in order
    to preserve them. It is not like artwork stolen from
    a notable museum that ends up in some persons
    basement or hidden study. The plants being stolen
    are to be sold to someone, somewhere.

    Sago palms around here were especially vulnerable
    back in the 80's until several people had them in their
    yards. What used to be a $10,000 palm can be
    purchased for $250 now if we know where to look
    for one. The old cycads will be missed as it is not
    so much the plant that hurts to lose or to have stolen,
    it is the number of years it took to get to that size
    knowing many of us will not be around to see or have
    another plant that old and that large again. In specialty
    plants age does indeed determine the value of the plant.

    Private gardens are an easy target for people that
    want to steal the plants bad enough. We always felt
    the valuable plants that walked out of our nursery
    were already sold to someone that knew us prior to
    them being stolen. In some cases we were able to
    find the plants later but then legal issues persist of
    how can we prove the plants were ours to begin with
    when the name tags have been removed? Unless there
    is a means to prove the plant was the one stolen the
    plant once it is removed from its home is gone unless
    the thieves are caught with the goods later. With
    plants that is not usually the case however as they
    are pretty much residing in their new homes the day
    they are taken it seems.

    Beautiful specimens of what? That something exists
    can be of interest, even if its exact whereabouts are
    perhaps best not divulged.

    The whereabouts can be told if the plants are protected
    by some sort of security and are marked in some way
    to ensure they are the right plants if they are ever stolen.
    I understand UCLA's plight in that it costs them money
    to provide security for plants that were brought in to let
    the public have access to. It kind of ruins the whole idea
    of having a Botanical Garden if others are not allowed in
    to see the plants or that the plants must go somewhere
    else or be hidden just to prevent their possible theft. An
    ominous sign of the times that very few items of sentimental,
    historical and educational value to many can be considered
    truly safe any more.

  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    One thing I've seen being done now is plants being labeled with accession numbers only, so that nobody steals the labels in order to remember the name later (I guess carrying around a notepad or other personal memory aid and recording the name with that is normally out of the question, even in this time of handheld devices). So no-one can find out what the plant is without getting someone to look the number up for them. Seems like it would really diminish the educational value of a collection.
  7. Plant Theives or Conservationists

    This may sound strange but good things do come from illegally aquiring plants or plant material.
    Plants that were indangered, have been taken illegally from their "protected" habitat, a habitat that was later destroyed by other humans or by upheavals of nature. The result was, they became propagated, and cultivated in many private collections and to date survive solely in those private collections.

    In the final analysis plants and animals are not really our posessions. Aren't we simply their caretakers when that becomes necessary.
  8. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    I will admit that many plants have come into Botanical
    Gardens and Arboretums in which the means to how
    those plants got there may not have been kosher. It
    is customary to get prior approval to bring a plant in
    to a country from another country. I do not have to
    have approval to dig up and bring in Fawn Lilies from
    one area to be planted where I want them to grow.
    Even the prostrate form of Ceanothus taken from
    Yosemite and planted in my yard in the mountains
    is not illegal to do as I have clearance to do it. The
    problem area is when the plants are taken from a
    Botanical Garden or Arboretum and then sold. I
    know of one plant in particular that was stolen from
    an Arboretum and then was later patented through
    the US Patent Office. All parties will go nameless
    but the person that stole the plant was not interested
    in perpetuating the plant but did it for the money, the
    royalties received from each plant sale. Do I feel that
    professor whom I had for a summer class years ago
    was a thief? You bet!

    I've know of a 30 year Olive tree that was sold and
    planted in various yards 3 times in one day. The
    initial price of the Olive tree was $5,000 to the
    first owner and a few hours later it was gone. The
    same thing happened to the second owner a few
    hours later and then the third owner just happened
    to be a police officer that knew the first owner that
    had their tree stolen. With a little checking it was
    learned that the seller in all 3 cases was a husband
    and wife team that did all of the shenanigans and
    they got busted.

    There are better ways to perpetuate a plant other
    than theft but what makes the whole situation
    worse is when the plant being stolen is not for
    the sake of propagating the plant to ensure its
    survival but to steal the plant just to sell it. There
    is a fine line in how things used to be as opposed
    to now when many years ago people did take plants
    and bring them into another country just so those
    plants could be grown on. We called that plant
    introduction. When a 3' x 22' Koi Kiyohime
    Japanese Maple of mine gets taken from my
    front yard, the plant was not taken to perpetuate
    the species as there are other plants around like
    mine but there are not many around the size of
    mine. To the right home my Maple is worth a
    lot of bucks so when I am strangling the person
    that stole it I am not thinking in terms that the
    person was trying to take wood from the plant
    just so that more of them could be accessible to
    others. Frankly, I do not care if anyone else gets
    wood to make grafts or cuttings off my plant.

  9. Even if we disregarded the fact that a plant was taken without permission in the case(s) you mentioned. It is also likely that someone had to trespass and/or commit vandalism to obtain the item. Don't you think however, that the right thing to do for posterity would be to keep a part (a propagation) of a possibly one-of-a-kind plant. One could keep it somewhere in a safer spot or have a friend hold it, in the event that the mother plant dies or is stolen.
    The first thing that comes to mind when I see a totally new form of a plant (a sport a broom or seedling). Propagate as soon as possible(to share). I 've known a few people who want to keep unique plant types to themselves. Often they die and the plants are lost or the plant itself dies before it can be reproduced.
  10. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Now we are talking two different scenarios. Let's say I
    were to walk around in the Valley of Fire in Nevada and
    I found a double flowered California Poppy in bloom.
    Do I take the plant and guarantee the demise of that
    plant or do I mark it and come back later and gather
    some seed from it? I would let someone at the Park
    know my intentions and then come back later in the
    year and collect some seed. I'll have a Park Ranger
    there with me to ensure everything is on the up and
    up. Let's say later in the year someone starts gathering
    all of the seed pods from the California Poppies and
    leaves none from what we can tell. What happens to
    the native plants for that area when someone has
    effectively pilfered the next years crop of plants?
    That kind of thing has been done before in various
    parks. What I think works best is to let me have some
    of what I want and let someone in Nevada in on it such
    as a University and then both of us can try to work on
    the same thing and that is see how many double flowered
    Poppies we can yield once the seeds have germinated.
    To perpetuate a species does not mean to rob it from
    its normal environment or setting, we may see a mutation
    in a flower and we try to encourage offspring to show the
    same characteristics. What we do not do is raid the entire
    crop as a few more times of doing such things and the Poppy
    could effectively become altogether devoid for that area. I
    want to work with the plant, not ruin it just for my continuing
    studies and sometimes whims..

    For sports of trees I agree and yet disagree in that a lot
    depends on what tree we are talking about. Let's say
    we see a witches broom in Pinus wallichiana 'Zebrina'.
    That is something that is worth perpetuating ASAP
    but what we do not do is raid all of the broom in order
    to place all of our eggs in one basket as if our grafts
    do not take and there is that possibility that we have
    enough of the broom left in case we need more wood.
    That is how people I know played witches brooms in
    Pines. In Maples we can be deceived into believing a
    sport is something that in time really isn't. I've seen
    pink leaves on a Maple and I've seen the wood that the
    pink leaves arose from be grafted and for a couple
    of years the leaves were pink but about the 6th year
    the leaves were like the parents leaves - green. I've
    seen sports of Camellias have variegation in the
    flower, so we make cuttings hoping that we can
    produce a plant that also has the variegation that
    we once saw. No one talks about the number of
    cuttings we take and how successful we were to
    get a plant that is what we originally saw several
    years earlier. Then the plant that we are so ecstatic
    about can revert back to its old self, like the parent
    in later years.

    For sports I prefer to wait at least 5-6 years to see
    if the sport remains true. If not I have not expended
    a lot of time, effort and worry but let the chips fall
    where they may. It is when we force things either
    by seeing one Poppy plant and assume that all of
    the others will also produce a double flowered
    Poppy is when we can cause more harm than good.
    Really, not that much different than naming a plant
    long before it should be named. Even a witches
    broom may not always hold true as I've seen that
    also happen in which everything was cool for 4-6
    years and then the growth turned back to normal.

    Your original thought was correct if you apply it
    to include perpetuating a species. Yes, there have
    been plants brought in here and in Europe without
    permission but those plants were not brought in
    to be sold, they were imported in by whatever
    means to try to perpetuate the species but I bet
    in most cases the original plant stayed right
    where the person that took the wood or hand
    picked the seed pods had found it in case they had
    to go back and get more wood or more seed pods.
    The purist will not kill the parent plant just to
    see if we can duplicate it or grow it elsewhere.
    There have been introductions here that were
    not taken by permission and were just taken
    years ago but the intentions was not financially
    oriented it was preservationist oriented. A
    case in point is probably the Acer pentaphyllum.
    How do we know the original cuttings were
    gathered by permission or not or do we now
    have that Maple thanks to others that figured
    out how to graft it and grow it on knowing the
    stock plant in its native setting which yielded the
    wood is no longer alive today. The difference
    is a way back when we were not seeing dollar
    signs when we gathered plants from an area
    much different than our own. Others intentions
    were to try to save the unique plant that he or
    she found in the wild. That is not even remotely
    similar to someone snagging a plant from my
    yard, from UCLA or the UBC Botanical Garden
    just to sell it quick because someone either was
    paid to steal the plant or they know of an interested
    buyer the instant they have secured the plant by
    inappropriate, illegal means. When we have
    rare plants stolen from us is when we will not
    want anyone else to endure the same feelings
    we have as it is the guilt we feel of not concealing
    the plant better or wishing someone else we know
    had the plant instead of us is what eats us up.

  11. I didn't mean to imply that it's okay to steal a tree from yours or anyone elses property. I'd be sick if it happened to me. What I was getting at was that people illegally procure plants for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it turns out that what looks like a crime may end up being conservation. That sounds warped but I can tell from your communcation, that you can see how it could turn out that way.

    What bothers me, is when I come across someone who won't share a great little find (orchid growers fit the profile, they like to keep things scarce to keep the prices up; more than a few great cultivars have been lost that way).

    There's nothing more exciting than finding a variegated seedling of something that here-to-fore was simply green or seeing a broom sticking out on a fairly common spruce ,and of course, then to have it stand the test. Kinda like finding gold.

    With nurserymen and collectors trading works when you have something new and exciting and you find another guy with something equally fine; I guess it helps to have something of value to offer. It's one way to spred good things around.

    Speaking of plant mutations, I have a variegated Gingko that that reverts. Do you know of on that does not ?

  12. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    OT- General discussion

    Plants grown in culture differ greatly than plants found
    in the wild. I know how some nurserymen can be with
    some of their latest additions that they will propagate
    but sell their plants at an extreme price. Look at the
    prices of newly introduced bearded Iris and sometimes
    the only thing the Iris really has going for it in
    comparison to many others is that is its new and in
    relative short supply. Is it a color or a bicolor none of
    us have? No. Is it a form that none of us have? No.
    Specialty growers can ask a high price and if others
    feel they have to have it they will pay the price to own
    it. We saw in a previous thread in these forums the price
    of Peonies can be way up there also. I know what I've
    paid for some rarer forms of Turks Cap Lilies in the past
    out of Washington. I know of a more common Japanese
    Maple now that to me years ago was $500 for a one gallon
    plant and that was a wholesale price!

    There are people going around right now snagging wood
    off Japanese Maples without prior consent just so the
    people can use the wood for grafting. I do not get
    nervous about that as in most cases the Maple was
    of a common variety. The problem remains is when
    the person that snagged the wood has grafted plants
    ready for sale and then what the person is calling the
    Maple in order to sell it is not what the Maple is.
    Who benefits then and what entity suffers in the
    short term and in the long run? The plant does. Then
    I get asked what the Maple is after someone makes
    comment and takes issue that the Maple is not right
    and then I tell the seller and they do not want to hear
    it. It seems I am better off not to let myself get involved
    when the seller wants the money for a plant that cost
    him or her nothing to acquire. What about the person
    that paid $50 for a 2 gallon plant, how should they feel?
    I'll bet the person that paid the money is happier about
    their plant than the person that raided the wood feels
    about his or her plants..

    Sharing is not a problem but some of us have learned
    we have to be careful in who we share plants with.
    We can do people a favor and let them have some
    plants to grow and in many times they sold the
    plants as soon as they got home. That was not
    why we gave them the plants in the first place,
    to be sold that soon. Sometimes we wanted to
    know how a Maple that we started grew in Oregon
    and so we let someone have the plant to let us
    know how it does there. That used to be a real
    common practice back in the 50's through the
    80's. Even the Orchid grower will share the plant
    as long as you are willing to pay the money in
    order to have it. Where things become fun is
    when the Orchid grower sells us a plant for an
    extreme amount, yet the plant can be obtained
    elsewhere, albeit a hassle sometimes and then
    the Orchid seller throws a fit about the price for
    a Japanese Maple that we have that is technically
    not for sale and no one else has that Maple.
    Which is more important, the obtainable Orchid
    or the Maple that no one else has?

    There is a 60 foot tall Ginkgo biloba 'Variegata'
    in Palo Alto, near Stanford University, that I have
    not seen revert yet. I've seen lots of Ginkgo
    biloba 'Aurea'
    used as street plantings here
    that do not revert either. Some of the more
    select forms can revert but a lot depends on
    how true the cultivar is to start with and what
    rootstock it is grafted to and whether or not the
    plant is cutting grown as to which ones are
    more likely to revert or not. Ginkgoes are
    not one of my specialty areas but I have used
    them in landscape plantings and have a couple
    of forms myself and on mine I have seen no
    reverting to speak of yet.

  13. jjl

    jjl Member

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    Central Ontario
    A couple points.

    First, theft is theft. Many gardeners if a plant is common to their garden may share (reciprocate the gift please) plant, seed or source.

    Now in stories on TV I have heard of rose rustlers, though these people's rules are to ask the owner for a cutting to clone - the only time a cutting is taken otherwise is from an abandoned property !

    We believe in sharing plants -when they thrive and especially if demonstrating invasiveness- with friends as that is how my wife started her garden of perennials.

    My main question is how can you take pride in a beautiful plant if you know its been stolen? (Hopefully karma may strike these people through their ill gotten specimens)

  14. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    If you feel you are entitled, you have no qualms.
  15. fourd

    fourd Active Member 10 Years

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    X-maryland now New Mexico
    OK my 2 cents points:
    - "Steeling" is wrong, no doubt, but there is that morality that says if you are preserving a species you are doing the greater good. Having said that, that job should be botanical gardens, conservation groups, established propagators under licience but certainly not private collectors -- I think there are current laws to this effect so it is probably a mater of leagal vs illeagle.
    - All plants had their root in nature, so someone had to originally "steel" it. An exception is Hybirds, but their ansestors certainly came from nature.
    - If a plant is taken from a private collection, chances are someone was shown that plant ... and inside job? I just doubt people are walking around examining private gardens for rare plants but I don't doubt Botanical gardens have their share of thiefs.
    - While Sago palms are plentiful in nature, demand could make them targets and can easily become rare in nature ... Lady slipers (probably no longer true) and tree ferns come to mind but I sure there are better examples.

    So my 2 cents boil down to conservation over endangerment and thus leading to propagation over private collection.

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