Plant thieves? Yup, they exist

The other day I came across an article on the Telegraph- a British newspaper -about an incident regarding not jewel thieves, but plant thieves. According to the article,  some of Britain’s most famous gardens have had to increase their level of security as a result of the increased number of thieves targeting rare plants. Can you imagine…we now have people trying to steal plant wildlife to make money. Various attractions across Britain such as the garden at the Royal Horticultural Society in Wisley, Surrey and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh have had to up their security and go to extreme measures to prevent robberies.

The theft of rare plants ultimately has larger consequences aside from just the loss of visually appealing flowers. Different species play different roles in the ecosystem and environment-  whether it’s to provide a particular community with food or shelter. Thus, by removing these rare species from the wild, various pests and diseases can be spread from different communities and ultimately become problematic.


Scene from the Royal Horticultural Society garden showing the stolen Galanthus Mighty Atom from Wisley, Surrey

As the number of registered endangered plants have become more than 30 000, plant crime has become increasingly popular over the years.

“People know exactly what they’re stealing. They are knowledgeable. They are undoubtedly collectors which is quite disappointing, sad, frustrating and annoying.”- David knott, curator at the Royal Horticultural Society in Wisley, Surrey

Some of these valuable plants can be sold for thousands of dollars as seen for instance rare plants that were being stolen and sold on the black market for up to several hundred pounds each. An example of this was seen in 2014 at the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew when the world’s smallest water lily known as the Nymphaea thermarum, was stolen.

Kew Gardens - Rare Waterlily

The world’s smallest water lily, Nymphaea thermarum

In order to avoid future robberies of such rare plants, botanical gardens have begun planting most of their rare species underground under cages with the additional installment of CCTV cameras.





Additional articles on the subject can be found at:

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