It is a sad occurrence but plant theft is a real thing all over the world from personal gardens through to botanic gardens and parks. When plant theft happens, the horticulturalists and scientists that put their hearts and souls into their work take it personally.
Although we have experienced minor plant theft from time to time it was discovered last week that a particular thief or thieves have gone to extreme lengths to remove and steal several endangered plants from our new Southern African Garden, officially opened in February this year. These aren't just any plants, they are like family to Garden staff and a living collection for visitors from all over the world to enjoy - some plants are part of Nationally registered collections that are priceless.
It seems the thieves planned the plant heist in stages. First loosening the roots, then returning to finish the job. Finally, they then placed leaves where the plants once stood, as a decoy to make it look like nothing was missing.
These aren’t just any plants –the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is home to a priceless horticultural collection. The Garden is a living laboratory and home to vital plant science and conservation – it has been here for more than two centuries.
At least one species targeted in the theft last week is critically endangered, and possibly extinct in the wild.
Plant theft is illegal and thefts carry heavy penalties. Any person that tries to remove, uproot or causes damage to any tree or other vegetation, or any part of any tree or other vegetation is guilty of an offence – this includes taking cuttings of plants within the Garden. When plant thieves strike, they are very likely to get caught or captured on CCTV.
To help us spread the word about the most recent theft, Mike Dalton from Channel 9 News visited the Garden to learn more about what can only be described as a heist. Watch the clip below to hear about the plant heist from Dr Dale Dixon, the Curator Manager of the Garden, and NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton.
Our living collections are for the enjoyment and education for over five million visitors annually. We encourage everyone to be respectful and mindful that other people come to see our Gardens.
As Dale mentioned in the clip, particular plants for your own enjoyment are propagated and sold by the Foundation & Friends Growing Group and they have a great range of native and exotic, rare, hard-to-find and endangered species. Or if you are after something very specific you can visit your local nursery or check out what is available on eBay.