Plant Poaching and Black-Market Succulents

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environment houseplants

You may not have heard the phrase ‘plant poaching’ before, but reports of the phenomenon are on the rise. A growing appetite for rare plants has ignited an international black-market that threatens some varieties with extinction. For many, harvesting endangered wild plants is as concerning as hunting elephants for their tusks.

A large-scale, targeted heist at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens made headlines when 22 endangered cycads were uprooted in 2014. Cycads are among the oldest plants on Earth. They grow slowly and require particular conditions to repopulate naturally, which is why they need protection - and why they're valuable. 

The Cycas Revoluta (our February subscription plant) is in this family, but fear not: your Sago Palms have been sourced responsibly, from plant nurseries who grow the cycads from seed or by offsets.

This week, plant poaching has been in the news again, as Californian conservationists report more thefts of the prized succulent, Dudleya Farinosa. The New York Times and The Guardian suggest that the East Asian market for rare plant varieties is the end point for succulent thieves. For some demographics in China and Korea, an enviable houseplant collection is a mark of wealth and status.  

The California Department of Fish and Wilfdlife states that some of the stolen Dudleya Farinosa are between 50 and 100 years of age. Like cycads, dudleyas are slow growers which makes these mature plants exceptionally valuable. To farm dudleyas of this ilk, commercially, would be a huge (and lengthy) investment for commercial growers, and a great risk considering the fickle tastes of the market.  

Naturally, Bloombox Club is sympathetic to the craze for exotic plants, but we are dismayed by the irresponsible and illegal theft of wild plants. A young business, we want to make sure that we make the right choices from the beginning, and buy from ethical, sustainable growers. 

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