Yes, plant poaching is a thing and three such poachers pleaded guilty this week to charges associated with stealing succulents. The plants were taken from Humboldt County to be shipped to China and Korea, where succulents have become trendy household plants.
Dudleya are usually found on steep cliff sides in Humboldt County. They’re vibrant green, many with pink tips, and they’re valued for decorative arrangements.
"Plants are being poached by these folks who are coming in from China and from Korea. Literally flying to the United States, renting a van, driving up with all the packing material to prepare, preserve and ship these plants back to Korea, China, and there's some evidence to suggest Japan," said Capt. Patrick Foy with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Foy said three poachers, one from China and two from Korea, removed more than 2,000 of these succulents, which are valued at more than $90,000.
"It's not just a handful or a dozen or even two dozen plants. We're talking about thousands of plants, and that's enough to start causing some major environmental damage," said Foy.
Locals concerned about abalone poaching tipped off Fish and Wildlife after seeing numerous boxes being mailed overseas from the post office. A judge in Humboldt County suspended the defendants’ prison sentences of more than 3½ years each, provided they don’t enter the United States without prior authorization from the federal government and state courts. They were also fined $10,000 each.
Volunteers from the California Native Plant Society replanted the stolen succulents in Humboldt Lagoons State Park.
Similar busts have been made in Mendocino County.