A new kind of poaching is taking place in Northern California: Thieves are stripping succulents from cliffs near the ocean, boxing them up and shipping them to countries like Korea, China and Japan.
“It took us a while to figure out what was going on, because this has never really happened before,” said Capt. Patrick Foy with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Division. “This is not something that Californians are going to tolerate.”
They’re called Dudleya and they grow on the edge of cliffs. They sort of look like artichokes — green with pinkish tips. Foy says, in Asia they're sold as decorations for up to $50.
About a year ago, Foy says, the department began getting tips that people were flying into San Francisco, renting a car and dropping people off at night to steal the succulents.
“In localized areas it’s pretty bad,” Foy said. “These folks are going in and ripping every single plant out.”
Earlier this year, Foy says the issue ramped up when a man was caught shipping stolen succulents to China at a post office in Mendocino.
In January, a man stole 50 succulents and was sentenced three years of probation, a $5,000 fine and 240 hours of community service. Last week three people from China were arrested for stealing 2,300 succulents — worth more than $90,000 — in Humboldt County. They’re being charged with felony conspiracy.
Foy says this is a big deal because some subspecies of Dudleya in California are at risk of extinction. He adds, the mass removals create “a lot of bank destabilization. So, later on when it rains all that just gets just washed over the edge of the cliff.”
Any succulents seized have been replanted.