How to Avoid Buying Poached Rare Native Plants

“I have read about succulents in California being poached for the house plant market. How can I be sure the plants I buy are not stolen?” Isaac from San Francisco, California

Answer: Plant theft/poaching from federal, state, and private natural lands is not a new thing, even though it is highly illegal. Rare and expensive native orchids, spring wildflowers, carnivorous plants, and herbs (like ginseng) have all been subject to poaching. Now native succulents are the new thing.

You are right to worry and seek legit nursery-grown stock over illegally wild-collected plants that may have made their way into the hands of less reputable plant sellers. It’s a heartbreaking phenomenon because so many wild plants and plant communities are in danger of disappearing. Ignorance and greed drive plant poachers.

Here are five steps to ensuring a rare native plant is not poached:

  1. Before buying any native plant, ask whether it is nursery grown. All nursery-grown stock will have a printed tag indicating the source and grower.
  2. Buy your succulents or natives directly from the grower. (We recommend Mount Crest Gardens for native succulents!)
  3. Join a succulent plant group and get divisions of native succulents from group members.
  4. Contact a regional native plant society, like the California Native Plant Society, to get the names of reputable native plant nurseries.
  5. Avoid buying rare native plants from anyone who cannot tell you the source of the plant.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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