Rare tropical plants taken in raid from Wellington Botanic Garden
October 14, 2020
Tropical plants worth thousands of dollars were stolen from Begonia House at Wellington’s Botanic Garden.
A dozen tropical plants costing thousands of dollars have been stolen from Wellington’s Botanic Garden.
Thieves took the plants, some of which were a metre high, as well as cuttings from Begonia House, manager David Sole said.
But while plant theft was becoming more common, it was the biggest theft ever seen at the gardens
“This type of plant theft is becoming more prevalent across New Zealand as there is a fad for rare or unusual houseplants which seems to be driving the market,” he said.
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“We haven’t had thefts on this scale before.”
Staff noticed debris on the ground in the greenhouse when they checked on the plants on Tuesday morning.
Council staff would check security footage where the thieves may have loaded the plants into their cars.
Meanwhile, plans to beef-up security and monitoring of Begonia House are also underway – but it was difficult to keep track of stolen plants.
“Plants are notoriously difficult to make uniquely identifiable and, on and off, plant theft has been a problem for all public gardens just about forever,” he said.
Police received the report that sometime overnight on Monday plants had been stolen from the Begonia House, and were assessing the information, a spokeswoman said.
It is not the first time gardens have been targeted by thieves.
Christchurch Botanic Garden was victim to a daytime theft of the extremely rare variegated monstera from its orchid house on September 19.
The thief scaled a high safety glass window to steal the plant, valuable because of the white patches on its leaves.
Online sales of houseplants have also gone through the roof in recent months.
In January, a variegated monstera sold for almost $5000 on Trade Me. In June, a hoya carnosa or ‘Hindu rope’ plant sold for $6500, while in August a minima sold for $8150 – a Trade Me record for a houseplant.
But not everything is above board, and dozens of people have reported plant sale scams on social media.
For Smole, the best outcome would be for the thieves to return the plants.
“I would love for them to bring them back,” he said.