SAN JOSE, Calif. – State wildlife officials say they uncovered an international plant heist involving thieves from Korea and China slipping into Northern California’s wild landscapes to pluck succulents they then sell in a thriving black market in Asia.
The Mercury News in San Jose, California, reports the stolen succulents called Dudleya farinosa fetch up to $50 per plant in Asia, where a growing middle class is fueling demand.
Investigators say organized smuggling rings based in Asia are behind the thefts.
Since an investigation started in December, state officials have nabbed suspects from China and Korea in three separate thefts along the Humboldt and Mendocino coast.
Admired for their tenacity, the plants burst into beauty when they bloom, erecting a tall stem and a candelabra-like cluster of yellow flowers.