Thieves stealing Central Coast succulents, shipping them to East Asia

With certain succulents selling for hundreds of dollars a plant in China, Japan and South Korea, thieves have been pilfering plants from public land in California, including in San Luis Obispo County. [KSBY[

One succulent thieves are targeting is Dudley Farinosa, which sells for just $5 to $7 a plant at the Los Osos Valley Nursery. But, overseas it can sell for hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars.

Steve Super, the owner of Steve Super Gardens in Los Osos, custom grows and breeds plants for collectors in Asia. Super said thieves steal the succulents from the wild because buyers want a large, overgrown look, which can take decades for growers to achieve. The buyers want long stems, and they love dead growth on the plants, which they call “old pile,” Super said.

This month, two Dudley Farinosa poachers pleaded no contest to charges including felony grand theft and felony vandalism after they stole more than 1,800 plants from Big Sur. The case marked the fourth successful Dudleya Farinosa theft prosecution in California in a span of a little more than a year.

In addition to Big Sur, Montana de Oro has recently been hit by succulent thieves. California Fish and Wildlife personnel are now carrying out undercover stings to stop thieves from stealing succulents from public lands in SLO and Santa Barbara counties.

Fish and Wildlife Patrol Captain Todd Tognazzini said he is finding that the thieves are coming from far, far away. 

Poachers are harming the ecosystem that depends on the plants that they are stealing. Removing succulents from cliff sides can also lead to erosion,Tognazzini said.

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