Plant Thievery

jackedcactus copy

Arrow points to missing barrel cactus. Will the cactus on the right be next?

I know I’m supposed to be Mr. Groovy Permaculuture Dude, but it’s hard not to get angry when a barrel cactus gets jacked out of the front yard. The irony is that I planted this cactus to keep people from stealing the nectaplums higher up the front slope. Clearly I need to either let go of it all and accept the free exchange of the universe thing or plant a giant man-eating Venus fly trap to protect the barrel cactus.

Have you experienced plant thievery? Comments!

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  1. I’ve had a bay laurel stolen out of my garden. Was a shame since I wouldn’t have minded if they stripped the tree of leaves, but they had to take the whole thing. I replaced with stinging nettles.

  2. I know someone who had a pine tree in their yard chopped down right before Christmas. Can you imagine gathering around a stolen Christmas tree?

    • !!!

      Trying to imagine this an act of desperation by a parent on hard times and not the more cynical scenarios that spring to mind.

  3. We’ve had issues with people reaching over our fence and plucking veggies out of our garden. We’re solving that as we speak with a 6′ privacy fence, but nonetheless, the fact that we even have to do that speaks volumes, I think.

  4. We had a Japanese maple pulled up. We think they thought it was pot. I wasn’t angry, I just felt bad for them…

    • Oh dear. Our young need more botanical education, clearly. “Dude, this is quality maple.”

  5. When we lived in CT it was common, isn’t that an awful word to use, for pines to be cut down before Christmas. Also, stone walls that were near roads, but off the main roads, were being dismantled.

    Here in Florida it seems to be hanging plants especially orchids at any time and poinsettias on display at Christmas.

  6. That’s kind of shocking, especially since it was obviously premeditated and planned. I mean, you need gardening gloves and something to put the cactus in, right? You can’t just pick it up and walk away with it spontaneously! A few years ago when I lived in the San Joaquin Valley, people were having young palm trees stolen, and it was a group of people selling them at the local swap meet. Better check the Rose Bowl swap meet for someone selling succulents lol.

    • Indeed–the premeditation is was gets me. That thing was SHARP! They needed a shovel and something to put it in.

      And a ring of palm tree thieves!

  7. Let them steal this one: Teddy Bear Cholla, Cylindropuntia bigelovii! Kevlar gloves required! And bonus, it’s a California Native!

  8. Oh man don’t get me started. I live in the the laid back town of Austin, TX, yet someone took almost all our tomato and pepper starters out of our front yard about a week before we were to put them into the ground. I germinated way more than I even needed and would have been happy to give them away. The really frustrating thing is they were all special ordered heirloom seeds that can’t be bought as starters or sprouted from seed this late in the game. We bought some more common tomatoes and peppers to replace, but I’m not nearly excited about the garden this spring as I was before.

  9. Who lays in wait to steal a cactus? How hard is it buy one? What a bummer of a day for you.

    • !!
      Because it’s so much less work to steal someone’s snowman (and cart it off in all it’s roly-poly glory) than it is to make your own? Was your snow by any chance localized to only your yard and the neighbors were jealous?

    • How low can you possibly be? I know logically that stealing a plant is worse, because they’re alive, years of investment sometimes, etc., but a snowman is play! And it’s likely a child’s work. And what are you going to do with it?–give it to your own kid so they don’t have to go to the “trouble” of building one? It makes no sense.

      Maybe it wasn’t a human theft. Maybe the snowman was kidnapped by Jack Frost?

  10. I have experienced a lot of thievery. Although I regret always having to do this, visually and otherwise, I fence and lock my front yard. I haven’t done this yet in my current house and have been lucky so far, but this is the only way I can be sure all the fruit I produce will be mine! I will do it soon.

  11. One night I came home and one of the boxwoods in my front yard had been pulled up. By the time I got my bike inside I heard a truck idling outside and peeked out in time to see the truck pull away, another plant in its back. As I lay in bed that night I heard the truck out front AGAIN and peeked out the window to see the thief digging up a third. By the time I got outside he was gone, so I grabbed a dog leash, tied one end to the last boxwood and the other to the fence. The tie and leash is still there, years later.

  12. I have a large gaping hole near my driveway where someone stole a boulder. And that’s not the sort of thing you can just pop into your pocket and stroll away with. This is suburbia – who needs to steal a boulder?

  13. It’s actually quite common here in South Florida. I’ve had massive aloe plants taken from my front yard. (hopefully it was someone with bad burns!)

  14. My backyard is almost fenced in, thanks to neighbors. But, my yard is deeper than the yard next door. So, there is a 10′ gap where the ancient, 2′ decorative fence is the only barrier. One day, I saw a man on the other side of the 10′ part of the low fence. I was standing back 2′ from the picture window and he could not see me. He looked all around, at my house and the upper story windows, across my back yard, up the side yard. I grabbed the cordless phone. When he stepped across the fence with his plastic bag, I started dialing the police. Then, he started furtively gathering poke salet. I laughed and did not finish the call to the police.

    However, I later thought about how he must have been looking over that little fence earlier in order to find something to steal. Well, maybe he carries that plastic bag all the time. The last guys in that house had been peeping in my windows. So, I always wonder what’s up in that dinky rental house. If I had had tomatoes, I am quite sure he would have helped himself to those.

  15. Yep- we live out in the sticks in the middle of VT caught an older lady digging up my bulbs and lillies… asked her to stop. She didn’t, took what she liked put iit all in a box. When she stopped-a younger guy came up took and they walked to their car complete with MA plates and drove away. Never said a word. Planted (still planting) blackberries all along the roadside of my property. Go ahead, pick the berries – the ones with dirt road dust and car exhaust chemicals, sure- oh, don’t mind that racoon and those skunks and hey, the bear will let you go- eventually… No, I’m not joking and who do I call… the State Trooper 6 miles over on the Interstate 5 miles from and exite either way or a Deputy three ridges and 45 minutes away? She could’ve at least been snarky and said thanks…

    • That’s when I would run out and stand right next to her as she’s taking the plants, grab the box and say, “these are mine! Take someone else’s, or better yet grow your own!”

      The lady obviously has been doing that before if she’s going out of state to steal plants. So sad.

  16. Pyracanthas work great at keeping people out. AKA ‘Fire Thorn’ for a reason! I have had my share of ‘trespassers’.

  17. We had a potted plumeria stolen early in the morning on Mother’s Day! Pretty sure it was headed to a brunch! For me, it’s one of those things I just have to let go!

  18. I had a beautiful spread of prickly pear cactus stolen one night. I had a drunk rip a dwarf peach tree in half while trying to grab a fruit too high to reach. A walnut tree got yanked out twice and eventually died. Now I have Osage orange hedges, hawthorns and a honey locust on the sidewalk. I hope the city doesn’t give me grief, but nasty thorns are the only things that they drunks won’t touch. The professionals took my prickly pears.

  19. I live nearby in East Hollywood and haven’t had a plant stolen but most of my most beautiful springtime flowers are ripped off moments after they bloom. A large aloe that had grown tall was likely kicked in half by juveniles. We keep at it, trying to bring some beauty to the neighborhood but it doesn’ seem to be universally appreciated. Thankfully many neighbors enjoy the plants without destroying them.

  20. Nicking your cactus is a bit much.

    I’m a bit of a dangling-over-back-fences-fruit-pilferer, I have to confess, but I have a complex moral algorithm that helps me decide whether I should or shouldn’t. (If the owner is patently letting fruit drop and rot on the ground over the fence, I figure I’m allowed to snaffle a proportion of what’s available, and indeed should to prevent wastage & fruit fly. If, on the other hand, the tree is clearly loved, I leave it. This is probably not a flawless method of sorting theft from righteous appropriation.)

    A few years ago, as I was planting a nectarine next to my letterbox, a neighbour came and warned me that it was too close to the footpath — kids would steal my fruit. Omidog! Not kids eating fruit!, I thought. We’ve now gone and lined the whole front boundary and the verge with things I’m happy for kids (etc) to help harvest: a couple of apples, a peach, a loquat, an olive, a pomegranate, strawberry guavas, the nectarine, rosemary, garlic chives.

    I’d be seriously miffed if someone dug any of them up, though.

    • I believe your algorithm is probably a good measure of when it is okay to righteously appropriate the fruit. It’s too bad my neighbor did not do the same thing. She called to tell me she was the one who took my grapes!

      I would suspect the kids would get fruit to throw at each other and cars. However, on the off-chance they might eat it, maybe their thievery could be a good thing.

    • I love it! I just planted a plum tree in my front yard, and it was mentioned to me that fruit thievery might be an issue, but I’m with you! If kids want to steal my plums, so be it! I’m really more concerned about the voracious deer getting to the little sapling.

  21. I literally came home today to find that somebody leifted a pallet out of my retaining wall!! Took the pallet, left the t-stakes. And carried the pallet away! Who needs a pallet that bad? Times are tough? Or people are really drunk and want to show off? Who knows. Hang in there, plants keep growing, the only thing that really sucks to lose is motivation.

  22. Another great guardian plant is Japanese barberry – I planted one to protect a window and I was never brave enough to prune it – it had a REALLY bad attitude. Plus lovely color. Sorry for your loss – I hope the other cactus stays put.

  23. My aunt planted sweet potato in here front yard for the color. One morning around Thanksgiving there was a 1.5ft deep trench where the sweet potatoes were. She said, “If they knew what they were and are hungry enough, they needed them more than my garden”

  24. yep – last november someone picked the nicest pumpkin in my garden, which i’d been saving on the vine to make stuffed pumpkin for thanksgiving. it was the only one big enough for the crowd i was having over for dinner, so i wound up having to go buy one at the grocery store. still a little bitter about that, but i’m hoping it was someone who actually ate it instead of chucking it off a highway overpass or something stupid…

  25. If I caught someone stealing my plants I would not ask them politely to stop. Id make them stop. Thievery is one of the few things that truly brings out my ugliest side. I am sincerely sorry this happened to you.

  26. Wow…nope, never outright plant thievery, but I did have neighbors who would help themselves to tomatoes and such when they were grown near the sidewalk. I always have heard that anything not tied down can be stolen, but people will steal a cactus, huh? What a world.

  27. I saw this woman with her children cutting down cactus in the park next to me, she had a Christian sticker on her car. I walked up to her and said, “Is this what you are teaching your children to steal, isn’t that very unChristian of you.”

  28. Asides from my own squash baby pilfered from by the sidewalk (I was completely livid), I have had a potted adenium from Taiwan stolen from my front yard. It’s definitely not a common plant, even the ones that can be found in nurseries aren’t that great, so that was upsetting. Strangely though it was the smallest one so maybe they thought I wouldn’t notice. It was also way up front near my front steps, so they had to walk up to get it. People steal fruit all the time, but since the trees are planted on the green strip by the road it’s technically public property (persimmons mostly – what’s worse though is they do it in the dead of night with an idling truck so they know what they’re doing is wrong!)

  29. Oh, no. Now I am nervous about my community garden plots. I so wanted to support the village and get some plots, but if my veg is going to be pilfered, I wont sign up next year. Horrible.

    • You should never be afraid to plant! Get your plot, enjoy. Gardening is about more than the yield.

  30. Yes. Happens regularly out here on the farm. I know them by name; deer, raccoon, possum, rat, and bunny! (Sorry, don’t mean to make light of a semi serious situation but just couldn’t resist a touch of humor)

    • No, please do make light! And you’re right– we’d add skunk, squirrel and gopher to the list!

  31. We stopped counting our losses when they reached $2,000, but they continue apace. Our delightful neighbours rip off plants by the armload, brass planters, lights, and even fencing. They set fire to our wooden porch with their cigarette butts, and kill our fish and ducks through nicotine poisoning. Their cigarettes have spread tobacco mosaic virus throughout our susceptible veggies, an infection that lasts in the soil at least 10 years. Know this lyric by Bruce Cockburn? “If I had a rocket launcher/ I would retaliate.”

  32. no plants taken yet but my shovel was stolen off my back porch and whoever stole it left a tiny childs size shovel in its place. also my garbage cans (multiple times), and my wiper blades (but only the passenger side so maybe they figured we could each have a one and have a clear drivers side windows)…..all these stories about trees and plants stolen breaks my heart πŸ™ especially that awful woman would kept stealing when she was asked to stop…………..

  33. Some Grateful Dead Lyrics for inspiration! “The work of his days measures more than the planting and sowing”……….. (=

    Round and round, the cut of the plow in the furrowed field,
    Seasons round, the bushels of corn and the barley meal,
    Broken ground, open and beckoning to the spring,
    Black dirt live again!
    The plowman is broad as the back of the land he is sowing,
    As he dances the circular track of the plow ever knowing
    That the work of his day measures more than the planting and growing

    Let it grow, let it grow, greatly yield.

    What shall we say, shall we call it by a name,
    As well to count the angels dancing on a pin.
    Water bright as the sky from which it came,
    And the name is on the earth that takes it in.
    We will not speak but stand inside the rain,
    And listen to the thunder shouting I am! I am! I am! I am.

    Nothin more, the love of the women, work of men.
    Seasons round, creatures great and small, up and down as we rise and fall.

  34. All these stories are utterly APPALING to me! Thankfully I’ve never been victim to plant theviery, we live in a pretty crunchy community where just about everyone has their own garden (which was a deliberate choice) so maybe I’m lucky. I just never even entertained the possibility that someone would steal plants eight out of a yard, or out of my front porch greenhouse, craziness!

  35. We have a fairly big edible front yard garden and get lots of interest from it. Some plants have been taken. I’ve figured out that there is a LOT of confusion from lay people about how to harvest and they think that the proper way to harvest is to remove the entire plant. It’s a damn shame. I’ve had lettuce, chives, green onions, herbs all stolen because the person probably didn’t realize they could just snip off what they need instead of taking the whole damn thing and not letting others enjoy the harvest. Shouldn’t this stuff be taught in school?

  36. i have had a whole plum tree stripped of plums, half a 25′ row of carrots and beets taken, somewhere around 50lb tomatoes taken,and green peppers

  37. Pingback: Cactus Thief Strikes Again | Root Simple

  38. I’m still giggling at some of the comments. Indeed we were experiencing stolen cacti from our yard. After having a few come up missing we caught the perpetrator in the very act! It was our new puppy, Boudreaux. He eventually left the cacti alone and now that I think of it, Boudreaux never stole anything else. The cacti must have been a difficult lesson for him.

    • Ha! One of our late Doberman’s first acts as a puppy was to uproot a bonsai tree we had for years and run around the yard with it. Later in his life he specialized in stealing and eating tomatoes just before the ripened. Never made off with the cactus, though.

  39. Last fall I had two wire plant stands stollen. I found my plant basket tipped over. That was what alerted me something was wrong.

    Because I live in an apartment, the garden area is publicly accessible.
    Saddens me because I can’t replace them. They came from my grandma. People weren’t very sympathetic either. They told me I should have not bothered having them out in the first place.

    This year: I lost about 3-4 or more plants to a thief. This was before I could get them in the ground. I made sure to leave notes in the elevators about the missing plants. One of them was a coleus cannia (Dogs off). Of all plants, why one that stinks like skunk?!

    I believe I caught the guy in the act, trying to steal another gardener’s plant. He was trying to escape with it, but being a non resident, he was trapped in the patio area. (at least until someone would let him out.) I confronted him and got the one plant he had and placed it back. I then let the loudest, most social people I knew in the place know about what happened. Between all of us we were able to pretty much find out who the guy was and let him know he’s not welcome to take any more plants.

  40. Oh and the moment I was meeting the plant thief was funny. I would have been gone to a meeting, but decided to stay and plant instead.

    The man, a short guy, came in talking about how pretty the flowers were and speaking incoherent stuff about his family. I just listened.

    It was when I bent over to plant something he tried to take a flower. He pulled it out of its pot and seemed genuinely surprised it was fake. I pointed to where it was and said “It goes here.” He would look like he was cooperating, then head back for the door. I kept on him until I said, “Here give it to me. I’ll put it back.”

    He begged me for the plant, saying he needed it for his girlfriend. I told him it wasn’t mine and no. Taking stuff not belong to him was not allowed. He left empty handed, though he did linger around the building for a while.

    It’s sad he’s obviously got a mental problem, and because of that, it may be harder for him to understand that stealing is wrong. Hopefully now that most of the people that hang around outside can recognize him, they can help him remember.

  41. ha! Feeling relieved yet amazed at how common plant theft is! I went out on my front yard this morning to treat some weeds and 2 of my recently planted liriopes and 2 silver dust plants were all gone, neatly pulled out of the ground. Those are so cheap to buy I just can’t figure out why anyone would just destroy and still from someone else. I’m in a pretty laid back neighbourhood in Austin, this is really frustrating
    I will replace them and I’ve declared war on the culprit. Deer cameras are in place! I am actually hoping that all I’m going to catch is a racoon or other animal pulling them out…

  42. I have another update. The thieves are at it again. I’ve now lost 5 begonias, 2 rex ones, 3 tuberous and one wax begonia from the front garden. Why the begonias? Is there a black market value for them? I’m disheartened. Everyone rather blame ME for being the one to plant them (pretty plants people can steal), rather than help me by watching out for the thief.

    I just feel so WTF at the moment. Like it is the gardener’s fault for planting plants? Why do I get so much, “You shouldn’t be planting anything nice out there. You know it will be taken. Stop whining. Don’t have a garden”….and so on

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  44. This thread makes me feel better (?) about the plant stealing I’ve experienced. We live at a small church in NYC. We’ve created a beautiful garden in an alley that’s gated but accessible to anyone who comes inside to visit the church. We haven’t had problems with that. We decided to plant something mums in big heavy planters on either side of the church’s front doors. This is right at the sidewalk, accessible to anyone walking by. People have been gradually stealing the mums – literally digging out the root balls of each plant. I’m so annoyed. I wanted those planters to look nice. I’ve been trying to figure out what I can plant out there that will look nice but be less likely to get stolen. Ornamental grass? Ground cover? I don’t know.

    • Ornamental grass is a really good idea. Kids might strip the tempting seed heads, but otherwise it should be good, and swaying grass is very pretty. Some turn red in the fall.

  45. I had a Orangeola Japanese maple stolen out of my yard. I planted it two years ago and have been training it into a beautiful shape. It was just about to turn its beautiful orange color for fall πŸ™ They took the rebar and all. I live on a corner lot so I strategically place tulips and perennials to bring a smile to everyone’s face as they begin their day and welcome them home again. My plants feed my soul and all the creatures around, for this to happen…I have no words.

    • I am so very sorry! That’s just terrible. And I think people who are not “plant people’ just don’t get how much it can hurt.

  46. Pingback: 2014, a Year in Comments: Plant Thievery, Loquats, Breakfast Cerial and the Apocalypse | Root Simple

  47. Some people have been stealing our beautiful big hibiscus blooms of varied colours for the past one month. And this is killing our plants. They come almost daily when we are at work. We suspected these particular thieves because we have seen them stealing fruits, vegetables and mango leaves from other neighbours. And now they are stealing our flowers for use as their daily offering to their gods. The irony of it all. So cheapskate.

    Today, our immediate neighbour came by and what she told us confirmed our suspicion. Can’t do much. We are still trying to do something about it. Like putting signs in that particular language so as to let them know we know who are the thieves.

    And by the way, dogs won’t be of help, if these thieves are the neighbours because the dogs would have got used to them already, as in my case.

  48. Two days ago, someone cut my beautiful Tuxedo Agave off at the ground level, and then stood it back up near the roots. We thought someone must have been interrupted while trying to steal it. Next day, the roots had been dug out and there was a gaping hole. I replaced it with a much tinier agave, and this morning it has been severely damaged. This time there were HUGE dog footprints all around it. Someone is leading their dog up into my yard and allowing it to destroy my plants. This large, first agave was worth about $70. I’m replacing it with a large barrel cactus, but since reading the posts on this page, I wonder if that will stop the vandalism. People can sure be thoughtless, and it’s not the poor dog’s fault.

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