The dudleya, a California native succulent, has become a symbol of hipster lifestyle, according to The Guardian. But now so-called plant poachers are stealing the succulent by the thousand to smuggle to buyers in Asia, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has made several busts this year alone.

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CDFW wildlife officers have made a series of arrests this year while working to halt a trend of individuals poaching the Dudleya succulent plant on the north coast of California.

Posted by California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday, April 6, 2018

Dudleya plants aren’t rare in the Golden State. But they do take years to grow in nurseries. According to The Guardian, nursery owners said the plants aren’t available in the massive amounts Asian shippers seem to desire. Smugglers are stealing the plants, which have a market value of around $40 to $50 overseas. CDFW warden Pat Freeling, who’s led the plant poaching investigation, told The Guardian, “Right now these plants are a boom in Korea, China, and Japan. It’s huge among domestic housewives. It’s a status thing. It’s become an exotic lotus flower succulent. Someone likened it to the next Pokémon.”

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An anonymous woman gave Freeling a tip in January; she had been waiting in line at a Mendocino County post office behind a man with dozens of boxes to be sent to Asia. As the man was holding up the line, the woman asked what he was sending and the man said, “Shhhhh, something very valuable.”

The CDFW has already made several busts; in a post earlier this month, they said they arrested three people — two from Korea and one from China — and intercepted 1,334 dudleya en route to be shipped. 1,000 more were uncovered in the hotel room of the suspects. In another bust, they recovered 50 succulents; in another, 1,400 dudleya.

CDFW said, “The removal of dudleya can result in environmental degradation of habitat and a destabilization of bluffs and cliffs on the coastline.” Multiple volunteers and CDFW staff recently came together to replant around 2,000 dudleya on the cliffs they came from in the Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

+ CDFW News

+ California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Via The Guardian

Image via CDFW News