To date, there is a rising preference of households for succulent plants because they are easy to propagate and maintain, unlike regular plants that require too much effort to care for. As a result, the demand for succulents in the market was driven up, which has attracted poachers into the business. One particular genus of succulents that is being endangered by this illegal trade is the Conophytum.
The poaching problem of rare plants is no longer new as we receive news about them every now and then. Even before the pandemic, we have featured an article about the growing concern of Dudleya plants poaching in the Asian region. As more people turn to succulents, especially during the Covid-19 lockdowns making them a more common hobby, so are the people profiteering from their sale illegally.
According to the New York Times, a sting operation conducted by the Steinkopf police in the Western Cape of South Africa in July resulted in the confiscation of boxes containing thousands of endangered succulents from the Conophytum genus.
The name Conophytum is derived from the Latin word “conus” which means “cone”, and the Greek word “phytum” which means “plant”. Due to these succulents’ stone and cone-like appearances, they are also called Button Plants, Cone Plants, Living Pebbles, or Dumplings. This genus of succulents has over 100 species, including some that are classified as endangered.
Almost a third of all succulent species found in the market right now are native to South Africa. Most of the succulents featured here originate from the region, too, but have already adapted to the climates of their new homes. Despite the numerous varieties of plants in the marketplace, experts claim that this type of succulent is one of the most sought after with a huge demand coming from China and Korea.
Captain Karel Du Toit, the officer who organized the sting operation who also admitted being a fan of Conophytums, said that he used to spend most of his time handling cases of stolen livestock in his jurisdiction. In 2018, his focus has shifted to combating succulent poaching. He added that 80 percent of all the cases in his office now are related to this problem.
The source pointed out that succulents were once seen in Africa as plants for the poor. However, they have come into fashion worldwide in recent years, which made them a very lucrative venture. When the pandemic lockdowns started, succulent sellers saw an average rise of orders from 10 to 20 plants a day in 2019 going up to 200 plants daily in 2020.
Be a Part of the Solution
Being a responsible “plant parent” does not only involve making sure that your succulents grow healthy. You have to see to it that they are from authentic and legal sources as well. Here at Cal Farms, most of our products are homegrown and sourced from authentic and legitimate plant growers.
If you are on the lookout for succulents or plant-related products in the market that are currently not in our catalog, feel free to contact us or hit the “chat button” so a representative of the site can attend to your concern right away and help you find the products you are searching for.