conophytum succulent plants

Poaching Threaten Endangered Conophytum Succulent Plants

conophytum succulent plants

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.

A police officer inspects the confiscated boxes full of Conophytum succulent plants. (Source: New York Times)

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.

The High Demand for Dudleya Plants Attracts Poachers

The high demand for Dudleya plants, especially in the Asian region, is attracting poaches. There have been recorded cases of people smuggling them to China and Korea because they are considered trendy.

According to a report in NBC San Diego, two Southern California natives were caught trying to ship stolen Dudleya plants in eastern Asia in February of this year. The succulent plant poachers were subsequently sentenced, and two more cases are pending in court.

In another case that took place in Humboldt County, three men were caught for illegally possessing 2,000 Dudleyas. One Chinese and two Koreans were sentenced to about four years in state prison and a fine of thousands of dollars for the crime.

Combating the Poachers of Succulent Plants

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife urges people to report such instances to them through their hotline at (888) 334-2258. The agency said that they will treat each call as confidential.

On the other hand, succulent growers are taking steps to prevent the poaching of Dudleyas. They are planting valuable succulents on a massive scale to combat the illegal harvesting of these valuable plants.

Dudleya plants are very attractive because they often grow small charming rosettes on their branches. However, since there are around 40 to 50 varieties of this plant, some may not have branches. These are native to the western states of US, Mexico and other areas in the Southern American continent.

As a consumer, you can also help prevent the poaching of succulent plants in your own way. Buy only from a legit and reliable source like Cal Farms. You can grow these plants in your backyard or indoor garden too.

How to Grow Dudleya Plants

Dudleyas are easy to grow. Like most succulents, they do not require much attention like frequent watering.

These succulents can be propagated from seeds, cuttings or division. You can plant them in small containers or pots filled with garden soil or sand. The containers or pots should have small holes in their bases to allow excess water to drain.

Dudleya plants thrive in dry conditions, so it’s recommended that there should be long intervals in between watering. We suggest watering them only during the fall and stop watering them during the summer season.

Make sure that the water is directed to the roots of the plant as this type of succulent cannot tolerate getting its leaves wet. It’s for that reason that you might notice a white wax covering its leaves. This serves as a coating that prevents the stagnation of water droplets from its leaves. As much as possible, avoid touching the leaves to keep its coating undisturbed.

Dudleya plants love the sun. Therefore, make sure that you position them in places that get the most sunlight. An adequate amount of lighting from the sun gives them a healthy green glow, but too little of it can result to its leaves getting soft and stretching.

These succulents cannot tolerate frost. They will surely wither in that condition. However, they can survive as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

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