There’s a black market for succulents now
Succulents are having a moment, probably because they’re nice to look at and relatively easy to take care of (though I personally have killed at least five). The plants’ popularity isn’t just limited to the States. In China and Korea, the plants have become so popular in recent years that local growers can’t keep up with the demand — and some suppliers have turned to California-based smugglers, who are allegedly harvesting wild succulents and shipping them overseas.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has busted five succulent smuggling rings in 2018, The Guardian reported. In total, the raids recovered more than 3,500 stolen plants, some of which were nabbed from nurseries and others that were collected on the side of the road. Pat Freeling, a warden at the department, told The Guardian that he started investigating succulent thefts after getting an anonymous tip in January from a woman who said she was stuck in line at a post office behind a man who was mailing “dozens” of boxes, dripping with dirt, to Asia.
“Succulent fever” has taken over Korea, where the plants are popular among people who live in small apartments, because they don’t take up a lot of space, The Guardian reported. Chinese consumers got into the trend shortly afterwards. According to the Global Times, no one in China seemed to care about succulents until around 2013. “Farmers who used to grow succulents used to struggle to make ends meet,” Mao Rujia, a succulent specialist at the Shanghai Botanical Garden, told the publication. “Those small plants were not attractive at all, and it wasn’t until 2013 that they caught on.” Apparently, the plants have become so coveted that local growers aren’t able to keep up with the demand, hence the smuggling.
If you ask me, though, that’s a lot of effort for a plant that will inevitably die from overwatering after a few months.