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Cornell Plantations plagued by sophisticated plant thieves: valuable collections are being decimated by thefts

Published: 
5 years 27 weeks ago

ITHACA, N.Y. June 10, 2009 —  Rare and highly valued plants are being stolen from the Cornell University Plantations at an alarming rate, and such thefts are disrupting the Plantation’s educational mission, destroying research, and robbing visitors of the ability to see the entire plant collection.
“These thefts have a ripple effect. They rob faculty and students of the teaching value of these collections, they demoralize our dedicated gardening staff, and destroy valuable research,” said Donald Rakow, Cornell Plantations director. “Many of these plants are irreplaceable. Taking such plants is just like stealing priceless exhibits from a major museum.”

Plant thefts at the Plantations have always been a problem, but during the past two years such thefts have occurred more often, and there are indications that the thieves are becoming very knowledgeable. “The plants taken are always rare or unusual, indicating that experienced gardeners are keeping an eye on the Plantations and identifying plants they are interested in stealing,” said Mary Hirshfeld, director of horticulture at the Plantations. Such high-value thefts include a rare, slow-growing, potted specimen-sized Agave and a heavy, glazed container with colorful annuals and perennials that was stolen right in front of the Plantations administration building.  In perhaps the most brazen theft, the herb garden manager was laying out perennials in peat pots throughout the garden in preparation for planting. She took a short break, only to return to find that many of the plants were stolen. Most recently, more than $900 in unusual heirloom vegetable plants were taken from their cold frames located outside the Plantation’s vegetable garden.

Management of the Cornell Plantations is urging visitors to help them by reporting any suspicious or unusual behavior by other people in the plantations by calling the Cornell University Police Department at 607-255-1111.

To listen to a news report with Plantations director, Don Rakow, click here ("Cornell Plant Thefts, June 11, 2009").

Stolen plants include:
Lysichiton camtschatense (Asian skunk cabbage),
Glaucidium palmatum (Japanese wood poppy)

epimediums (Bishop's cap) pictured above top

Saruma henryi, (Asian woodlander)

Container planting

Heirloom tomato varieties:
Aunt Ruby’s German Green
Big Rainbow
Black from Tula
Cream Sausage
Giant Oxheart
Hillbilly Potato Leaf
Plum Lemon
Orange Fleshed Smudge
Wapsipinicon Peach