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Cornell Plantations plagued by sophisticated plant thieves

Saruma henryi, an Asian woodlander

These are some of the rare and valuable plants that have been stolen from Cornell Plantations recently. Officials say that "taking such plants is just like stealing priceless exhibits from a major museum."

Rare and highly valued plants are being stolen from the Cornell 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 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.

High-value thefts include a rare, slow-growing, potted specimen-sized Agave and a heavy, glazed container filled 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 had been stolen. Most recently, a collection of unusual heirloom vegetable plants were taken from their cold frames located outside the Plantations' vegetable garden.

Cornell Plantations management urges visitors to report any suspicious or unusual behavior to the Cornell Police at 607-255-1111.

Plants that have been stolen:

  • Lysichiton camtschatense (Asian skunk cabbage),
  • Glaucidium palmatum
  • epimediums (Bishop's cap)
  • Saruma henryi, an Asian woodlander

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

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