by John Ramos

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Drought-tolerant cacti and succulents are becoming a favorite for homeowners looking to keeping their front yards green – and now are also becoming an easy target for thieves.

The plants at the world-renowned Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek are genetically adapted to endure the harshest of environments.  But there is one harsh reality they are not protected from.

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“They literally ripped individual plants out of the ground…”  said Assistant Curator Walker Young.

Last month someone stole a number of rare echeveria plants and Young said the thief appeared to know exactly which plants to target. “It does seem weird that someone would steal a plant, but it’s kind of surprising how often it happens, in general.”

Across the Bay Area, thefts of succulent plants are being reported, especially in some neighborhoods in San Francisco.

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Surveillance videos posted on YouTube show people ripping off plants in the middle of the night.  Walker says the real value of these succulents lie in their ability to survive being stolen, as they are easily propagated.

Even pieces of a plant will quickly sprout roots. So some people, like one man photographed in San Francisco, are cutting chunks off of other’s plants to regrow them at home.

“I think they tell themselves that they’re taking a little piece, and they haven’t entirely killed the plant…and they haven’t disfigured it so badly that in a few years it won’t grow back.”

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But the years it took to make a plant beautiful are lost.  Places like Bancroft Garden will gladly sell you clippings for just a few bucks and you can grow your own and still leave something lovely to look at.