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Big Bend is Ground Zero for a Thriving Black Market for Native Plants


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Big Bend is Ground Zero for a Thriving Black Market for Native Plants

Living rock cacti, ocotillo, and yucca are in popular demand by collectors around the world

Written by: 

Melissa Gaskill

Published: November 26, 2020 at 8:00 am

Retired Big Bend National Park biologist Raymond Skiles spent a lot of time hiking the desert and mountains in the 1,252-square-mile park during his tenure. One of his favorite routes followed a ridge near the Rio Grande, where ocotillo dot the rocky limestone and the high ground offers views of the river and Sierra del Carmen mountains. For years, he enjoyed spotting various cacti along the way, including living rock cacti, a small spineless plant that blends in with the rocks. But around 2006, something curious started happening.

“On a walk one evening, I noticed a small pit, maybe 6 inches deep and wide,” Skiles says. “Then another, and another. Then dozens over a few hundred yards. I realized I was no longer seeing any living rock plants. They were all gone. It was clear that someone had walked that route digging them up.”

Those cacti fell victim to smugglers who sell rare plants to collectors in Europe and Asia.    :snip:  https://texashighways.com/things-to-do/parks/big-bend-is-ground-zero-for-a-thriving-black-market-for-native-plants/

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Be a Good Seed

To protect our natural environment, follow these tips to avoid buying illegally collected plants or seeds.

Don’t buy plants from sellers in other countries, especially if the plant is not native to that country.

Look for domestic sellers advertising cacti as grown from seed. Find out how long the seller has been in business, since many cacti take years to grow big enough to sell.

Avoid purchasing seeds or plants if the seller can’t tell you where they were grown or legally collected.

Nursery-grown plants typically look more symmetrical and have a more vibrant color than wild ones. Scruffy plants may have been illegally collected.

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