Three men, all South Korean nationals, have been charged by federal authorities in California after poaching $600,000 worth of prized succulents from the Northern California coast.
The men, two of whom fled to Korea and one of whom is in custody, are accused of poaching around 660 pounds of wild native succulents called Dudleya from cliffs in Mendocino and Humboldt counties. As the New York Times reports, the plague of profit-driven succulent smuggling goes back several years, a by most accounts, Instagram and Pinterest are probably to blame.
According to a statement from the US Department of Justice, "Smugglers are known to harvest wild, living Dudleya plants from the ground in Northern California and export the live plants to Asia, where they are sold on the black market. Native Dudleya plants from coastal habitats in Northern California are particularly valuable in Asia due to their unique physical features, including the color and shape of their leaves."
The three suspects, Byungsu Kim, 44; Youngin Back, 45; and Bong Jun Kim, 44, are said to have driven to several state parks starting last fall, and transported the plants to a San Diego nursery operated by Byungsu Kim. Bong Jun Kim was the only one of the three currently in custody, with the other two having fled the country.
The plants were likely bound for destinations in China and South Korea where they are particularly prized, however most are not likely to survive long after the trip given that they prefer outdoor conditions in a very specific, Northern California climate.
Image of Dudleya brittoni via Wikipedia