A devastated woman has fallen victim to a controversial theft after discovering a part of her beloved plant had been stolen from her front porch.
The Sydney local had spent years "nurturing" her slow-growing silver torch cactus only for two of its few giant stems to be hacked off at the base — assumedly so the thief could propagate their own — leaving the plant susceptible to disease and other issues.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, had left secondhand items near the plant on her porch and shared a post in a local community Facebook group, but had mentioned in the post the cactus was not part of the giveaway.
"I was so upset when I saw it," she told Yahoo News Australia. "I felt so let down that a group that I thought of as a good community would contain people that would do this. You can argue that I am naive though."
The incident in Sydney's west caused quite a stir online and has re-asked the question: is it okay to take plant cuttings without permission from the owner?
Owner fears thieves will return
The cactus owner had originally moved the plant to the front porch to get better sun but is now re-planting it elsewhere in fear the same theft could happen again and further injure her plant.
"We figured it was too heavy to steal and didn’t think people would cut it, but I am going to try to get it out of the pot and plant it in the ground now because I worry it’ll get stolen if in the pot," she said.
After sharing the incident in the group, some were quick to condemn the act. "Wow! Absolutely disgraceful, how low can someone go? I'm so sorry that this happened to you," one person said.
Others shared they too had experienced plant thieves in the area. "Seems like there's a wave of plant thieves going around at the moment," one person commented alongside a photo of their garden with one of their in-ground plants missing from a row.
Despite some overwhelming support, others suggested she should have never put the plant near the things she was giving away as it likely looked as though it was also up for the taking. "The way the cactus was amongst the other stuff on the porch, I think someone genuinely thought it was a part of the free stuff."
Expert says stealing plant cuttings is wrong for 'many reasons'
Ilona Tar, a landscape architect who works at That Plant Shop in Rozelle, told Yahoo there are "many reasons" why it is not okay to steal plant cuttings. "When you don't cut with disinfected sheers at the right angle, you can cause that plant to be susceptible to disease and rot," she said. "Worst-case scenario it can kill the whole plant."
On top of the risk to the plant's health, there are emotional and aesthetic reasons why taking a cutting without permission is a no-go. While plants are like pets to some, for others plants are grown in a certain way for aesthetic reasons too and cutting in the wrong place can "change the whole shape" of the plant.
Tar reveals some even steal plant cuttings from nurseries which they notice by seeing the plant damaged or suddenly half the size.
"From a business perspective, we have close relationships with the suppliers and part of the ethics of buying from smaller growers is that we do not propagate from cuttings. That is bad business practice," she explained.
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