|According to detectives it was a professional job and the thieves, who left no trace, knew exactly what they were after. Bearing all the hallmarks of an audacious art gallery heist this was the scene at Kew Gardens in 2014 where a rare African water lily was snatched. It is now thought to have been sold to an unscrupulous private collector on the growing black market for stolen plants.|
|The legal plant trade amounts to £9 billion a year worldwide. Dr Richard Thomas says: “There is a kudos in owning anything rare. Although it’s impossible to give precise figures for plants there is a limited but thriving black market involving fanatical but unscrupulous private collectors. If someone wants a species badly enough they will pay vast amounts of money.”|
Hochstetter Butterfly Orchid
|Rare and new discoveries of wild plants are most prized sending collectors into a frenzy and it’s feared that some species are being driven to the brink of extinction by over-harvesting.|
One of the world’s rarest orchids was re-discovered in 2014 by British botanists on a volcanic island in the Atlantic. There were only 250 plants of the unique species on the island of Sao Jorge in the Portuguese Azores, making it the rarest in Europe.
Lady's Slipper orchids
The albino form of the Vanda sanderiana or the Waling-waling is a rare and prized plant for orchid collectors and breeders.
Phragmipedium kovachii was first found in 2001 and is referred to as one of the most important natural history discoveries of the last decade.
Cypripedium calceolus. It receives round-the-clock police surveillance where it grows on a Lancashire golf course.
Paphiopedilum rothschildianum, an orchid that is on top of the endangered species list.
Paphiopedilum rothschildianum. Gold of Kinabalu Orchid. The flower is extremely expensive because it grows only in Malaysia’s Kinabalu National Park and it's flowers take years to develop. It was discovered in 1987, after which it was ravaged by orchid smugglers and became nearly extinct.
The contemporary orchid-breeding business in Taiwan and its main rival, the Netherlands, centers on the Phalaenopsis, or the moth orchid.
In Victorian Europe, orchid hunters, hired by wealthy collectors, sometimes killed each other in pursuit of new breeds.
Bornean slipper orchid
|The Shenzhen Nongke orchid was developed in the lab by agricultural research corporation Shenzhen Nongke Group. The orchid took eight years to develop. |
In 2005, it was sold for about $ 200,000.