The theft of native plants from public and private lands is an ongoing problem in the Southwest. Many species of cactus and other plants command high prices from private collectors seeking prize specimens and from homeowners who unwittingly purchase stolen plants for their landscapes.
Plant plundering is especially prevalent in Arizona. To reduce plant theft, Arizona's Department of Agriculture has implemented a tagging system that requires anyone intending to move and sell a protected plant to obtain a permit and plant tag from the state. The tag, which is attached to the plant and secured with a metal seal, can be legally removed only by the buyer. The tag is imprinted with a permit number.
When buying a protected plant, confirm that it was nursery propagated; or, if it was collected from another location, make sure it has an Arizona Department of Agriculture tag. Also, get a receipt from the seller as proof of purchase.
More than 300 plants are on Arizona's list of protected natives. For a copy of the list, or to verify a plant permit number, call the Arizona Department of Agriculture (602/542-4499).