Saving Arizona Cactus

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Arizona laws to protect several types of cacti, particularly the saguaro have recently been amended to be tougher on native plant thieves. So, be sure that what you buy is legal, and save the state tags that come with the plant. Once the cactus is put into your yard or pot, the tag may be removed and filed away inside your house.

Now, stealing an Arizona cactus may result in as much as a $150,000 fine and/or five years in prison for a conviction on a first offense. The sentence and fine will be based upon the value of the stolen plant. Penalties and fines for corporations will be even stronger than those for individuals.

The laws were toughened after a five year federal undercover operation found that large cacti were being dug, seriously depleting our national treasure. The plants were being sold for up to $10,000 each and being marketed as far away as Japan. (Obviously, those buying the large, valuable specimens didn't realize that such cacti rarely survive the transplant process.)

Elizabeth Riordon
October, 1991