It Takes a Thief


Stealing is wrong.  I believe this with my whole heart.

While I’m far from perfect, I’d like to think I am not a thief.  For example, you could leave your 30K diamond ring along with its appraisal on a table in your home with me in it, and if you left, the ring would still be there when you returned.  That said, there are times when I’m sorely tempted, not by jewelry or money, but by plants; plants that aren’t even rare or valuable.  Does this ring a bell with you?

Case in point:  For a while last summer, my walking group decided to walk inside the local mall because of the heat.  In the mall, were all kinds of planters containing real plants, several of which held pothos ivy.

Now, I’d been wanting to purchase pothos ivy for a long time but could only find it at the supermarket in planters with other plants, and those planters were pricey.

Pothos ivy is anything but a rare plant. Seems everyone has it and grows it as a houseplant, except for me.–Wa-wa-wa!

My sad little story about pothos ivy goes back to 2003 when my mother passed away, and I inherited hers.  It grew in a lovely blue pot used as the centerpiece of my kitchen table.  It looked great…and then one day, it appeared scrawnier than usual.  What the heck?  I couldn’t figure it out.

The next day whole parts of the plant were missing.  Huh?

Cutting to the chase:  A housing development going in next to my neighborhood had recently cleared away all the trees and underbrush causing both deer and rodents to invade our ‘hood.  Field mice (9 to be exact) found favor in my home and proceeded to eat my entire pothos ivy along with all of my bananas (in the pantry in a basket) leaving nothing for me. It took a week to figure out what was going on and by that time it was too late.

I eventually caught all of those rodent thieves, but it took awhile.

Along my “plant journey” I learned pothos ivy can actually live as a plant in an aquarium, and I wanted to try some of it in this capacity, but I didn’t have any.  So back to the mall:  The temptation to cut “only a small piece” off the mall’s pothos ivy was strong.  Would anyone notice?  Would anyone even care?  I knew better.

Most likely you’ve heard this in some form or fashion before:  What if everyone cut off a 4” piece of the ivy?  It was wrong, and I knew it.  Despite the temptation (which was there each of the six rounds I made through the mall), I left the ivy alone.

I have old friends who don’t feel as strongly about theft as I do.  For example, when confronted with a plant admired in a plant nursery, one former friend would break off a piece and slip it into her pocket or handbag.  I always felt this was wrong, but I never confronted her.

First of all, I never saw her do this.  She told me she did this.  Secondly, had I said anything, it would have instantly ended the friendship.  Who was I to judge?

I, too, have some grey areas when it comes to the realm of plant theft.  Read on.

While I would never break off a piece of a plant growing inside your garden bed, I wouldn’t feel tremendous guilt breaking off a piece of your plant if it grew over your bed, onto the sidewalk, and into the street.

I encountered this exact situation with a wayward Lady Banksia rose who decided to take over the world.  I didn’t feel much remorse breaking off a piece of her in the street and trying to root it.  (No success.)  She needed trimming badly, and the house she belonged to was a rental such that no one ever cut her back.  At the time of this writing, I’m sure she’s still a “street walker.”  ~ Grin ~

However, the following examples are two grey areas where I may have crossed the line into plant theft.  Feel free to wag your finger at me.

Beside the Walgreen’s I patronized, was a vacant 1930’s house.  No one lived in this house (some 6 years) ever since I set my eyes on it.  At certain times of the year, when I’d sit in the Walgreen’s drive thru,  I spied flowering bulbs (daffodils and irises) in the home’s un-fenced backyard.  Unexpectedly, the old house went on the market and the next thing I knew, it was being dismantled.  This was in early to mid- December.  Actual photo taken of the scene of the crime.

When I watched the house being taken apart, I decided to meet the demolition crew to ask a few questions.  They told me a store planned to build on the land the old home occupied and that the house was being prepped to be moved.  I asked them who I should contact if I wanted to dig up some plants.  They were clueless.

Well, I mulled this information over for a couple of weeks, and I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

On the evening of January 1st at the cusp of dusk, I parked my car in the church lot behind the old home, looked toward the Walgreen’s drive thru to see how many cars were in line, sneaked through the shrubs with trowel and bag in hand and began to dig.  Although the bulbs were not in flower, their little green heads poked through the debris just enough making them easy to spot.   This would be a breeze.

I dug up as many as I could, which in reality weren’t that many—perhaps 10 daffodils and 6 or 7 iris rhizomes.

Regardless of whether you believe in God or in Karma or in nothing at all, I was reprimanded almost immediately.

Unbeknownst to me, I was sitting in a fire ant bed.

The ants quietly crawled into my shoes and up both ankle socks. They also crawled up the outside of my pant legs, onto the derrière of my jeans, and then down into the nether regions where my underwear lives at which point they let me know they were pissed.

I wasn’t too happy either.

There was NO ESCAPING them.  It was agony.  I seriously contemplated getting naked, but the number of drive-thru cars at Walgreen’s now stood at 3, and I didn’t want to scare the folks who might be getting refills on heart medication.  Since I couldn’t tear off my clothes, I started hitting myself on the butt as I ran for the car with my ill-gotten booty.

Once home, my husband who didn’t accompany me, thought the ants in the pants were hilarious.  He winked and said, “Well, you see, that’s what you get for stealing!  You Plant Thief!”

Turns out the daffodils were Erlicheer (1934)  and the irises were cemetery irises.

Was this theft?  Yes.  All I can say in my defense is the new store owners would have paved over these plants without blinking an eye. I stole them, but I also saved them.

Fast forward a few years, when the commute from work morphed into an adulterated version of the Hans Christian Andersen’s inch-worm song.

Everyone was moving to Austin, TX and ALL of us inched together along South Congress Avenue during rush hour.

Daily, as I crept home, I would pass a Chinese restaurant.  What made this restaurant memorable was the small shrub rose growing outside its front door.

The rose, even from a distance, was a pleasant sight.  It seemed to bloom at the start of spring and on into the summer, and its petals were an unusual cerise with white.   I’d never seen anything like it before or since.

For two years, I drove past the rose, and I’d always glance its way to make sure it was still there.  One day, I noticed a “For Lease” sign in front of the restaurant.  It had either moved or gone out of business.  (My gut says the latter.)  For the next 9-10 months, the sign remained in place.  The restaurant, back then, was not in a GOOD area of town.  That’s since changed.

Anyway, I’d pass that rose and although it wasn’t mine, I’d worry about it.  Was it being watered?  My guess was not. Would it survive such neglect?  Would the new tenants keep it or tear it out?

I mentioned the rose to my husband, and he agreed to sit in the car as a “look out” while I took a cutting or two.

We showed up at the restaurant sometime around 8 pm.  Even at that hour, the traffic was brisk.  I got out of the car with hand pruners and wet paper towels ready to wrap around the stems and lopped off two 6-inch cuttings.  And I swear as I turned to get back into the car, someone from the Exxon station across the street yelled out, “Thief!!!”

Rose Crime Scene Link here.

My face turned red with embarrassment.  I’d been caught in the act.  I was, indeed, a thief.  That was NOT MY rose.  I was severely conflicted.  How could I claim to be a good person who always paid for the copies I made at work, yet at night steal pieces of a rose that didn’t belong to me?

Of the two rose cuttings, one did “take” but later died when I transplanted the poor thing into my caliche soil.  Karma again?

Sadly, the new renters (Emprego de oro Mexican restaurant) did remove the rose or it died.

Because of my guilt, I confessed to my priest about the theft, and asked for forgiveness.  He actually argued with me that it really wasn’t theft since I didn’t take the entire rose, but only pieces of it.

And you?  Have you ever coveted a plant that wasn’t yours so much so that the angel on your left shoulder was seduced by the devil on the right?


Robert Wagner in It Takes a Thief:  “Let me get this straight, you want me to steal?







2 thoughts on “It Takes a Thief

  1. Thank you for a very entertaining post. My grandmother would take cuttings from plants hanging over fences. The garden of the house next door to us was completely destroyed when it was demolished recently. Beautiful roses were hanging through the front fence and my sister cut them and we enjoyed the blooms as the house came down. If people don’t take cuttings when they are able, I’m sure a lot of unusual varieties of plants may become rarer or disappear altogether and good on you for trying to preserve some, especially if no one else cares. Kat

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think your “thefts” were justifiable. The bulbs were bound for destruction, so you saved them. The rose was neglected, and taking a couple of cuttings hardly made a difference. I have a neighbor who occasionally who took a small cutting from a currant bush that grows along the sidewalk. She came up to me later and apologized for doing it without my permission. This bush has to be cut back regularly, so I gave her my blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

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