Recently, we joined a respectable group of known botanical gardens that have experienced unwelcome "visits" from rare-plant collectors, who seek to enrich their private collections through the theft of rare plants. One of the most famous cases occurred in the Kew Gardens, which lost their Nymphaea thermarum, the smallest water lily species, to a thief. Other famous thefts have occurred in Sidney (Australia), Edinburgh (Scotland), and other botanical gardens in Britain
About a year and a half ago we received for guardianship a single specimen of Amygdalus arabica shrub ("Arabic" almond) from the Israel Plant Gene Bank. It was one of five seedlings that Dr Doron Holland, from the "Neveh Yaar" research center, had managed to germinate from a few rare seeds collected in nature. Some of the other seedlings were given to other botanical gardens. Amygdalus arabica is an endangered red species, and extremely rare in Israel – a few shrubs grow only on canyon cliffs in the northern Judean desert. The seedling we received was planted in the semi-arid batha plot and seemed to be doing well - until it was dug out and stolen, less than a month after being planted. The police were notified. Several months later another seedling of A. arabica was stolen from the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Giv'at Ram (together with a specimen of Pyrus salicifolia). We assume that the first seedling did not survive and that the thief sought a replacement. Last summer we experienced a similar theft, when a young shrub of tanner's sumach (Rhus coriaria) was uprooted from its bed and taken away. The sumach has many uses and therefore is culturally important. It's not very rare, but it is difficult to germinate and grow under the coastal area conditions. To our regret, due to these events we have been forced to increase the security means in the Garden in the hope that such cases will not be repeated. We ask for the public's help - if you have seen a specimen of Amygdalus arabica in a private collection it is possibly one of the stolen specimens, and we would be grateful to be notified.