The University of California, Riverside, Botanic Gardens have been struck by plant thefts during the lengthening coronavirus shutdown.
About 30 large potted plants and additional smaller ones have been taken, gardens director Jodie Holt told The Press-Enterprise.
About a third of the stolen plants were part of the gardens’ collection and the remainder would have been sold.
The gardens closed in mid-March due to the pandemic and the thefts were first noticed around April 16-17.
The thief or thieves have cut through chain-link fencing that surrounds the 40-acre (16-hectare) gardens and an adjoining 3-acre (1.2-hectare) orchard on the UC Riverside campus and even used the facility’s wheelbarrows to carry the loot.
Holt estimated the gardens have been struck about six times.
Staffers now spend their time patrolling instead of gardening, and Holt is considering whether it would be possible to have their regular volunteers help while still maintaining social distancing.
“It’s 40 acres. Everyone can have an acre, and still not come close to anyone,” she said.
The gardens, established in 1963, have about 10,000 cataloged plants representing 3,500 species and get about 75,000 visitors annually.