Social media’s love of rare plants has created a black market boom

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A photo of a rare, unusual-looking plant is shared more than 10,000 times on social media. Under the entry, the comments rapidly pile up. “I’d love to have one of those!” and “Where can I get one?” A few weeks later, smugglers in South Africa are caught with the endangered plant species, whose trade is illegal. “We receive a new report of plant poaching almost every day,” complains Pieter van Wyk, a botanist who works closely with the South African National Biodiversity Institute. South Africa is home to almost a third of the world’s succulents, many of which are protected by law. Boosted by s…

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