Rangers charge four people for poaching plants

State park rangers in western North Carolina apprehended four people recently for plant poaching at the Yellow Mountain State Natural Area in Mitchell County. It was the first such incident in state parks in recent years, though officials say poaching of galax, gensing and other plants is becoming more of an issue.

Yellow Mountain State Natural Area
Yellow Mountain State Natural Area

Four people were given citations Aug. 28 by Ranger Luke Appling and Superintendent Susan McBean of Grandfather Mountain State Park, which manages the nearby state natural area. McBean said the poachers were caught leaving the area with about 27,000 galax leaves in small bundles.

McBean said, “A big problem is that they were pulling it out by the root with the leaves attached, and this plant takes seven years from seed to producing seed.” She said that while patrolling the 3,111-acre state natural area, Ranger Appling regularly talks with neighbors about strangers in the vicinity and recently noticed a bushwhacked trail and disturbed areas on the mountain. “It was his due diligence in knowing where to go, when to go and what to expect,” she said.

Galax leaves are used in Europe's floral industry.
Galax leaves are used in Europe’s floral industry.

A ground-hugging plant, galax is used in Europe’s floral industry and can occasionally be legally collected by permit on national forest land, McBean said. Collecting galax is not as serious an offence as collecting ginseng, which is a felony, but state parks prohibit any collection of plants or minerals. On a recent hike, McBean found about a dozen Fraser fir and spruce seedlings that had been pulled and then dropped along a trail on Grandfather Mountain.

McBean said state and federal rangers have begun meeting regularly to discuss poaching issues and to share information.

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