GardenDrumVandals destroy cacti at Melbourne Botanic Garden

RBGM Cactus damage in Arid Garden (4)

Treasured cactus and succulents destroyed in Melbourne – can you help? Vandals have destroyed rare cacti at the Melbourne Royal Botanic Garden. They attacked the columnar cacti and succulents in the Arid Garden, with about 80 per cent of the plants damaged. It looks like they were hacked using a machete or axe.

The shocking attack has destroyed plants that were more than 30 years old, many rare and threatened species, and it would take decades to replace such mature specimens.

Source: ABC News

RBGM Cactus damage in Arid GardenCalling GardenDrum readers:

The mindless vandalism which seriously damaged the splendid Botanical Gardens collection of cacti and succulents yesterday might be made good if people who may have some large/surplus plants that they are willing to donate to the Garden did so.

RBGM Cactus damage in Arid Garden (2)The type of plants in question often can be transplanted succussfully. People would need help to transport cacti there in view of the difficulties of handling same, but a public appeal may bring a willing public response. My observations are that many large specimens are to been seen in many suburban gardens whose owners may be ready to help replenish the collection.

Brian McKinlay

RBGM Cactus damage in Arid Garden (3)


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11 thoughts on “Vandals destroy cacti at Melbourne Botanic Garden

  1. Thanks for offers of help. We have already started to propagate from the material hacked away and will start planning for a new Arid Garden display to replace what was lost. Due to persistent plant theft we had to restrict what we planted here but I’m hoping that with some surveillance we can use this as a opportunity to make an even better landscape and collection. At this stage we don’t need a lot of new material but if you have something special, particularly of known provenance, do let us know. While this senseless vandalism was depressing for everyone, gardens and gardeners are resilient!

    • We have a 35+ year old cactus that we would be happy to donate (not sure if it is the column catcus, but it looks the same as those pictured in pieces). The cactus is about 20 feet tall on the main column with several other branches, has pink flowers. Belonged to my stepfather, it has just sat in a pot in our courtyard growing up through a tree.

      If the garden is interested I would be happy to send a picture.

      • Thanks for your offer Carol. We are probably going to try and restock with material propagated from the existing collection and with some additions from other botanic gardens or collections from the wild (just so we have all the records we need for any scientific or conservation purposes). But if you could send your photo to Katie O’Brien (Katie O’Brien, Marketing Co-ordinator at the Gardens; katie.o’, 0409 507 485), she can advise on whether this might be useful. Many thanks again for thinking of us and for your generosity. Tim

  2. All I think of when I see this sort of thing is karma. We are constantly planting things out, then bang some low life comes along and steals or damages our work.
    If there is any grace about what these, well what do you call them, “people” do is at this site THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN HOPEFULLY SPIKED A FEW TIMES. We as gardeners know what we are doing with cactus and I still get spiked. Just crap, I hate this sort of thing.

  3. Horrible. The succulent and dry gardens at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens have given me so much inspiration. Staying regularly with friends in nearby Leopold St has meant getting to know and love the Gardens well. I planted Agave geminiflora after seeing it in Melbourne. It’s flowering and setting seed. I have lots to spare. This awful damage coupled with the ringbarking of your old Eucalypt is depressing. Great that you are planning positively. Good luck! Peta Trahar

  4. I, too, feel disgusted when I see such mindless vandalism, and I hope that Karma bites the perpetrators right in the place that hurts them most. Why is this kind of action necessary?

  5. I live two states away from this and have never actually visited the gardens, but I am still horrified, mainly because some very good friends of mine had a lot to do with this garden and it has a special place in their hearts. I can well understand that odd bits of cacti and succulents must go missing from time to time, as happens in any botanical gardens, but this kind of wholesale destruction is just sickening. The seemingly planned nature of the attack and the fact that this bed was deliberately targeted, suggests that the culprits may have been vigilantes with a grudge against exotic cacti plants. If so they can only be described as ill-informed zealots. Vandals tend to be more haphazard in their activities, as a general rule. This really looks like it was done by someone with an axe to grind who is trying to make a point. We can only hope the culprits are caught and dealt with to the full extent of the law!

  6. Thanks again for all the support and feedback on this terrible incident. Ian, you might be interested in an opinion piece I wrote for last week’s The Age on this topic (i.e. people with a grudge towards exotics/cacti):

    I suspect it was more random than this and that cacti are just an easy target, but worth making sure we don’t have prejudice against plants, of any kind.


    • Thanks Tim, I must admit I am in two minds about this incident. Was it just a senseless act of random vandalism, or was it intentionally planned? Perhaps we will never know. The idea of carrying machetes and/or axes into a botanical gardens at night does seem premeditated. The cacti bed would certainly be a prominent target for fools on a rampage. I understand that a really old Eucalyptus tree was also ringbarked? One thing that should probably be checked for is the potential use of chemicals, which may be detectable as a strong weedicide smell around the garden beds. If so, the damaged cacti will never recover. They will turn yellow or chalky white or develop mutations. I am only suggesting this because 1) chopping off the cacti in the way shown in the photographs resembles the methods used in the control of feral cacti, and 2) someone trespassed into my own garden one night in the past and maliciously sprayed the cacti in my greenhouses. I did not realize it had occurred, but certainly noticed the strong chemical smell around my greenhouses. I lost over half of my collection within three months, many of which were irreplaceable. I can only suggest that the gardens should beef up their security. More security lights and cameras could do the trick.

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