There have been recent reports of an increase in flower poaching in the lower Tokai area and in the Upper Liesbeek River Garden (ULRG).
SANParks spokesperson Lauren Clayton even warned that this could possibly lead to the extinction of the protea, the national flower.
Dr Joan Parker, co-ordinator of the ULRG team, said six king proteas had been stolen recently in the ULRG.
She also said that the denuding of the yellow pincushion blooms was about to start, and arums and other flowers were routinely picked.
Dr Parker said she was pleading with the public to not buy flowers from informal traders who could be seen at traffic lights – in particular at the intersections of the M3 with Rhodes Avenue, Paradise Road and Upper Bishopscourt Road.
She said that the flowers were not only stolen from the ULRG, but also from the Arboretum and from residents’ verges in the area.
She said she understood the flower sellers were trying to make a living but motorists should rather buy meal vouchers to support them.
A street vendor, who didn’t want to be named out of fear of being victimised, said he had been selling flowers for over 10 years.
The man, who lives in Wynberg, said he was the breadwinner for his family and woke up every morning at 5am to pick the flowers and get to the various traffic lights in time for the traffic rush to sell them.
He said he often only went home after the evening peak hour.
The man said he did not understand how it was wrong to pick from nature when it was all he had to survive.
“There are men who choose to break into people’s homes, rob them, hijack them, and we’re wrong for picking flowers? I sell these flowers for R50, sometimes R40, a bunch, and this is what provides for my wife, three children and mother.
“This is why I always say that the law is not on the side of the poor because even when we try to make the most of what we can get, they’ll want to take us to jail.”
The man said he had been arrested for selling the flowers many times over the years, most recently last year when he and four other vendors had been taken in by Law Enforcement and hauled before a magistrate who had “let them off” with a R500 fine.
“We told the magistrate, we don’t have that R500. They let us go. Even now, the officers are tired of us, they are tired of chasing us. But there are days when you might run into trouble.”
Dr Parker said ULRG employees had worked for 15 years to grow the flowers for the benefit of the public.
“Please think of the flowers and of those who plant and maintain public open spaces and please don’t encourage the theft of flowers which we all wish to admire in their own habitat,” she said.