Nowhere in the United States are there more rare and unusual native plants than in Arizona. Many people desire to use these "wonders of nature" in their landscaping. However, most of these plants are protected by law. Plants cannot be removed from any lands - whether they are owned by a private individual or managed by a government agency — without permission and a permit from the Arizona Department of Agriculture. Lessees of state or federal land must obtain specific authorization from the landlord agency to remove protected native plants. Theft of protected native plants from private, state, or federal lands may result in a felony charge, as well as native plant law violation.
Most of the desert plants fall into one of five groups specially protected from theft, vandalism or unnecessary destruction by Arizona's Native Plant Law. This includes all of the cacti, most of the exotic plants (like Ocotillo), most of the trees (ironwood, palo verde, mesquite), and many of the smaller plants. Most of these are many years old and cannot be replaced.
Landowners have the right to destroy or remove plants growing on their land, but 20 to 60 days prior to the destruction of any protected native plants, landowners are required to notify the Arizona Department of Agriculture. The landowner also has the right to sell or give away any plant growing on the land. However, protected native plants growing may not be legally possessed, taken or transported from the growing site without a permit from the Arizona Department of Agriculture.
To regulate the collection of protected native plants, the department, with its nine district offices, enforces the Native Plant Law through investigation, legal action against violators, public awareness programs, enforcement training for other agencies, and issuance of permits.
The Arizona Department of Agriculture checks all areas of the state on a regular basis for the use of native plants as landscape material. They closely monitor new subdivision areas and commercial developments. If a protected plant is found without a tag, it is confiscated. If a tag, string, and seal are attached to a plant in such a manner that it can be removed without cutting the string or breaking the seal, the plant will be confiscated. Additionally, the department keeps a permanent record of the location of all protected native plant material within the state. The native plant law activities are monitored by all law enforcement agencies in the state.
*Reprinted with permission from the Arizona Department of Agriculture, Plant Services Division.
Arizona Native Plant Laws
Scottsdale Native Plants Ordinance