A gardening craze dubbed “plantdemic” has spread across the Philippines after coronavirus restrictions fuelled demand for greenery, sending plant prices soaring and sparking a rise in poaching from public parks and protected forests, AFP reports.
Photos of delicate flowers and broad-leafed foliage cultivated in backyards and on balconies have flooded social media as housebound Filipinos turn to nature to relieve stress and boredom.
“It’s unbelievable. People are super interested in plants these days,” said landscape gardener Alvin Chingcuangco, who has seen prices for some varieties of monsteras reach 55,000 pesos ($1,140) each, compared with 800 pesos before the pandemic.
Manila plant seller Arlene Gumera-Paz said her daily turnover tripled after she reopened her doors following months of lockdown.
Demand remained robust even as prices for the most popular varieties of indoor plants, such as alocasias, spider plants and peace lilies, doubled or even quadrupled.
“It’s hard to understand people. When plants were cheap, they were ignored,” said the 40-year-old, who buys her plants in bulk from growers in nearby provinces.
But as demand has grown, authorities have warned that many plants on the market may not have been legally obtained.
Rangers patrolling the forests of Zamboanga in the country’s south for illegal loggers and wildlife poachers were ordered to watch out for plant thieves, after officials noticed some species posted on social media could only be found in the region’s protected areas.
“Prior to the pandemic we hadn’t observed many plant poachers,” said Maria Christina Rodriguez, Zamboanga regional director for the Department of Energy and Natural Resources.
“This only became popular during lockdown.”