Plant theft and other stories

December 1, 2019

A fictional defence of some riveting botanical misdemeanours in an imaginary court

Image of double jasmine by author

To be kept in my bottom drawer, just in case it is ever required in draconian eras, here is a fictional defence of my botanical misdemeanours. What follows is a made-up defence in an imaginary court for the following hypothetical crimes.

“In fictional defense of the supposed crime of plant theft, smuggling, and collusion of family members in the act of smuggling.

I hereby request the favour of your attention to the defence (presented by myself) to show the legal reasoning for why the three charges placed against the incriminated, namely myself, might hereby be considered entirely bonafide and thereby not considered a crime at all.

First, that they pertain to the innocent enhancement of the aesthetics of certain landscapes and/or gardens. Second, that they pertain to the active preservation and appreciation of living material. Third, that they promote the conscientious capture of carbon in a global climate crisis.

It will now be elaborated by the defendant, namely myself, as to what the crimes are deemed to be, their context, and the plain truth of their cause. We pray that the accused may be exonerated from any crime whatsoever.

First, on the crime of plant theft: two such incidences with regard to the actions of the Accused have been brought to your honour’s notice, once in the location of Lahore and once in the location of Murree.

Both cases happened in circumstances where the lawful owners of the said plants had abandoned these plants to their own fate, without due care to cultivate, water, feed, weed and otherwise tend to these living and tender creatures.

In Lahore, the accused, in the failing light of sunset, went with her gardening boy to a neighbour’s verge, outside their boundary wall, and surreptitiously dug up by the roots, one double jasmine flowering creeper that she had been admiring for some considerable time. Seeing that the neighbour had emptied their residential building of occupancy, without a designated person to care for this beautiful plant, the accused deemed it better to purloin this flowering double jasmine, transplant it with correct tools and methods, and place it in a large, freshly purchased pot, especially for the well-being of the said plant. This plant now enhances the beauty of her garden and thus the city of Lahore included, and in truth, is well and prospering under her keen and active care.

In Murree, the accused stepped over old barbed wire in the abandoned grounds of one colonial-era cottage in broad daylight. Here, with the assistance of her caretaker’s son, she dug up from the bulbous roots, numerous items and varieties of irises, agapanthus and daylilies. Being of unknown provenance, the said flowering plants may be considered wild or semi-wild since they showed no sign of human design or plan. Presently, these flowering plants are thriving in the shrubberies of the family home, enhancing the much-needed aesthetics of Murree, being well preserved under proper care regimens, proof of which is their good seasonal flowering.

Second, on the crime of smuggling: now, this entails the crossing of international borders, and may be viewed more gravely by your honour. However, the defense begs your indulgence.

The accused purchased the plants involved from a lawful plant nursery. In the UAE, she purchased one Syrian lemon tree and one Palestinian grapevine. She then carefully packaged these in her check-in bag, and with complete sincerity, sent the baggage through an airline counter while checking in as a passenger to Lahore.

Both cases happened in circumstances where the lawful owners of the said plants had abandoned these plants to their own fate, without due care to cultivate, water, feed, weed and otherwise tend to these living and tender creatures.

The said plants were then collected on the baggage conveyer belt at the destination, passed through custom’s green line, and arrived safely at the residence of the accused. Promptly she planted them in her back garden alley. To this day, the plump fruits of the Syrian lemon may be viewed from the accused’s toilet window, especially affording a favourable view from a central seating facility in this room. The grapevine provides abundant bunches of fruit, which are, unfortunately, regularly stolen by house crows.

Third, on the crime of collusion of family members in the act of smuggling: the accused’s brother being a distinguished professor in the USA, makes regular visits to Pakistan.

Upon her request, the said professor consented to smuggle two items of Japanese Maple trees from the USA in a method similar to the smuggling described above. Careful research by the accused had shown that this variety of tree would prosper in the climate of her Gilgit garden, and stand out as a uniquely beautiful landscape feature, with its brilliant red foliage. This smuggling mission was also carried out with success, and the said Maple trees are gradually establishing themselves in the terraces of the accused’s garden. The risks to the repute of the sibling professor were considerable in this case, but the potential carbon capture in the canopy of the said trees outweighed the risks, even for this conservative gentleman.

The defense now rests its case and prays for a favourable verdict from your honour.”

The author is a Lahore-based ecologist.

Lahore and Murree: Plant theft and other stories