shrub rustling
n. The theft of shrubs, flowers, trees, and other flora.
Also Seen As
Other Forms
—“Shrub Rustling (Made Legal); Air Layering is Honest Way to Steal Woody Plants,” The Richmond Times Dispatch, May 02, 1998
1990 (earliest)
But at night, the worries begin as they bed down, hoping that in the morning their beloved azalea or dwarf maple will still be there. More and more often, it is missing. The favoured flower or tree will have become another hapless victim of the Big Apple's latest growth industry shrub-rustling.
—Simon Tisdall, “Big Apple takes on the shrub-rustlers,” The Guardian, May 25, 1990
This phrase is a play on cattle rustling, "to steal cattle by rounding them up" (although the word rustling has been applied to other livestock, as well). The heinous crime of plant theft also operates under the following aliases (earliest uses in parentheses): flower piracy (1992), flower-napping (1988), and plant-napping (1976).