Thief caught stealing plants from the Railpath

This evening, a local resident witnessed someone digging up and stealing plants from the West Toronto Railpath. I received the following email and photos that describe what happened:
Railpath plant thiefRailpath plant thief

I was cycling under the Wallace Avenue bridge about 8 p.m. on Thursday evening. As I cycled through the plaza underneath the bridge I noticed a man digging in the flower bed close to Wallace Avenue where tall white daisies are growing.

I thought at first he was a volunteer planting flowers and kept cycling. My three year old son made a fuss about the rail mural as we cycled south on the Railpath and we ended up turning around and returning to the plaza underneath the bridge. That's when I noticed this man in his late 20's/early 30's with dark hair potting three plants and walking away. I confronted him about why he was taking the plants. He said they were wild flowers and they would grow back. I told him they were planted just recently and he was a thief. He made a fast exit up the stairs of the Wallace bridge as I chastised him. I took two pictures with my iPhone, but could not chase him down because I had my two kids with me on the bike.

Two men under the bridge witnessed the incident and said nothing. Two young women, possibly students, walking up the stairs saw the confrontation, but said nothing.

Despite the nominal value of the plants, I still found myself P.O. at the level of selfishness it takes to steal plants from a public park.

Junction Triangle Resident
June 23, 2011

Railpath plant thief: CloseupRailpath plant thief: Closeup
It's important to note that yes, indeed, the plants along the West Toronto Railpath were planted on purpose. Great effort was made to harvest seeds from the path before construction began, so that the native plant habitat could be re-created. Some details about this process from the following photos on the Railpath's Flickr page:
Native seed collection
Native seed collection
"Seeds were collected from existing plants on the trail In October 2006. This native seed bank will be grown as plugs in a nursery and re-established on the site after completion of the trail."
During the Railpath's construction and ever since, seeds, seedlings, and new plants have been introduced to the park: Railpath - Freshly Seeded: Railpath at Wallace Ave., 2009-05-29.Railpath - Freshly Seeded: Railpath at Wallace Ave., 2009-05-29. So, please, though it may be tempting to remove plants from the park, please leave them alone! If more people stole plants from the Railpath, the landscape would deteriorate very quickly. If you know the person who stole these plants, please let them know that what they did was wrong.


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Railpath Now a Dump Site

It is amazing what people will do. The Railpath has endured constant tagging, littering, people stealing plants and now someone is using the North end of the trail as a dump site. Last week a large pile of old bike tires was dumped next to the Railpath on the berm behind the townhouses on Osler. Over the weekend someone added a large pile of garbage. I'm really baffled what leads people to do this stuff?

Railpath Dumping

@agorley posted a photo on Twitter:

Pretty shameful...

dumping and stealing

I noticed a fair sized hole beside the path yesterday. Right near the storage locker building. Someone definitely used a shovel and made off with a fair sized plant.

High Park has a native plant sale in May each year

The habitat gardens along Railpath are just lovely. If you want to do something like this in your own yard, you can get plant stock at:

High Park Volunteer Stewardship Program
Plant Sale Date: Early May Location of Sale: High Park, in front of the Greenhouse Type of Material: mostly herbaceous plants, appropriate for High Park area; most for sunny habitat/sandy soils but some for shade/clay
Further Information: Contact Volunteer Stewardship Program Web site:

A few years ago I converted our back yard to a habitat garden and each summer I am thrilled with the visits from monarch butterflies who prefer the milk weed and birds who like the cup plants. My ugly chain link fence is now completely covered in Virginia Creeper and Virgin's Bower which provides a haven for bees and other cultivars. (The bees never bother us. They are too busy with the vines.) The whole yard takes care of itself with no need for mowing, weeding or watering now that it is established.


I don't condone harvesting native plants from the railpath that might have been planted in an effort to re introduce native species.

While I understand the outrage someone might have towards someone 'stealing' native species plants, I have a drastic problem with irresponsibly posting this guy's image, and declaring him a thief on the internet. Has he been proven guilty in a court? Have you been able to verify your witnesses' account beyond republishing her email? Did you talk to other witnesses in the area?

"It's important to note that yes, indeed, the plants along the West Toronto Railpath were planted on purpose." Because of the nature of the use of native plants on the railpath, it might not be obvious to people that these were intentionally planted. And while it isn't the best to dig up plants that you find at the side of a road, I can understand the confusion.

Thanks for posting the information about the seed harvest and rehabilitation. If you truly wanted to resolve this situation perhaps clear information/signage could be posted along the railpath to educate those about the efforts of native plant redevelopment instead of shaming them by chastising and publicly posting their photos.

Ward 18 resident

Flower Felon

We have been experiencing a flower thief as well. Plants keep going missing one or two at a time out of our front planter box. The plants are clearly dug out with shovels, so it's not the neighbourhood raccoons or other animals digging. Conveniently, all the nice flowers have been the ones to go missing, and the cheaper filler flowers have remained. Clearly the thief is a discerning gardener. I am curious if this is the same thief, or if we have many flower felons in the neighbourhood.

Flower theft

There were some incidents of flower theft discussed on this site last year too:

Also related: The signs encouraging people to steal topsoil from Erwin Krickhahn Park two years ago:

More flower thefts

My neighbour at Perth and Ernest had a very special flower taken on the weekend. She woke up on Saturday morning to find someone had jumped her fence and dug up a flower and made off with it. So there is someone cruising the neighbourhood with a shovel looking to steal. Let's hope the loser gets caught.

Word Out

Parks was alerted this morning and our West Bend friends have been circulating the photo. There needs to be some education on this. When the garden shed comes it may be the time to post a sign explaining what the natural growth plan is for Railpath.

Response from the police

Thanks kindly, Jack.
I'm forwarding this to my acting detective sergeant for review. Pete

Peter Lennox, Staff Inspector 73No. 11 Division, Toronto Police Service-(416) 808-1102 (fax)

Sent story to the 11 division

Been a victim of thieft many time in the JT, 2 of my son's bikes and other metal objects. I decided to forward this to police 11 division. I realize police have bigger fish to fry, but a thieft is thieft.

My opinion, I don't recommended you approaching anyone like you did, specially when you have your little one with you and the person you are approaching has a shovel. Good thing you took a photo JF

Hi there, This is sad to hear

Hi there,

This is sad to hear but then again, thank you for this article. Clearly this man was not informed about the "wild" flowers he was "harvesting" and thanks to your post, more people will hopefully realize the efforts it took to get the Railpath to look the way it looks today.

This makes so much sense too: it's been two summers I've been marvelling at the beauty of the wild flowers on the railpath, their diversity in shape and colours... I didn't realize that railpath volunteers actually helped make the railpath look the beautiful way it looks today!