ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Whoever stole plants from the Alaska State Fair in Palmer knew exactly what to take.
The thief bypassed ordinary flowers and foliage plants and went straight to heuchera ''Regina,'' astilbe ''Vision'' and euphorbia dulcis ''Chameleon.''
''It's like someone coming into your home and taking only the rare art pieces,'' said Dean Phipps, the fair's marketing director.
The trio of unusual plants, plus several other less-rare but equally cherished specimens, were stolen between Friday, June 29, and Monday, July 2. That's when head gardener Becky Swanson went out to take a photograph of epilobium angustifolium alba, or white fireweed.
She'd checked the fireweed on Friday and expected it to be in bloom Monday morning. But it and the other plants had been ''dug right out of the ground.''
Because the missing items were rare -- and chosen from among nearly 6,000 plants in the landscape -- Swanson believes that the thief was a gardener. And that hurts.
''It's sort of a gardening code of ethics. You ask for a (cutting), or seeds,'' she said. ''As much as I admire other people's plants, I've never stolen one.''
The fairgrounds had been closed that weekend, and the gates were locked. But anyone with sufficient motivation could have gotten over the 8-foot, chain-link fence, according to Phipps.
The missing specimens would be a powerful motivator for a dishonest gardener, Swanson said. The astilbe has a bloom ''like a big, hot-pink feather duster.'' The euphorbia was a ''really deep, deep maroon.'' And the heuchera had ''vivid, blood-red leaves.''
The thief also hit some flower boxes outside the gates, stealing several vine plants, a dahlia called ''Caruso Rose,'' and a helichrysum petiolare, also known as white licorice plant.
The state fair is offering a $250 reward for information that leads to conviction of the plant thief.
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