The California Department of Fish and Wildlife confiscated thousands of succulents after agents caught people shipping the plants to China, Korea and other markets overseas.
The plants, called Dudleya Farinosa, are very common in Santa Clara County and throughout Northern California, but they are very valuable in countries outside of the United States.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the global black market operation started after people sending packages of plants indicated "valuable things" were inside.
"Next thing you know there's pieces of dirt coming out of the packages and they're thinking 'that's kind of weird,'" said Patrick Foy from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
One box was sent to Emeritus director of UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, Stephen McCabe, who is a consultant to the investigation. He described the plants as "bluff lettuce" or "live forevers."
"They put them in shows, and put them into best pots," McCabe said. "They really go for a lot of money."
According to him, the shipments could have been disastrous for overseas recipients as he found dangerous contamination.
"There might be a deadly caterpillar inside of this that would have been shipped to Korea," he said. "And it may have infected the nursery there."
McCabe says thwarting this black market is important for California’s environment.
"These plants are part of the ecosystem," he said. "There are butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, robber flies, all sorts of things that are associated with these."
The Department of Fish and Wildlife says it hopes the arrests will choke off this black market.