A priceless water lily, the rare Nymphaea thermarum, was stolen from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in London.
According to police reports, the lily, one of only 30 of that species in existence, was stolen from the lily pond, where it was growing in temperature-controlled damp mud.
The plant, which has its own security, was apparently easy to steal because of its small size -- the lily pads measure half an inch and the white flower is barely bigger than a fingernail.
The almost-extinct flower is found only at the botanical gardens in London and at the Bonn Botanic Garden in Germany. The flower was discovered in 1987 by German botanist Eberhard Fischer at a freshwater spring in Mashyuza, Rwanda -- the only known wild habitat for the flower. After years of overexploitation, the flower disappeared from the site in 2008.
It took horticulturist Carlos Magdalena at Kew a number of attempts to find the perfect conditions for the plant to grow. In 2009, he was finally able to grow the plant in wet mud kept at exactly 77°F, replicating the conditions at the hot water spring.
According to Kew gardens, a few plants have resurfaced in Rwanda but the plant still remains critically endangered.