A UK man has caught the internet’s attention with his extraordinarily rare plant collection, including one plant whose leaves are worth an astonishing 12,000 pounds (US$16,700) a piece.
Tony Le-Britton is a 30-year-old plant collector who has cultivated a houseplant “jungle” in his Cheltenham home. He even converted his spare room into a greenhouse for his rare plants, one of which was found to be undocumented by science, and another thought to be extinct.
His most valuable plant, however, is the rhaphidophora tetrasperma variegata, which is worth an estimated 12,000 pounds per leaf. According to Metro UK, the plant is highly sought after by collectors, and currently has a waiting list of buyers.
“The non-variegated plant is really common—you can pick it up in most supermarkets and garden centers,” Tony told the news outlet. “But my version, that’s the genetic mutation—it’s completely random, which makes it rare.”
The plant collector and professional photographer added that his version of the plant is the only one in the world with that particular half-moon leaf pattern.
“I have already taken three pre-orders at £12,000 each, per leaf,” he said. “There’s a waiting list. I have had so many people contacting me. It’s like growing money on trees!”
Another one of his plants, a monastera SP Bolivia, is so rare, it’s currently undocumented by science.
As Tony explained, he obtained a cutting of the plant from a botanical collector in Austria. The cutting took off and has “grown to huge proportions.”
“I put a picture online and a botanist in the field in Bolivia got in touch with me asking for more pictures,” Tony said. “He had no record of the plant. The only way to find out what it truly is is to find it in the wild. Using the stem and leaf, we can then identify the family it belongs to.”
But the astounding rarity of his collection doesn’t stop there. Tony even owns one exotic plant, a begonia chloristica, that was once presumed extinct.
“It was thought extinct up until a couple of years ago. I managed to find one from a collector in Europe,” he shared.
Hair-and-makeup photographer by day, gardener by night, Tony says he has had an interest in plants ever since he visited his grandparents’ collection as a kid. He has spent more than two decades cultivating his home garden, and two of his rooms are filled with hundreds of plants.
“It just stuck with me—I grew up in the garden,” he said. “People always admired [my grandmother’s] garden, and she made me a part of that. It’s in my blood I suppose.”
He added that he has no formal training in plant cultivation.
“But I feel like around 25 years of growing teaches you an understanding,” he explained. “You learn to just let plants get on with it. I think some people can over-care for their plants. In the living room, I set aside maybe three hours every three weeks. I cut off any dead leaves, check the roots and water them. The greenhouse is temperature, humidity and light controlled, so I can check everything is well on my phone. It really doesn’t take a lot. I do go in there every day—but that’s because I enjoy it.”
Tony shares pictures of his garden with his 47,000-plus followers on Instagram, and his posts have become so popular, Gardener’s World even got in touch with him, asking to feature his collection.
For Tony, who remembers watching Gardener’s World at his grandmother’s feet, the feature feels like coming “full circle.”
Of his “money tree,” Tony shared an update on Feb. 16, saying that the plant is quite prolific.
“This beauty still puts out one new leaf per week,” he wrote on Instagram.
This story was last updated in February 2021.