I am walking in your garden one day in late spring where I notice a very beautiful camellia. When I see it, I remember your having told me about it in the past: how you had first spotted one like it on a trip to Japan, how you hadn’t been able to get it out of your mind after your return, how you had finally found a nursery stateside that sold the same varietal in the same color, how you had paid an exorbitant amount to have this very bush shipped to your home, how you have cared for it, how proud you are of it.
Looking at the plant, I have to admit that it is a very desirable plant. I also notice that it’s covered in new growth. I can tell that you prune it back every year, but you haven’t gotten to it yet this year. So, the new growth that you would normally cut off and discard is still on the plant. Since I know a thing or two about starting plants from cuttings, I get my pocket knife out and cut three pieces off the bush and put them in my jacket pocket. I don’t think to mention it to you.
At home, I am able successfully to start two plants from the cuttings I have taken. Now, without the cost or effort, I have the same bush you have.
Have I harmed you in any way? If so, what is the nature of the harm?
Does it matter that I didn’t ask you?
Would it be different if I waited and took the cuttings from your trash?
Do I owe you anything for the cuttings that you would otherwise have discarded?
Are the questions different if I instead take a cutting from a public bush? From one in a commercial nursery?