The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has identified some of the mysterious seeds that have been mailed to people across the United States from China. The USDA and state agencies warned people against planting the seeds over concerns that may be invasive plant species or could introduce plant-based diseases into the ecosystem.
Osama El-Lissy, the agency's Deputy Administrator, said they have identified 14 different seeds from the samples they have received.
"We have identified 14 different species of seeds, including mustard, cabbage, morning glory, and some herbs, like mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, and then other seeds like hibiscus and roses," he said. "This is just a subset of the samples we've collected so far."
While the seeds may be harmless, the agency is advising anybody who receives the seed packs in the mail not to plant them. Instead, they should contact local authorities so the seeds can be collected and sent to the USDA for testing.
"USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment."
U.S. officials believe the seeds were part of a "brushing scam," where a seller orders items using a fake email address and has the packages shipped to random people. Once the package is delivered, the person who placed the order is considered a verified buyer and can leave positive reviews online.
Photo: USDA APHIS