Free seeds from China? Don’t plant them!
With COVID-19, killer hornets in Washington, riots across the county and an upcoming hurricane season, do we need anything weirder to happen in 2020?
How about mystery seeds from China?
At a glance, that doesn’t sound weird. After all, chrysanthemums are the native child of China.
But these seeds are showing up through mail to people across America and even Great Britain. Cheaply packaged, void of explanation, the unsolicited items arrive in disguise – the packages often claim there is jewelry inside.
Instead there are seeds. Sometimes of a whitish color, looking almost like bits of cashew; sometimes tinier and black.
Media around the world are reporting them and the government is begging people not to open them or even throw them away.
The seeds have appeared at a number of homes in ENC as well.
“I ordered some perennials over two months ago,” Cassandra Thornton, a Bayboro resident said. “Then I started receiving these packages randomly over the month.”
She said she had ordered hosta seeds from Amazon.com – most of which never arrived, she said. Instead she received three packages over time: “It almost looks like something that came from Wish,” she said. “Almost like a 3-by-3-inch package, and they have Chinese lettering at the top. No instructions in the bag. Just a bag of weird seeds.”
Of those three packages, she said, one did have instructions inside and claimed to be an Amazon shipment. “It had a ‘free gift’ of rose seeds inside and a notice to ‘Please leave a 5-star rating’. But I’m not going to plant those at this point.”
None of the seeds she ordered were actually supplied by Amazon, though orders were made through the company. Rather, were from companies named Wanchen, Selfreliance2, Nikezenderuizhi and Baolilaijiancai. All offered free shipping but would take a minimum of three weeks; most had a negative feedback from buyers saying their shipments never arrived.
But Thornton said two of the packages she got were not identified in any way.
Craven resident Debbie Beasley also got a delivery of the mystery seeds, several months ago. The packages claimed to contain jewelry. “I didn’t know what they were,” she said. “I didn’t open them right away. I thought, ‘I didn’t buy this.’” But since there was no return address she eventually opened the packages and found small, sealed packets of black seeds.
“I thought it was weird, because I ordered some seeds. I usually try to avoid ordering seeds if I see shipping is from China.”
She said she has no intention of planting them and plans to contact the state to see what to do with them.
Online comments about the seeds are lighthearted, if cynical, declaring them “killer hornet seeds” or giving a written shrug as just one more thing for 2020. But the state’s agricultural department is taking them seriously.
According to the NC State Extension, no one should plant the seeds if they get them. “They could be a pathway for the introduction of invasive species, insects, and plant diseases,” it warned on its website.
“This type of international shipment of plant material is unlawful and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services asks anyone who received one of these unsolicited foreign shipments to save the contents along with all shipping labels and contact the Plant Industry Division toll-free at 800-206-9333 or email at [email protected]”.
On its website, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Phil Wilson said the seeds could be a kind of scam called “Brushing.” ““According to the Better Business Bureau, foreign, third-party sellers use your address and Amazon information to generate a fake sale and positive review to boost their product ratings,” Phil Wilson, director of the Plant Industry Division said.
“In a practice commonly known as ‘brushing,’ rogue online sellers make false purchases using strangers’ addresses, so they can then pose as legitimate buyers and leave possible reviews,” it said. “This boosts the credibility and reach of their online store.”
Tom Glasgow of the Craven County Extension Office said the seeds have the potential to cost millions of dollars in damage across the nation. “Moving plants without inspection by USDA or state department entities is highly risky because you may be moving invasive plants, pathogens or insects,” he said. “the most serious insect and disease problems we have in the country came from elsewhere.”
Because the shipments have not gone through USDA or state agricultural agencies for approval, and because they were not solicited, they have arrived illegally, he noted.
“Do not open these seed packages up and plant them,” he said. In fact, he said, don’t open them at all. “Put them in another plastic bag and seal them up,” he said, then send them to NCDA as instructed when you make the phone call. “This adds an extra hassle and time, but this is potentially such a serious issue.” Throwing them in the trash is also a bad idea: “Not everything makes it into oblivion in the landfill. The Department of Ag wants to have the chance to obtain those seeds and dispose of them in the safest, most secure manner possible.”
Glasgow said there is a small chance the seeds could be an intentional biological act against the country. “I hope not,” he added. “There’s a good chance that it’s totally a brushing scam, but it’s one that creates a tremendous amount of risk, too.”
The Washington Times quoted an Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner as saying, “We don’t know what (the seeds) are, and we cannot risk any harm whatsoever to agricultural production in the United States… at this point in time we don’t know if this is a hoax or a prank, an internet scam or an act of agricultural bio-terrorism.”
“North Carolina residents are not in violation of any regulations if they receive these shipments, but they are the key to identifying and stopping future shipments,” NCDA&CS reported.
With COVID-19, killer hornets in Washington, riots across the county and an upcoming hurricane season, do we need…
With the world in chaos and uncertainty abound, we have received several communications from you guys asking if we’re still shipping orders. The answer is YES! The processing time is the same for us; however, shipping times could take longer due to the decreased number of international flights worldwide. Rest assured, you will receive your order. Lets hope this crisis will be over soon. Practice social distancing and good hygiene!
Update Nov.20th 2020:
We are able to ship SEEDS to the following countries via DHL:
Hawaii, Austria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Italy, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and South Africa.
Advantages of Adenium obesum * Bloom very often. *Require minimal care. * Worry Free- under proper conditions you can go on vacations & the adenium will still be alive. * Can be easily trained as Bonsai style. * Fairly disease resistant. * They are succulents, so require less watering. * Can even be grown in sunny