Seeds mailed with label from China causing problems

The Better Business Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture warned people against planting seeds sent in the mail without being ordered. Photo courtesy the Ohio Department of Agriculture
The Better Business Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture warned people against planting seeds sent in the mail without being ordered. Photo courtesy the Ohio Department of Agriculture

If you are on social media, it’s likely that this past week you saw information regarding seeds from China. There were quite a few posts from various individuals and groups regarding packages of seeds arriving with postage marked from China.

Some of these were unsolicited, some were actual orders of seeds online, and some were labeled another item but contained seeds (one was labeled earrings).

Once my colleagues and I started seeing these posts, we alerted the Ohio Department of Agriculture inquiring about a press release and they were already on it. Once released, we distributed it through many media outlets, this column included.

ExploreBetter Business Bureau: Don’t plant mystery seeds received in the mail

If you received packages of seeds labeled from China, you should report this to ODA (information below). As of Wednesday, it was not known if these seeds are an invasive species or if this is a “brushing” scam, which is when people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews on social media to boost sale. Either way, don’t plant them!

This is not only happening in Ohio, it’s been reported across the country as well. I first saw this posted from a colleague in Washington.

If you receive a package of seeds, unsolicited or ordered, with a label either written in Chinese or stating it is from China, do not open the seed packet. Retain the seeds and the original packaging per ODA’s instructions. We will learn what to do with these seeds soon.

Trade compliance officers around the country are working through the issue. The United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is on top of this issue.

Label on seeds believed to be mailed from China.
Label on seeds believed to be mailed from China.

It is not known if these seeds are an invasive species, but we sure don’t want to take a chance. They could potentially contain noxious weeds as well. The last thing I want to be responsible for as a horticulturist and gardener is introducing an invasive species to my country.

In order to bring in seeds, cuttings, plants or any other plant parts into the United States, companies have rigorous protocol to follow. They need to obtain a phytosanitary certificate, which guarantees that the product meets the important requirements.

This is also why you shouldn’t bring back plant material or seeds in your suitcase when traveling. Gardeners are oftentimes tempted to grab some seeds or cuttings from plants when touring foreign countries and bring them back to our own gardens – DON’T.

As mentioned above, ODA is asking you to contact them and report if you have received seeds from China. Go to this link: bygl.osu.edu/node/1657 and read the press release and find the information for reporting.

Or go to this shortened link to get to the ODA site for reporting: go.osu.edu/seedreport

In addition, I am collecting information myself to see how widespread it has been in Ohio and where they might be located. Please send me an email if you received a package and let me know what you did with them and that you reported it to ODA. Use the subject header “Seed Report” and send to bennett.27@osu.edu.

Thanks and your diligence on this matter is appreciated!

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at bennett.27@osu.edu.