Residents across all 50 states have reported getting unsolicited packages — the majority of which are from China — that contain mystery seeds in them.
A Louisiana woman says she planted a package of seeds she received, but only became aware of the trend after seeing the news, WAFB reported on Wednesday.
The Department of Agriculture has since warned residents not to plant the seeds.
“USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation,” the agency said in a statement earlier this week.
But by that point, Shelley Aucoin, who lives in Berwick, Louisiana, had already planted seeds she got in the mail in May, WAFB reported.
Aucoin told Insider that she had ordered seeds from Amazon, so she didn’t think anything of it when she planted them.
She told WAFB she got another package of seeds earlier this month. “Then we saw the post saying don’t plant them. I mean, I’m not scared about it, I’m not worried about it, but I guess people are,” Aucoin told the outlet.
Aucoin told WAFB that she’s working with federal authorities to figure what type of plants they are and if they can cause any damage.
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry said it has received more than 300 calls about the seed packages and warned recipients not to open the bags.
“The packets we have picked up so far are coming predominantly from China, but also Uzbekistan, Solomon Islands, areas of Russia. Most of them say earbuds, jewelry, earrings, and one said garden supplies,” LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain said, according to WAFB.
Officials are advising people not to plant the seeds, to kill them if they do, and to save the packaging
Strain advised residents who already planted the seeds to kill them as soon as they sprout.
“Use some type of herbicide, spray them, and if anything comes back, spray it. Anything you do, do not let those plants grow. The risk is too great,” he said.
Did you receive seeds unsolicited? Find out how to report: https://t.co/ItduSpDxYE. We are working with our federal and state partners to investigate. Pls don’t plant seeds from unknown origins!— USDA APHIS (@USDA_APHIS) July 28, 2020
USDA advised those who received them to not plant them but hold on to the packaging and seeds so the department can test them.
“Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins,” the agency said.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Friday with comment from Shelley Aucoin.