Authorities in Utah and Virginia have advised people not to plant seeds that residents have reported receiving in packets with Chinese writing on them.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) said last week that it was “notified that several Virginia residents have received unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China.”
The agency noted that it’s not clear how many people received the unidentified seeds.
“The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species. The packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them,” the VDACS statement added.
Residents around Utah also reported receiving packages of seeds with Chinese text on them over the past two weeks.
Lori Culley, who lives in Tooele, told FOX13 in Salt Lake City that she received two small packages in her mailbox last week, adding that most of the writing was in Chinese. The label, however, said there were earrings in the package.
“I opened them up and they were seeds,” Culley said. “Obviously they’re not jewelry.” She said that the seeds were sent to at least 40 people around Tooele.
Culley said that she never placed an order for seeds.
“There was an article that I found in the UK saying this has been happening over there, and they are bad seeds, they are invasive,” Culley said. “I hope that it’s nothing too serious… don’t throw them in the garbage. Don’t plant them. Don’t touch them.”
A spokesperson for the Utah Department of Agriculture told the Fox affiliate that people who receive the seeds should not plant them.
But Jane Rupp, with the Better Business Bureau, told FOX13 that it might be a scam where companies send a person a product so they can post a fake review in your name.
“That is rather random. I don’t think I’ve heard of seeds before,” Rupp said. “The first thing to do is Google your address and see what’s out there… Numerous things will come up when you Google your address. It’s kind of scary sometimes.”
According to a report from the Daily Mail tabloid, hundreds of people in the UK received unsolicited deliveries of seeds that were of Chinese origin. In some cases, they were marked as “petals” and “ear studs.”
The Royal Horticultural Society told the paper that importing plants and seeds “poses potential risks of introducing new pests and diseases,” suggesting that people should not plant them.
Ian Rotherham, an expert in environmental geography at Sheffield Hallam University, added that “it may be that the seeds are of species we don’t want here. You don’t know what is going to come up … it could be potentially invasive.”
“There’s a security issue as well, if people are receiving something they haven’t ordered. How did those responsible get people’s names and addresses?” he asked.
But, he stressed, “Whatever you do, don’t grow them.”