Officials warn about mysterious seed shipments from China

Vegetable gardens are well into the summer season with a full growth of tomatoes, peppers, and other produce. Something else is blooming, a problem that’s arriving in the mail.

Mysterious, unsolicited, packages of seeds have state agriculture experts worried, like Dr. Kevin Ong, plant pathologist with Texas A&M AgriLife.

"We don’t know what type of seeds it is, I know, what I do know is in at least the Texas type of situation, the Texas Dept. of Ag is working with USDA trying to get some of those seeds identified, what I do know is there is not one particular type of seeds but it seems to be several different types of seeds,” said Dr. Ong.

RELATED: Texas Ag Commissioner warns Texans about unsolicited seed packets from China

The seeds arrive marked as jewelry or toys, and appear to be coming from China. Texas is among more than 30 states where they've popped up. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller posted an alert about the seeds on social media.

Tracey Flemmings-Wilson who lives in Georgia got a package and spoke to FOX 5 Atlanta. "We opened the package and it was seeds and it's like... we didn't order any seeds,” said Flemmings-Wilson.

In Georgia and other states, Ag extension agents across Texas are getting calls from people like Flemmings-Wilson asking what they should do.


Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 7 Austin News app. It is FREE!

Download for iOS or Android


"I didn't know if it was gonna be a flower and I have a lot of flowers, I do a lot of gardening and planting and I just thought well, I'll just put it in a pot and it'll come up and we'll see what it is,” said Flemmings-Wilson.

An initial test in Florida determined some of the seeds may only be water lilies, but planting them is exactly what you should not do according to Dr. Ong.

RELATED: Mysterious seeds being mailed to Virginia residents could be from China

"if it’s something exotic or have something we don’t even find in the United States to take over, an area, and potentially choke out our native plants or worst case scenario choke out our agricultural fields and create additional problems in term of managing for those types of weeds,” said Dr. Ong.

The seeds could grow into something like Kudzu. "When Kudzu got out, you didn't think about it, but over a couple of years it took over a large area and suffocate out other plants, yes,” said Dr. Ong.


In a statement from the USDA, federal investigators said:

"At this time, we don't have any evidence indicating this is something other than a "brushing scam" where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales."

With so much still unknown, tossing the packages of seeds into the garbage or a compost pile is also not advised. If you get a package of seeds in the mail that you did not order, contact your local extension agent or the state Ag Department. 

Unsolicited seed packages can also be reported to APHIS by calling the confidential Anti-smuggling Hotline at 800-877-3835 or by sending an email.