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Some Mystery Seeds Mailed to Americans Identified

But you still shouldn't plant them, officials say
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2020 1:15 AM CDT
Updated Aug 8, 2020 8:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – Some of the mystery seeds appearing in packages sent to Americans from China have been identified by botanists at a federal agency, but officials still say you shouldn't plant the seeds if you received them. The US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says it has identified 14 types of plants that are a "mix of ornamental, fruit and vegetable, herb and weed species" including cabbage, hibiscus, lavender, mint, morning glory, mustard, rose, rosemary, and sage, the New York Times reports. The unsolicited packages have also been mailed to addresses in Australia, Canada, and the European Union. While "obviously planting rosemary or thyme in your garden isn’t something that will endanger our environment," one expert explains, "there may be other things in there that have not been identified yet."

One Arkansas man who received the seeds alongside some seeds he actually did order says he went ahead and planted them, and what ended up growing is "really pretty" and resembles "a giant squash plant." But officials are coming to dig it up, as well as collect another unsolicited (and as yet unopened) package the man received. Officials say that while the risk of something like biological warfare is low, the scheme could end up introducing invasive species or plant diseases that end up harming the environment. Anyone who receives a package is being asked to save the packaging and mailing labels and turn everything over to the USDA. "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," the agency explains, per Fox Business. (Read more seeds stories.)

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