The Florida Department of Agriculture is asking Floridians to report what it’s calling “suspicious” packages of seeds that appear to be coming from China. The packages arrived by mail, unsolicited by the recipients.
“The seed packets, which may arrive unexpectedly in packages bearing Chinese characters, may bear the name China Post and may be labeled as jewelry,” the department said in a news release Monday. It noted that similar packages have been reported in other states, including Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Utah.
The department has received at least 160 reports of Floridians receiving the seeds, the release said, but the type of plant has not been identified.
The department said anyone who has received the seeds should not open them, plant them or throw them in the trash if it’s destined for a landfill. Instead, they should report the package to the Florida Department of Agriculture at 1-888-397-1517 or DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov. They should also contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture at 1-800-877-3835 or SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov.
Seeds of unknown origin may be invasive or can introduce plant and animal disease, toxins or pathogens, according to the department.
Matt Weidner, a St. Petersburg lawyer who also has a farm, received three packages containing seeds in the mail, though at least one of his was labeled as coming from Kyrgyzstan. It had a label listing the contents as “rose stud earrings.”
“I was going to plant them, because the natural tendency for a farmer is to see what they are,” he said, though after he saw articles online about the packages arriving in other states, he held off.
“It really is a baffling mystery.”