The Siskiyou County Ag Department said they've fielded a few calls over the past few days from local residents reporting seeds from China arriving in their mailboxes.
Anyone who received unsolicited packages of seeds in the mail shouldn't open the clear plastic bags they're shipped in, plant the seeds or throw them away, Siskiyou County Agricultural Commissioner Jim Smith warned Wednesday. Instead, they should hang on to them and contact his office.
The "mysterious" seeds are often sent from China in packages erroneously labeled as jewelry.
Alexis Brown of Mount Shasta said she received two such packets with return addresses in China – one at the tail end of March, and the other a couple of weeks ago.
“It was weird, because I did order seeds from Amazon. But these were labeled as rose necklaces,” she said.
The seeds, packaged in little plastic baggies, were folded in bubble wrap and encased in envelopes. Brown said she Googled the tiny black seeds online, and tentatively identified them as rose seeds.
She said she put them back in the plastic bag, folded the envelope and threw them away. This was before she’d heard about it happening to anyone else and the Ag Department’s directive.
The Siskiyou County Ag Department said they’ve fielded a few calls over the past few days from local residents reporting seeds from China arriving in their mailboxes.
Officials in at least 30 states said residents have reported similar experiences and are urging the public not to plant them.
The agency attempting to identify the seeds is the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture, which is also collecting them. A spokesperson for the USDA said the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is aware that people across the country have received the packages and urged anyone who does to contact their state plant regulatory official and keep the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until they receive further instruction.
"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 statement said. "USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment."
Residents who receive the seeds should hang onto them and call the Siskiyou County Department of Agriculture Office. Residents can also drop off any seeds at the SCDA office at 525 S. Foothill Drive in Yreka.
Anyone who planted the seeds should contact the agency for additional guidance.
The Siskiyou County Department of Agriculture may be contacted by calling (530) 841-4025.
Michele Chandler covers city government and housing issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network.