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USDA identifies mystery seeds

USDA identifies mystery seeds

Americans in all 50 states have reported receiving unsolicited packages of seeds

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has determined the contents of some unknown seed packages Americans have been receiving.

“We have identified 14 different species of seeds including mustard, cabbage, morning glory, and some herbs like mint, sage, rosemary, (and) lavender,” Osama El-Lissy, a member of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) plant protection program, said in a July 29 update.

Hibiscus and rose seeds were also discovered, he said.

Americans in all 50 states have reported getting packages of seeds from Asia. The envelopes were usually labeled as jewelry or other goods.

Some officials believe the seeds are part of what’s known as a “brushing” scam.

The scam involves sellers using an address “to make it appear as though (the recipient) wrote a glowing online review of their merchandise, and that (the recipient is) a verified buyer of that merchandise,” the Better Business Bureau said. “They then post a fake review to improve their products’ ratings, which means more sales for them.”

The reports prompted the USDA to issue warnings about opening or planting the seeds.

“Seeds for planting pose a significant risk for U.S. agriculture and natural resources because they can carry seed-born viruses or other diseases,” the USDA said in a Q& A document. “Imported vegetable or agricultural seed must meet labeling and phytosanitary requirements and be inspected by APHIS and (Customs and Border Protection) at the port of entry.”

One man, however, did plant the seeds before reporting them to the USDA.

Doyle Crenshaw from Booneville, Ark., nurtured the seeds in his garden for two months.

“We brought them down here and planted the seeds just to see what would happen. Every two weeks I’d come by and put Miracle-Gro on it and they just started growing like crazy,” he told KFSM-TV.

The plant has a large white fruit and orange flowers like a squash plant.

State ag officials have since removed the plant for further study. has reached out to USDA for comment.

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