BOONEVILLE, Ark. (Nexstar Media Wire/CNN Newsource) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking people who receive unsolicited seeds sent from China not to plant them – but the warnings came two months too late for one Arkansas man.
“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,” Booneville resident Doyle Crenshaw told KFSM.
State agriculture officials have not yet been able to identify the plant that bears orange flowers and white, squash-like fruit. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is taking the plants for further investigation, KFSM reports.
People across the country have been reporting unwanted deliveries from China of mysterious seeds in small, plastic bags including in the Tampa Bay area. Like the shipment that arrived at Crenshaw’s door, some of the seeds are labeled on the outside as jewelry.
Alabama officials have been testing the mysterious packages and have further information.
“We have not found anything detectable as far as unknown compounds that would be dangerous to the public. And as far as the seed, invasive species are not just weed seeds, we have not found anything that would be problem to the state of Alabama,” said Andy Tipton, Director of Food and Safety of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.
The USDA has speculated that the seed deliveries are part of a “brushing scam” in which online retailers use the identities of the seed recipients to post favorable customer reviews.
The USDA said in a statement it will work with “industry partners and other e-commerce platforms to put a stop to these illegal shipments,” adding that “compliance with import protocols is imperative to safeguard U.S. agriculture from pests and diseases.”
In the meantime, officials are asking anyone who receives such a package to not plant the seeds – which might spread an invasive species, pest or plant disease – and to immediately contact their state plant regulatory official or USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.