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Mystery seeds are at least 14 different species, officials say

Officials with the USDA have determined the unsolicited seeds are at least 14 different species, including mustard, cabbage and sage seeds.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have determined the unsolicited seeds being received by people across the country consist of several different species.

Recently, people in South Carolina, 22 other states and several different countries have received seeds they didn't order in their mailboxes. The seeds appear to have come from China.

RELATED: Don't open the package, don't plant the seeds! Unsolicited seed packages showing up in SC.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has been investigating the situation. Here in the Palmetto State, the S.C. Department of Agriculture (SCDA) and Clemson University's Regulatory Services Division are working together on the investigation.

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Osama El-Lissy, with the Plant Protection Program of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said they've discovered the seeds are several different species.

"We have identified 14 different species of seeds, including mustard, cabbage, morning glory and some herbs, like mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, and then other seeds like hibiscus and roses," explained El-Lissy. "This is just a subset of the samples we've collected so far."

Credit: WLTX

If you receive seed packages that you did not order, APHIS says:

  • Do not open the seed packets or handle the seeds.
  • Do not plant unidentified seeds. They may be invasive species that could displace or destroy native plants and insects.
  • Do not throw the seeds in the trash or where they may end up in a landfill.
  • Retain the seeds and packaging and put them in a zip-top bag.
  • If the seeds have been planted, leave the seeds/plants in the ground until you receive further instruction from your state's Plant Health Director or APHIS.
  • Contact the USDA's Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance (SITC) program at their website, by phone at 800-877-3835 or by email at SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov.
UPDATE: We are now advising South Carolina residents who receive unsolicited seeds in the mail to notify Clemson University's Department of Plant Industry at 864-646-2140 or invasives@clemson.edu....

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“If these seeds should bear invasive species, they may be a threat to our environment and agriculture,” said Steve Cole, director of Clemson's Regulatory Services unit. "We don't want unknown species planted or thrown out where they may wind up sprouting in a landfill."

Answers to further questions may obtained from the S.C. Department of Agriculture’s Seed Lab at 803-737-9717 or seedlab@scda.sc.gov, Clemson University’s Department of Plant Industry (invasives@clemson.edu;) or a local Clemson Extension Office.

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