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Mysterious seeds from China showing up in the mail

Packets of unsolicited seeds from China have appeared in mailboxes across the nation, perplexing residents and sparking invasive species concerns.


Indiana joined a growing list of states warning residents not to plant the unidentified seeds after the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) received “several” calls and emails about possible recipients.


At least two Hoosiers reported receiving seed packets in the mail since Saturday, the Office of Indiana State Chemist (OISC) said Monday.


Officials were unable to confirm where in Indiana the packages were sent.


The seeds, enclosed in small plastic bags and tucked in square or rectangular packets with Chinese shipping labels, appear to be sent from Shenzen.


Photos of several seed packets, provided to News 8 by a member of the Association of American Seed Control Officials (AASCO), show the contents mislabeled in English and Chinese as “stud earrings.”


The packages contain no jewelry.


“I’ve been in the seed business over 30 years I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Don Robison, Indiana’s state seed administrator.


Some seeds reported in other states look similar to wheat or cucumber seeds, he said, but could carry unknown disease.


The OISC’s primary concern is determining whether the seeds come from an invasive plant that could threaten native species, including local agriculture.


States with economies driven by agriculture are responding with heightened concern; some farm supply chains are still recovering from pandemic-related disruptions.


“Indiana has 12 million acres of crops and we want to make sure we protect those crops,” Robison said. “We want to make sure the seed’s not thrown away and gets in a landfill, where it can then grow and expose other seeds other crops to a disease that Indiana doesn’t have.”


If seed control officials confirm a threat, efforts could be launched to search for seeds that were improperly disposed of, he added.


Federal and state officials warned recipients not to plant, destroy or throw away the seeds.

Hoosiers who receive unsolicited seeds in the mail with Chinese shipping labels are urged to immediately send the packets to the Indiana State Seed Laboratory at Purdue University.


- Do not plant

- Do not throw away

- Do not microwave, burn or otherwise destroy


Label packet "Foreign Seeds for Identification" and send to:


Indiana State Seed Laboratory

Purdue University

175 S University St

West Lafayette, IN 47907