Mysterious seed packet should be left unopened

For the Basin Business Journal | August 31, 2020 1:00 AM

OLYMPIA — That mysterious packet of seeds that just showed up in your mailbox? Don’t plant it.

Not even if it’s magic beans that will grow into a tall beanstalk.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has fielded reports that people living in the state have received “seeds mailed from China that the recipient did not order” in envelopes labeled “jewelry.”

“We have also received reports of people who purchased seeds from an online retailer thinking the seeds were from the United States, only to learn when the package arrived in the mail, also usually listing something other than seeds on the mailing labels, that the seeds were from another country,” said Karla Salp, a WSDA spokesperson.

Sending plants, even seeds, to the United States is a form of smuggling, and is not only illegal, Salp said, but is a threat to the state’s farms, gardens, animals and environment.

Salp said the seeds, which are from various different kinds of plants not native to North America, could be invasive and “outcompete native plants,” or could harbor pests or diseases local plants have no resistance to, or could be toxic and harm livestock or even people.

According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the USDA does not 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 online to boost sales.

Anyone in Washington who receives a packet of unsolicited seeds in the mail from China should leave the packet unopened and send the packet by mail to the APHIS Seattle Plant Inspection Station in Seatac:

USDA-APHIS-PPQ – Attn: Jason Allen

Seattle Plant Inspection Station

835 South 192nd St., Bldg. D, Ste. 1600

Seatac, WA 98148.

WSDA does not advise burning or grinding seeds, as some plants actually require fire to germinate properly and that may improve their ability to grow, while grinding could release fungi or other plant diseases.

If you’ve already planted the seeds, leave them where they are and contact APHIS State Plant Health Director Tim St. Germain at 253-944-2040 or

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at