Multiple states, including Colorado, warn not to use unsolicited packages of seeds sent through the mail

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Agriculture officials in multiple states, including Colorado, have issued warnings about unsolicited shipments of foreign seeds and advised people not to plant them over concerns that they could be an invasive plant species.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture said Monday that they have received numerous reports from across the state of people receiving unsolicited packages of seeds in the mail. The packages appear to have originated from China and other countries, and are labeled as containing jewelry or other items.

Several Virginia residents have informed the department that they have received packages in the mail containing seeds that appear to have come from China. In an email, the department states that the type of seeds in the packages are unknown and “may be invasive plant species.” (photos provided by the VDACS)
Several Virginia residents have received packages in the mail containing seeds that appear to have come from China. In an email, the department states that the type of seeds in the packages are unknown and “may be invasive plant species.” (photos provided by the VDACS)

Similar shipments have been reported in multiple other states, including Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Ohio. Many of the packets have Chinese writing on them.

Unsolicited seeds could be invasive species, could contain noxious weeds, could introduce diseases to local plants, or could be harmful to livestock.

Invasive species and noxious weeds can displace native plants and increase costs of food production. All foreign seeds shipped to the United States should have a phytosanitary certificate which guarantees the seeds meet U.S. requirements.

Any Coloradan who receives an unsolicited package of seeds should:

  • Immediately contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Plant Industry Division by emailing cda_nursery@state.co.us or calling 303-548-5333, or contact the APHIS State plant health director.  
  • Hold onto the seeds in their original packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from the Colorado Department of Agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions.
  • Avoid planting seeds from unknown origins, and do not put the seeds in the trash, where they could ultimately end up in the landfill and then sprout.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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