Mystery Seeds: What New Yorkers Should Do

Recent news of unordered, mysterious seeds from China appearing in mailboxes have raised many questions on potential species introductions. NYISRI has been responding to requests from the media to explain why these seeds shouldn’t be planted.  Here’s the latest from the USDA:

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is collecting as many seed packages as possible to determine whether they present a threat to U.S. agriculture or the environment. APHIS asks anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to go to the APHIS webpage to review the question and answer document and support our collection efforts.

The seeds we have already identified are not uniform or of any particular type. They include a mixture of ornamental, fruit and vegetable, herb, and weed seeds. It is important that we collect as many seeds as possible to determine whether they could introduce damaging pests and diseases that could be harmful to American agriculture.

In addition, here’s what the US Department of Agriculture and NY Department of Agriculture and Markets have to say to New Yorkers:

Due to the high volume of inquiries and reports from residents receiving unsolicited, mislabeled packages of seed in the mail, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, along with the United States Department of Agriculture, are asking that New Yorkers please mail the sealed package of seeds, the original packaging, the residents’ contact information, and any additional relevant details directly to the USDA at:

Office of the State Plant Health Director of New York c/o Christopher Zaloga, 500 New Karner Rd., Albany, NY 12205

The USDA is investigating this situation and has stated that it currently does not have any evidence indicating this is something other than a “brushing scam.”

Legitimate seeds imported into the United States are rigorously tested to ensure quality and prevent introduction of invasive species, insects and diseases, so people who receive seeds that they did not order, that are mislabeled, or are from a questionable source, should not plant or handle the seeds … Those who receive seeds should not use 9-1-1 to report the receipt of seeds.

Residents can email the USDA at, or alternatively, the State Department of Agriculture at