Florida residents have been reporting unsolicited seed packets in the mail. Some have Chinese characters and others have arrived in boxes labeled diamond studs. Florida and many other states are reporting these incoming packages. The mystery is what are these seeds?
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are concerned these seeds are a form of agricultural smuggling and could be an invasive plant. An invasive is any plant or animal that can takeover an area, causing economic loss, ecological damage and even harming human health. Here in Nassau County, UF/IFAS Extension and the City of Fernandina Beach have been removing invasive plant species such as Russian thistle and Mother of Millions on Amelia island.
What To Do: Anyone receiving unsolicited seed packages from other countries should follow these directions:
There are two options available for handling unsolicited packages or plant material received in the mail:
- Report the seeds or plants and submit them for testing or
- Dispose of the seeds or plants using the methods described below.
Report Seeds or Plants Received by Mail and Submit for Testing
Instructions for mailing seed packets:
- Complete the USDA’s online reporting form. Place seed packets and/or plant material and mailing materials in a sealable plastic bag, and then place everything into a mailing envelope.
- Include your name, address, and phone number to contact you for additional information, if needed.
- Send seeds to the address below:
USDA APHIS PPQ
3951 Centerport St.
Orlando, FL 32827
Disposing of Seeds or Plants Received by Mail
Disposal option for seed packages:
- Do not open seed packet.
- Completely wrap and enclose the packet with duct tape.
- Double bag the wrapped seed packet in sealable plastic bags, squeezing out any air, and seal tightly.
- Completely cover the folded bag with duct tape. This will help prevent the bag from bursting and will keep water and sun from reaching the seeds.
- Discard in trash.
Destruction option for seeds/plants already planted:
- Do not compost.
- Remove plants, including soil (at least 3 inches of surrounding soil if planted in ground).
- Double bag the plants and soil in sealable plastic bags, squeezing out any air, and seal tightly.
- Discard in trash.
For potted seeds/plants:
- Dispose of the planting container in two trash bags, as described above (recommended).
- If you wish to keep the planting container, remove as much soil as possible with a paper towel.
- Wash the planting container with soap and water to remove any remaining dirt. It is important to wash the container over a sink or other container to catch the run-off. Discard the run-off down the drain or flush down a toilet.
- Soak the planting container in a 10% bleach solution for 30 minutes and rinse.
For the most updated instructions go here: https://www.fdacs.gov/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Consumer-Resources/Unsolicited-Seed-by-Mail
Here is a recent press release from FDACS on the suspicious seed packets.
Here is a news room post from the USDA.
Information on UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants.