Mystery seeds shipped across country

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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)

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Officials are investigating mystery seeds that are being shipped out in at least eight states so far, including Illinois.

USDA officials are working with Customs and Border Protections as well as state agencies to determine the reason. The seeds are believed to be from China.

Courtesy: Washington State Department of Agriculture

Grand Prairie Friends‘ executive director Sarah Livesay says it’s important to prevent invasive species from taking root in Illinois.

“When these invasive species come in, we don’t really have an idea of what they’re capable of doing,” Livesay says. “But for decades now, we’ve been trying to manage because they seed often and early. They out-compete our native plants because they don’t have predators here and they don’t have disease.”

In a statement, the Illinois Department of Agriculture is warning people not to open the package, plant the seeds or throw them out, because they can still spread from a landfill.

“We are currently working with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to address reports of unsolicited shipments of seeds from foreign countries. Anyone who receives unordered seeds in the mail should contact the Illinois Department of Agriculture by emailing the following information to First and Last Name, Phone Number and the number of packages received. Do not open the package, plant the seeds, or throw them out. Please keep all seeds unopened and with their original packaging and labels, including mailing labels, until further instruction is provided.”


Roughly 100 people have reported receiving those packages in Illinois so far.

Without predators of their own around here, those plans have the ability to crowd out the natives.

“The problem there is that all of our insects and animal populations need those native plants,” Livesay says. “That’s their home, that’s what they feed from, our pollinators – our bees and butterflies – they need our native plants that they are adapted to here to live and feed on.”

The Headwaters Invasive Plant Partnership says you can help stop the spread of other invasive plants in Illinois as well by taking the following steps:

  • Banning invasives from your yard
  • Volunteering with local organizations to clean up nearby natural areas. NOTE: Grand Prairie Friends is hosting Small Group Stewardship Saturday on August 1 at Warbler Ridge Conservation Area in Charleston.
  • Cleaning your shoes and removing seeds stuck in the soles between hikes.

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