“This is just a subset of the samples we’ve collected so far,” said deputy administrator Osama El-Lissy, of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Residents of all 50 states recently reported receiving bizarre and unsolicited seed packets, apparently sent from China.
Officials said they believe the seeds may be part of a “brushing scam” – in which people receive products they never ordered and the sender then posts a fake customer review in them. name to drive sales.
The USDA urges recipients to save seeds and the packaging they arrive in, and send them to their local plant regulatory authorities for testing.
The agency released instructions on how to ship packages safely to authorities and a list of destinations on Monday.
U.S. agricultural officials have also issued a stern warning not to put the seeds in the ground.
An Arkansas man who planted them on his property before the warning was issued said the plant produced large white fruit from orange flowers that resemble those of a squash.
Although the species identified so far appear harmless, experts say planting seeds from other parts of the world could displace or destroy native plants and insects, severely damage crops or cause disease.