Mystery seeds are always bad news. If you have ever read a single fairy tale, you already know this to be true. But a scourge of unmarked seed packets flooding mailboxes in the D.C. area begets repeating the message: do NOT plant any mysterious seeds you receive in the mail, lest you end up with an invasive species, giant beanstalk, or glowing product review written in your name.
DCist reports that several thousand people in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. say they’ve received packets of seeds that seem to be coming from China. Allison Parrell, who lives in Falls Church, Virginia, got a packet:
“I immediately thought to myself, what is this?” The writing on the package was all Asian characters — except for two words in English: “stud earrings.”
“The last stud earrings I ordered were a couple years ago,” says Parrell. But she thought maybe it was mislabeled. “Of course I opened it.”
Inside was another envelope, filled with seeds: “They were small, unlike any seeds I’ve seen. I’m a gardener, so I feel like I’ve seen quite a few seeds.” The seeds were blondish in color and teardrop shaped.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has warned residents not to plant the seeds, and is asking anyone who received them to report them to authorities.
“Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops,” the VDACS said in a statement last week. “Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.”
Historical documents suggest invasive species and other weird things strangers give you can, in fact, blow up planets, wreak havoc in musicals, make stop-motion bugs human-sized, and unleash all sorts of crazy shit. Though, as U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson Cecilia Sequeira told DCist, the seeds are probably less an attempt at planetary domination and more a “brushing scam,”:
According to the Better Business Bureau, brushing scams are used by third-party sellers, often based abroad. First, the seller sends an unsolicited product. “They then post a fake, positive review to improve their products’ ratings, which means more sales for them,” according to a recent post on the bureau’s website, warning of such scams on Amazon. “The payoff is highly profitable from their perspective.”
So, don’t plant the seeds—not because you’ll inadvertently grow a beanstalk leading to Giant Town, but because you might end up having an Amazon review under your name, and that’s embarrassing.