The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a plant being "prepped for incineration" that grew from mystery seeds after an Arkansas man received them without warning from China, according to Fox News.
White fruit and orange blossoms grew from the plant that resembles a squash plant. An internal analysis by agriculture officials in Arkansas showed that the plant's origin species come from South and Southeast Asia.
“Department staff performed an unofficial identification of the plants and determined that it was Benincasa hispida – common name: Wax Gourd, Winter Melon, Chinese Watermelon. Out of an abundance of caution the plant material was incinerated,” Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Public Information Manager Anna Thrash wrote to Fox News in an email. “After further discussion with our USDA partners we will be transferring plant material collected in the future to them for official identification.”
The USDA has received over 9,000 emails from people in the United States who said they received unsolicited seeds, according to USDA APHIS Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy. In the agency’s radio broadcast on Tuesday, El-Lissy said that the USDA has collected 925 seed packages so far.
In July, the USDA and Arkansas officials started to warn the public not to plant the seeds once they learned that these mailings were fairly widespread. Multiple species have been identified by the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The agency uncovered two noxious weeds in two different seed packs, which contained dodder and water spinach. Another pack included larvae of a leaf beetle, an insect native to the United States.
El-Lissy urged anyone who's received an unsolicited package of seeds to contact their state's agriculture department to file a report.
He said that the USDA knows the name of the companies sending the seeds “but we don’t know the background information about these companies and that’s why we’re working with our counterparts in China to follow up on some of these senders.”
El-Lissy added, “We’ve been working with the primary e-commerce companies to use their own systems in stopping future shipments to the United States.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials and the USDA are looking “to intercept any future packages being shipped to the United States,” El-Lissy added.
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