Horticulturalists have issued a warning after "hundreds" of British gardeners received unsolicited supplies of seeds that were believed to have been sent from China.
The mysterious packages were sent to customers who previously made legitimate seed purchases through websites like Amazon Marketplace and eBay.
However, many of the gardeners were taken aback after receiving unexpected deliveries that did not pay and were labeled "petals" and "studs" to avoid possible customs controls.
Hundreds of British gardeners received unsolicited seed deliveries believed to be from China, which amazes many horticulturalists
Government officials say they have been made aware of the suspect seeds, and it is believed that at least one police have been notified.
Now gardeners have warned people not to plant the unwanted additional seeds in their garden, as this could lead to the spread of an invasive, alien species.
Sue Westerdale, 63, who runs a beauty shop and grew seeds in her spare time, received an unexpected package, among other things.
She said, “Because of the closure, many people start the vegetable garden who haven't done it before.
“A lot of people didn't know where to get seeds best, especially at the time garden centers were closed, so they ordered through Amazon.
“My husband and I used Amazon to order seeds from a number of suppliers, all of which are said to be from the UK.
"But we received a pack of four zucchini seeds in a handwritten envelope from Serbia. Shortly afterwards we received this bag from China labeled" stud earrings "with large black seeds."
Ms. Westerdale, of Dronfield, Derbyshire, wrote about her experience on a British Facebook gardening forum and received messages from "hundreds of people who said they had done the same".
She added, "You don't know what you are planting or how dangerous these seeds could be. Some people were pretty panicked. & # 39;
Ms. Westerdale did not plant the seeds and threw them in the trash can after double wrapping them.
Horticulturalists have warned people not to plant the unwanted additional seeds in their garden as this could lead to the spread of an invasive, alien species
She and her husband contacted the Animal and Plant Health Authority, which is part of the Ministry of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and replied that they had set up a team to investigate.
The agency said it is asking those who receive the seeds to send details of all the related purchase histories – and to forward the packages to their officials so that they can study and then destroy them.
Joanne McQueen, 71, a retired area manager at a bass company in Bassaleg near Newport, South Wales, who had received a shipment of Malaysian seeds, said: “The envelope described them as stud earrings. You should never have been allowed into the country. & # 39;
Some people who commented on Ms. Westerdale's Facebook post said how they contacted the police who removed and burned the seeds.
Other gardeners said they received seeds from China and Malaysia that were incorrectly referred to as "petals" and "decorations".
Charlotte Davenport, a member of the garden forum, said she and her partner had also received seeds labeled as stud earrings – although they had not ordered seeds online.
In a warning to other gardeners, she wrote: “Invasive species are extremely worrying. Please keep your seeds and packages for reporting, and do not throw away the seeds as they may be needed for testing. If you want to get rid of them – crush and burn them. & # 39;
Tracy Ryan added: “Someone sent me seeds from China. I burned it. God knows what came in with them. I think we are all fed up with Chinese "imports" this year! & # 39;
The Westerdales contacted Lee Rowley, a MP from North East Derbyshire Tory, who said he had been approached by other voters with similar stories and offered to raise the issue on eBay and Amazon.
A certificate stating that they are safe is required to import seeds and plants from outside the European Union to the UK.
The Royal Horticultural Society said that the import of plants and seeds "poses a potential risk for the introduction of new pests and diseases".
Prof. Ian Rotherham, an expert in environmental geography at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Presumably the label is such that the seeds go through customs unchecked – although it is difficult to understand why they are shipped if they are not paid for.
"It may be that the seeds are of species that we don't want here. You don't know what to expect – it could possibly be invasive.
“There is also a security issue when people receive something they haven't ordered. How did those responsible get the names and addresses of the people? & # 39;
Prof. Rotherham warned Gärtner: "Whatever you do, don't grow them."
If parcels are not sent to investigators, he asked people to burn them or wrap them several times before throwing them in the trash can.
The Minister of Biosafety, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, said: “I encourage all gardeners to support our efforts and buy from reputable sources such as a local garden center to ensure that onions, seeds or plants do not harbor a potential pest. & # 39;
The Royal Horticultural Society said that the import of plants and seeds poses a potential risk for the introduction of new pests and diseases
The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is aware of complaints about unwanted Chinese seeds.
It is said that "in the region of 1,000 interceptions per year" it makes unauthorized overseas plant deliveries, mainly due to online plant sales.
DEFRA officials work with Border Force and Customs officials "using exporter information and profiles to intercept material at entry points".
A spokesman added: "We are working to sensitize sellers and customers to the legal requirements and the need for increased biosecurity."
Amazon said last night that an unknown number of sellers were excluded from trading on their market after an investigation.
The company said sellers are required to comply with laws and regulations and that they monitor sellers to ensure compliance.
A spokesman said, "These are isolated cases that do not reflect the fantastic products and customer experience that millions of small businesses offer in our business."
An eBay spokesman said: “If an item was ordered from the UK but shipped from a country other than the one on the list, this violates our Item Location Policy.
& # 39; If someone has received an unexpected delivery, they should not accept / sign it and return to the sender. If the package is visibly from eBay, you should contact eBay Customer Service. & # 39;
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