In late July, Americans began receiving mysterious packages with seeds in the mail.
The seeds prompted warnings from the USDA and state governments that told people not to plant the seeds. Instead, they advised alerting agricultural authority and mailing them in for further inspection.
And yet, dozens of Americans ignored the warnings and their gut feelings and planted the unsolicited packets of seeds.
VICE reports that some people even told state governments that they’d consumed the seeds.
Jason Koebler, who looked into the mysterious seeds for VICE, requested records regarding the seeds and found records indicating that "tens of thousands of Americans received what they perceived to be Chinese mystery seeds in July."
According to the documents from the state departments of agriculture, hundreds if not thousands of Americans went on to plant the seeds.
One woman from New Mexico, who acknowledged that, in retrospect, planting the seeds was a bad idea, left a voicemail with the state’s department stating that the seeds she planted killed everything in her garden.
Doyle Crenshawn, a resident of Booneville, Arkansas, planted the seeds two months ago, prior to the U.S Department of Agriculture issuing a warning about them.
"We brought them down here and planted the seeds just to see what would happen,” he said, adding, “every two weeks I'd come by and put Miracle-Gro on it and they just started growing like crazy."
The plant featured orange flowers and white fruit and reportedly resembled a squash plant.
He noted that the package said it was “studded earrings” and admitted that, while he found it a “little odd,” he planted them anyway.
The plant was removed from Crenshaw’s plot by the Department of Agriculture.
Some people didn't think twice about planting them because they ordered seeds online.
Tiffany Lower of Kentucky thought they were sent by her planting club. “I didn’t realize it was a thing until I saw it on the news,” she told WBKO news, adding that the seeds turned into a bright green-leafed plant as a result.
Patricia Smith from Texas told KXII news she also thought they were a gift.
“I planted them in a pot, they never came up, so I didn’t think any more of it,” she said.
VICE notes that the USDA determined the seeds were part of a “brushing” campaign in which small items are sent to people whose online accounts were compromised in hopes of getting a positive review from a “verified buyer.” However, the publication wrote that there continues to be a lot of uncertainty as to how the scam worked or why it happened.
The USDA warned anyone who did receive seeds to destroy them by either baking them in the oven, suffocating them in two ziplock trash bags, or soaking them in bleach.
If the seeds were planted, the USDA suggests not planting anything in the same soil for at least one year. They also advise destroying anything that does grow in the area and, obviously, not eating it.