Over the weekend we looked at a recent update to the story about the “mystery seeds” that were showing up at people’s houses in packages that appeared to be coming from China. Agricultural authorities around the country have been warning everyone not to plant them and to notify their state Department of Agriculture if they show up in the mail. The major concern here is that the seeds may turn out to be from an invasive species, perhaps some sort of low-level biological warfare attack from the CCP. The initial testing by the Department of Agriculture only turned up some fairly mundane flowers, spices and vegetables. But as I noted at the time, the seeds were a real mixed bag (literally) so there could be more, potentially dangerous species in some of the packages.
This week we may have encountered the first possible example of that scenario. In the town of Boonesville, Arkansas, a farmer named Doyle Crenshawn received one of those packages but he hadn’t heard about all the warnings at that time. He went ahead and planted them and soon he had a bumper crop of… something. But he couldn’t identify it. After he reported it to authorities, they appeared to be stymied as well. So what could it be? (NY Post)
An Arkansas man who received one of the mysterious seed packages sent to thousands of US residents from China planted them on his property — and said the results are wild.
“We … planted the seeds just to see what would happen,’’ Booneville resident Doyle Crenshawn told local CBS-TV affiliate KSFM.
The plant is producing large white fruit from orange flowers that resemble those of a squash.
“Every two weeks I’d come by and put Miracle-Gro on it, and they just started growing like crazy,’’ Crenshawn said.
Before going further, take a look at this brief report from the local Channel 5 News outlet. They have an interview with the farmer and footage of the plants and the vegetables they began producing, as well as some bewildered comments from a local Department of Agriculture representative.
I’ll confess, when they showed the package of seeds he received, my first thought was that they looked a lot like either pumpkin or summer squash seeds. (I’ve grown both in my garden over the years.) But they weren’t quite the same. The leaves also had a definite look of something in the same family. The resultant fruit on the vine, however, was not something I’d seen before either.
So I did a bit of searching online and before long I came up with what I think is a pretty good candidate to solve the mystery. It’s the Opo squash. The leaves look correct and it’s native to Asia, which makes it a pretty good match. The squash on this farmer’s plants looks far closer to white, but it turns out that the squash are very light color when immature, turning a light green as they ripen. There are a few varieties with slightly different shapes and colors, but it still appears to be a match or at least something in the same family.
If so, it’s once again not an invasive species threat. They’re already being grown in the United States and used in a variety of cuisines. But they could definitely have been sent from China. State officials came to dig up and eliminate the plants from the farmer’s field, but it’s unclear if they could actually get all the roots. I suppose Mr. Crenshawn will know next spring.
This story still doesn’t mean we’ve gotten to the end of the list of every seed showing up in these packages. There could still be something nasty out there mixed in with the rest, so everyone should probably still avoid planting them and just turn them in to your local officials. But is that enough preventative action? It’s been suggested recently that perhaps the Post Office should stop delivering them. I’m not even sure if that’s feasible, though. I suppose if they’re all coming from the same address it could be managed. But what if that sender is also doing legitimate business with American customers who have paid for products? Just shutting down the mail stream is risky business at the best of times.