Could Audrey II be lurking in packet of seeds from China?

By 
Erin Schanen

Have you received any packages in the mail lately? Say, from out of the country?

Gardeners probably know where I’m going with this. Apparently people are receiving unsolicited seeds from China. The New York Times reported that 27 states, including Wisconsin, have issued warnings about the seeds, telling people not to plant them and throw them away.

The concern is that the seeds may be an invasive species, noxious weeds or could introduce diseases to local plants or be harmful to livestock. Even throwing them away or composting them could allow them to germinate, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture warns.

All of those possibilities, of course, are bad. Just look at the damage invasive plants like Japanese knotweed, purple loosestrife and garlic mustard have done.

But if there’s one upside to the unsolicited seed scam, it’s that has cultivated a crop of memes that at least lightens the mood.

One meme asks, “Who picked mysterious Chinese seeds for August?”

Another shows a hysterical woman shouting, “The murder wasps have failed! Bring on the Chinese seeds!”

My personal favorite features a young Audrey II from “Little Shop of Horrors.” The plant, which those who have seen the movies or musical know looks like a cross between a Venus flytrap and a cabbage, is in its cute stage before it grows in to a monster that demands of its owner, “Feed me, Seymour.” Seymour, played by a perfectly geeky Rick Moranis in the 1986 version of the movie, ends up electrocuting the plant and running away with the love of his life for whom the plant is named. But the original 1960 film ends in a much more sinister manner. Spoiler alert: Audrey II eats Seymour.

 The memes offer various riffs on the “Little Shop of Horrors” theme, all featuring images of Audrey II. “30 days after you plant the mystery seeds you got from China.” “Those seeds I got in the mail turned out great!” “Has anybody planted their Chinese mystery seeds yet?”          

 I suspect the campaign to make sure people don’t plant these seeds is having the opposite effect, especially since gardeners like nothing more than something they get for free. Gardening lends itself to frugality. After all, an imaginative person can grow a garden without spending a dime, and gardeners are typically up for a challenge to see how far they can make a budget stretch.

Surely some gardeners would be thrilled to receive surprise seeds in the mail. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little bit curious about what kind of plants might come from those seeds.

But if mystery seeds from a foreign country should show up in my mailbox, I’ll resist the temptation to plant them. I saw what happened to Seymour.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture is asking residents who receive unsolicited seeds to report them at this link and save the original packaging: https://bit.ly/strangeseeds.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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