phytocertificate test results

Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)

Well, Iím convinced that the pytocertificate noise was just that; noise. Based on my international test, seeds are passing through ports of entry with no problems, and without being confiscated.

To reiterate, for those who havenít been following along, I contacted 12 people in different countries, and asked them to send me a packet of unimportant seeds, being sure to mark ďgarden seedsĒ clearly on the outside, and to tell me the date they mailed it.

Eight correspondents---all of them DG members---said they were sending seed. A 9th said she would be glad to, but it might be some time before she could get to the post office.

Of the eight who gave me shipping dates, Iíve received seven packages so far, none of which took longer than a week or so to get here, and none of which appear to have been inspected, let alone stopped.

Those Iíve received came from:

Christine---Chile---9 days
John Yeoman---UK---7 days
Wintermoor---Germany---4 days
Evert---Finland---8 days
MarkóIreland---6 days
Babalu---Brazil---9 days
Roger---Sweden---9 days.

Particularly pertinent: Both Evert and Roger attached customs declarations to the envelopes. This should have acted as a flag to alert inspectors. Yet the envelopes where not opened.

I was concerned especially about the shipments from South America, because a lot of that mail gets checked for reasons other than seeds. But both of them sailed right through.

So my conclusion is that it is perfectly safe for individual gardeners to ship seed into the U.S., and that APHIS is not, despite their proclamations to the contrary, requiring a phytocertificate on all seed shipments.

Thanks to everybody who helped with this test. Sometime in the next couple of weeks Iíll be sending each of you a more tangible thank-you.

Carlisle, PA(Zone 6b)

Brook, so nice to make your acquaintance. I have been putting customs certificates on my letters with the scientific name of the seed & so far have had no problem. Now New Zealand, that is a problem. They are very particular what you send to those people. They have had some problems with rampant overgrowth of certain invasive species (forgot which species it is), Sometimes if sending to NZ, I put "buttons" on the customs ticket. I collect buttons & buy & sell them and our local Post Office knows this. They also know I swap flower seeds. Anyway, haven't had any problems that I know of lately. Interesting test you did. Keep up the good work. (Buttoneer in Pennsylvania)

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

When sending seeds out of the U.S., we always list them as 'collectables' which of course, they are. To date, no seeds have been lost in shipping, and seeds from Alaska to Finland only took about three days. Of course, I bubble wrap and secure the seeds inside so that the packages don't rattle.

Morris, IL(Zone 5b)

I just recievied two packages of seeds from UK and Belgium, to be specific. The one from the UK arrived unmolested, the one from Belgium had been opened, but nothing had been confiscated. (And I'm not sure which country opened it. While the tape used to reseal it was marked 'controlled' in English, the type was not one typically used.) I was required to put a customs declaration on the package that I shipped to Belgium, but I didn't hear whether or not it had been opened. So I guess someone out there is randomly checking.


Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I originally posted this on the Seed Trading forum and thought it might be useful here as well:
"The phytosanitary certificate requirement for imported plants and seeds is still required by Federal regulations. APHIS policy regarding the enforcement of that requirement has not changed. However, a proposed rule is being drafted within APHIS that addresses the issue of importing small quantities of seeds without a phytosanitary certificate.
"I will inform the staff responsible for that proposal of your interest in this issue and ask that they copy you on any Federal Register notices that may be published."
Bud Petit de Mange
CITES and Plant Inspection Station Coordinator
[United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine]
4700 River Road, Unit 60
Riverdale, MD 20737
Tel.: (301) 734-7839
Fax: (301) 734-5269"

El Sobrante, CA(Zone 9b)

... as long as you're not in AZ or CA, mind you ...

;o) Judith

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

Oddly enough, New Zealand is the only country that has ever opened my packages and contacted the intended recipient. This happened twice, so we gave up trying to send seeds. Seeds coming out of New Zealand to me arrived without interruption. The problem seems to be less the law than the enforcement. Perhaps relaxation of the law, allowing some import, while not others, actually increases surveillance.

Brooksville, FL(Zone 9a)

Hi, I didn't see this post before and have started a new thread, but maybe someone watching here can help me - I have someone in another country (she didn't tell which country yet) wanting me to send seeds and she says she needs a physosanitary certificate - how do I get one of those to EXPORT seeds out of the US? I looked on the web site:

and just can't find out to obtain one of these certificates to EXPORT SEEDS out of the USA . ..

Can anyone point me in the right direction?


Moose Jaw, SK(Zone 3b)

You would have to have a phyto inspector look at your seeds. Cost ranges from $25.00 to $75.00 U.S.

Brooksville, FL(Zone 9a)

Thanks Lilypon - the web site wasn't too clear as to who this 'inspector' would be - but it turns out to be the same guy that inspected my plants for my nursery lic.

Thanks much for the help!!


Franklin, WI(Zone 5a)

Well, I just had seeds confiscated at US Customs in Chicago. They were sent from Japan. I'm real bummed and out $20.


Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

Bummer, Seedsower. Does Japan allow seeds into the country with certificate? Did you claim seeds on your customs sticker? Twenty dollars is quite expensive freight, or were these purchased seeds? Need more info.

Brooksville, FL(Zone 9a)

I've gotten several packages of seeds from Japan - always marked as seeds on the customs sticker - so far, no problems!! ((knock on wood)) That's bad luck Sandy!


Winnipeg, MB(Zone 2b)

Hmm. This experiment was most interesting. On the NALS lily seed exchange year before last we found seeds were being sent back to sender. So.... We designated one person in each country to receive seeds from that country. (Usually a breeder) Then the collector of the seeds had them inspected and a phyto cert. attached. After this seeds got through to the seed exchange with no trouble. We will continue doing this - just to be sure.


Scotland, United Kingdom(Zone 9b)

You are right, they don't usually bother checking, particularly when the packages are very small...I've always been able to mail seeds home to the US to my family and vice-versa. The problems where the certificates are needed and they will be checked is when they are bulbs, tubers, rhizomes and plants...I think that this has more to do with parasites that could infest the soil and become an epidemic. They know with seeds that this is unlikely to occur.

If you were sent a very large package that was labelled seeds or garden seeds the odds are they would be checked more closely, but even then unless the package was especially heavy for the size of the package and the fact that it's full of seeds, I don't think they'd really bother. I've been over here in the UK 10 years now and not once has any seed shipment I've sent to friends or family ever not reached them, nor were they opened or anything...ever. And I ALWAYS put the International Declaration Form on every package.

Also, the fact that they've put 'Garden Seeds' on the declaration form could be another reason it just flew right though, as it was only seed in a small package and was recognisable as a private use amount. I've never actually tried sending the bulbs, plants, etc, however I have a pamphlet which tells me what is ok to send where and what isn't...I'll hunt it out, and if I manage to find it, I'll print it out for you. I'm almost tempted to see if a plant would get through easily...I've just ordered $200 worth of named Irises and paid for the certificates - I'd be devistated if they took my Irises away from me :(

Anyway, I hope this info is useful to you. I've shipped seeds all over the world, and there has never been a problem. I just finished a great swap with a lady in Singapore and another in Japan, both of whom have very tight customs regulations, and there was no problem with the seeds. If I find that pamphlet, I'll put it up here, ok?


Helsinki, Finland(Zone 4b)

I just sent Strawberry plants in a bubble wrap envelope to a member in NY and they arrived in 5 days.. :) With no problems. I put on a customs sticker saying "Unsolicited gift" as they told to do on the Finnish postal site for gifts under 100 $ of value.

Floresville, TX(Zone 9a)

I know this thread is kinda old, but I figured I would add that I recently had an order from Chiltern seeds (UK) opened and destroyed by some foul little troll of a USDA inspector who didn't even bother to spell properly or capitalize any words on the form that was stuffed into the violated envelope and sent on to me.

I'm still waiting to hear back from Chiltern if they can provide the certificate and resend the seeds, or just resend them and see what happens. I tend to think it was a random occurance that's bound to happen at some point, and I'm probably just out my $40. It's never happend before, and I hope it doesn't happen again.

It was however funny to see the other nasty items listed on the form including fresh (who would mail fresh meat, and if they did, would they expect it to remain fresh after international shipping??) and/or canned ruminant, swine, or poultry products lol.

Then you'd be very surprised at how much fresh and preserved meat does cross international borders illegally, we have had problems here in the UK with it too.

I remember reading something on Chilterns site regarding their policy on sending seed internationally, I don't think they do provide a certificate (the cost of one phyto cert here outweighs $40 unfortunately, I looked into it earlier this year).

Floresville, TX(Zone 9a)

I too checked on the Chiltern site, but I couldn't find anything on the certificate. There was a letter enclosed with shipment stating that they are currently in negotions for some type of exemption to the phyto, and that the seeds were imported originally with a certificate, but that same letter has been enclosed with all of my previous orders from them, and it obviously fell on deaf ears in my case, if it was read at all.

I also went to the USDA aphis website, but the documents there read like US tax code, and are so confusing and contradictory that I'll never fully understand them, or even vaguely grasp what is required to import/export what.

Perhaps it was on their old info page or in the paper catalogue (I'll dig it out and take a look).

The info on the Aphis site is very confusing, I agree.

Elmira, NY(Zone 6a)

Gee, that's a drag about the Chiltern's shipment. I just got a big order from them with no problem, though. In fact, no evil eye, I have never had a problem with seeds I got from Europe being seized, whether they had a phyto or not. Only problems I have had with seizure are going in to Australia and NZ. They must have gigantic Customs departments. I think they check pretty much every envelope. US Customs is very small in comparison. I remember reading somewhere that they stop less than 1% of the stuff coming in. It's just too big of a job for them.

Mint Hill, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks for the info. we are planning a trip to Europe(England and Belgium,Germany )in the summer and I wanted to send some seed home. I am guessing if I keep the parcels small, they will less likely be inspected(4x6 Bubble envelopes). My husband told me I was crazy that all I was worried about was how to get some seed home LOL oh yeah and a Cuckoo clock.

Floresville, TX(Zone 9a)

I just thought I'd add that Chiltern agreed to replace my original order, and it arrived with no problems.

Mint Hill, NC(Zone 7a)

Indigoez, Glad to hear you got your order !!!

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)


Does anybody know how to find current information on US seed import restrictions? I couldn't find the appropriate page on the APHIS site...

I was recently contacted by a UK resident trying to start up with selling pepper seeds (he wanted to use a photo). I asked if he'd be able to send seed orders to the US, and he did not know where to find information on the customs regulations or on phytosanitary certificates... and I don't know either, but was hoping that somebody here might be able to help!


Here's a link to a thread with a link to APHIS with the new rules on plant/plant material importation

This message was edited Jan 5, 2007 6:07 PM

scio, oregon, OR(Zone 8a)

I've had seeds shipped to me from Japan about 5 times now, and have never had a problem!

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

I recieved seeds from Chilterns last spring with no problems. Their reasons for checking just appear to be fairly random--like they just have to do random checks throughout the day and your package may be the one they get. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the package in the mail:LOL:

west Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

I must admit I've gotten seeds from England, Chile, Australia, and South Africa in the mail with no trouble at all. The ones from SilverHill came in a box just a rattling away with "horticultural supplies" as the declaration. I've also gotten bulbs and seeds from Mexico in the mail with no problems.

Now I do live in the fourth largest city in the United States so maybe they are spread too thin here to check. Or maybe I've just gotten lucky. I highly suspect they just run all the incoming international mail past the drug/terrorist dogs and don't worry if it doesn't alert them.

I have had seeds "disappear" in the mail from here to Canada; and won't even try it anymore.

Just my experiences--I kinda feel if you put one of those forms in they might start checking the mail closer, just my intuition on that though. I adhere to the philosophy of acting dumb. Don't ask in advance and beg forgiveness later if necessary. Unfortunately, I learned this philosophy at work.

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

I order from Chilterns almost every year, and I've never had a problem with receiving the orders.

Clatskanie, OR(Zone 9b)

You guys might want to look at the USDA plant import regulations regarding seeds and bulbs. It might be more informative than the sabre rattling of APHIS. USDA Plant import regulations are really about desease and insect control. APHIS I think has a broader and greener horizon, based on the old regulations. Frank

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

Thanks, Frank. Sabre rattling... good analogy!

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