P&PDL Picture of the Week for
January 26, 2004

Seeds and Plants Crossing US Borders

B. Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Department of Horticulture, Purdue University

Gardeners traveling abroad often inquire about whether it is ok to bring seeds or plants back from their trip. US Government regulations mandate that plant materials (including seeds) are required to be inspected and issued a phytosanitary certificate by the country of origin BEFORE they can be brought into the US. These items should also be declared on the customs form that is required for reentry to the US.

Bringing plants and/or soil across the border has long been a no-no, though the rules used to be less strictly enforced where private citizens were concerned. Seasoned travelers may be accustomed to sneaking seeds and plants home from abroad. But these are different times we live in now–we can no longer afford to be lax about our homeland security. Everything has come under much more scrutiny since the 9/11 tragedy.

In Jan 2002, the US Government issued a statement indicating that these already existing regulations would be more strictly enforced and applied to ALL, including the general public (that means gardeners too!)

Excerpting from the USDA-APHIS announcement, "Importers and members of the general public will not be allowed to import restricted nursery stock, plants, or other propagative plant material into the United States without an accompanying phytosanitary certificate unless the items are certain greenhouse-grown and stickered plants or specially certified seeds from Canada. Phytosanitary certificates must be obtained from an official agency of the country where the goods originate." This helps protect against the importation of non-endemic plant pathogens, insects and invasive plants.

If you purchase seed in a garden center or similar business that also happens to be used to dealing with overseas tourists, they may have specially packaged seeds that have already been inspected and stamped for export. All other materials, including those that have been personally "collected", must be inspected before they could legally be brought in to the US.

More information about these regulations can be found at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/pubs/fsheet_faq_notice/fs_

Click on image to enlarge

Green and Red Romaine Lettuce Seed

This image is taken from the storybook,
" Plant Pathology: Past to Present," found here

A voice narrated Flash presentation of this story book, in either English or Spanish, may be found here

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service