Orchid Wise

Scam Alert – Fake Internet Orchid Seed

This article was compiled by Kevin Western of Western Orchids

I’ve conducted orchid tissue culture activities including sowing orchid seed from intact green pods, collected mature, dry seed, explant start and cloning activities for many years.

Since goods in general have become available to purchase through the Internet, various unscrupulous people have scammed unsuspecting folks with non-existent or dud products. Orchid seeds, together with the offer of some dead easy process that the complete novice can use to germinate and grow them are a situation that continues to con many an orchid beginner, and even the enthusiast. Fake Internet Orchid Seed and dud seed germinating procedures offers seem to have been on the Internet for a long time now, but it is still fooling the unsuspecting with ebay being one of the biggest sites this seed is sold on by numerous scammers.

This article is an attempt to educate those that might decide to give it a go themselves.  Be warned, this offer of orchid seed ready to sow is a complete waste of your time, faith and money and continued encouragement to the crooks offering it to keep the scam going.

I’ve had many an email, text and phone call from duped purchasers asking for advice and I have been sent samples of received product ranging from grape-like seeds, to fig-like seeds, to sieved sawdust fines to what appeared to be the sieved grit from a vacuum cleaner from duped victims.

All of the above are completely illegal imports and, theoretically, duped customers could receive the ire of the folks at Border Force for the attempted import. On that note, I’ve had some queries from Border Force Officers in the past with requests to explain to them what was going on and what they might be able to do to stop it, so they are all well aware of the caper going on, but powerless to stop it.

Often on offer are seeds of quite uncommon, to very rare orchid seed such as Monkey Orchid seed, Dracula genus seeds, Flying Duck orchid seed, White Egret orchid seed and others that I have forgotten about by now, and all completely bogus.

If you search the internet, the so called ’White Egret Orchid’ is listed as Habenaria Radiata, a terrestrial orchid native to Japan, Korea, China and Russia. It is further stated that the species is in serious decline over its entire range due to over collection and habitat decline. Flying Duck orchids are terrestrial orchids limited to Australia and a few that were carried as seeds from Australia by fire storm winds to New Zealand where they landed occasionally on terrain that had just the right strain of mycorrhizal soil fungus present to germinate the seed and also the right climatic conditions to sustain it. Please note that various state department tissue culture laboratories using artificial mycorrhizal fungi germination techniques and sophisticated symbiotic tissue culture media absolutely struggle to get them to germinate and grow in artificial culture.

We have to ask ourselves, how is it that someone ACTUALLY has seeds of this orchid. it is possible but it sure is not very likely. I am fairly sure that it is probable that genuine seed may be obtained if you have good contacts, but not from some unknown offering it commercially on the internet to all and sundry. Given the complexities and difficulties that professionals have with seed germination, it is highly unlikely that the average Joe could expect to succeed by simply purchasing so-called seed from an unknown and following some dodgy instruction process from the seller!

Those that would reckon they had a chance to succeed after purchasing such seed are probably new to the game and haven’t done their research. These orchids are very uncommon even in their natural habitat so chances that there is any seed actually available for commercial supply purposes is damned nigh on nil!

Lets think about it a bit further. These unknown crooks (and there is no other word for them) are offering seed of diabolically desirable orchids. If we thought there was any chance that they are real, then experienced operators like me from all over the planet, with fully equipped laboratories and all of the knowledge and experience on how to successfully clean, sterilise and sow such seed would be buying it up and absolutely flooding the market with them for a profit. That is just so NOT the case.

The protocols that accompany the dud seed are also a collection of useless and vague garbage incorporating a few key tissue culture terms that in no way whatsoever offer a succinct way to actually process the so-called seed even if it were actually real orchid seed.

Note well that we who conduct the processing of orchid seed into sterile tissue culture on a regularly successful basis have spent a long time in perfecting and simplifying our equipment, facilities and techniques and, unless you possess exemplary commonsense abilities with respect to the life sciences, contamination control or unless you already have parallel experiences from similar jobs or endeavours, even if I were to give you real, viable, easy to germinate orchid seed, you would probably still struggle to get it to germinate. If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.

That, combined with the fact that the vast majority of such seed on offer is not even orchid seed, and you are wasting your time.

There absolutely are genuine suppliers of orchid seed abroad who offer quite plausible seed and which may germinate on arrival here in Australia. Even then, if the seed still contains a little moisture, and if the seed package happens to travel in an unpressurised region of the aeroplane’s hold, then it may reach as low as -40 deg C or worse, whereupon the water in the seed embryo freezes and it is killed. All this adds to the lack of likelihood that seed imported from overseas will ever germinate in any case. If I import orchid seed from overseas, I always specify that the exporter instructs use of ‘pressurised stowage’ to get it to me. I’ll bet the dud orchid crooks don’t bother to do that.

Overall, I strongly suggest that if you get the impulse to make a speculative purchase of some glorious orchid seed offered on the internet – forget it! Save your money and don’t waste your time. Don’t import garbage of unknown biological hazard status into Australia and don’t make a bunch of overseas scammer crooks any richer.

If you do have your heart set on obtaining seed, do your research and only obtain seed from reputable sources. There are some organisations and Facebook groups out there that have good reputations and provide this service but do your homework and be aware of the issues with importation into Australia.

Scroll to Top