The mysterious chia invasion of NC

A few days ago, I noticed an observation of chia from Mooresville, NC. This struck me as unusual since there were no other chia observations in NC. Yesterday however, I also found some chia growing by the road. This was in an area that I pass by quite frequently in the fall but I have never seen chia here before, meaning it must have arrived to this area within the past year. Now, 4 different chia observations, the first for NC, have been made within a week of one another. The best authority I can find, the NC Vascular Plants database, also lists a single chia observation made from October of this year. It seems like as if chia suddenly took over the state just in time for fall. Can anyone explain this?

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forgive my ignorance, but is this the same chia that i could buy at a store as an ingredient or supplement for health reasons? if so, maybe some seeds recently spilled, or were fed to birds?

Yep, same kind. With their popularity, it would be only a matter of time before they became increasingly naturalized in the US, but it’s very strange that all of them popped up within just a month in NC (and excluding the database record, within a week).

Is it possible some careless fellow just threw away/spilt a bunch of chia seeds that grew into the chia plants?

They flower later than a lot out there, maybe it’s a feature of it being particularly charismatic this time of year when there’s not much else blooming?

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Maybe someone threw away a Chia Pet.

That’s probably why there have been so many observations within this short period of time, but the bizarre thing is that it doesn’t seem like this species was established in NC prior to this year, as the spot that I found the chia at didn’t have any last year, nor the year before that. And the chia observations have been made from several different locations within NC.

With high growth of interest in iNat in USA such new alien species are often found like that: 0 observation before > boom of observations now, it can be due to more interest in plants in this time of year or more observers checking what others seen or what app suggests them to find nearby.
Last November I found first Cardamine occulta record on iNat in Moscow and 2nd for European Russia, it’s a new alien species here, now there’s 4 more, if it was a species like chia, big and colourful, there’ll be at least 40.

Consider the possibility to report these new findings. Early reporting and eradication are often useful.

It’s entirely possible that there are more observations out there that just aren’t IDed. This isn’t a case of someone adding a lot of IDs at once, but that could give the appearance that they’re showing up all of a sudden. Perhaps someone was IDing somewhere else and that improved the AI, which led to a more confident suggestion on an observation that would otherwise be left at genus or higher. It would be worth looking through plant observations to see if there are any others.