Exotic moss balls imported to New Zealand from China are a threat to our lakes and rivers, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has said.
Marimo moss balls were allegedly purchased from a Chinese retail site by Christchurch artist Raquel Miranda and then brought into the country illegally, Stuff reported.
The balls are a kind of algae found northern hemisphere lakes.
The 38-year-old is faced with four charges and appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Monday.
The charges include obtaining a new organism and failing to tell the MPI, along with making a misleading statement to MPI inspectors by not immediately disclosing the number of moss balls purchased.
Miranda used the balls as part of terrariums she was making, although some were sold independently on Trade Me and at markets.
MPI inspector Jonathan Cowie told Stuff that while 11 of the balls had been recovered, three were still unaccounted for.
"Bring them to the MPI," he said.
"Don't dispose of them into waterways. Even a small filament can create a moss ball which can grow and lead to a didymo situation."
Anyone who has purchased a Marimo moss ball could expect a refund, Stuff said.
Didymo is an algae that poses a threat to freshwater ecosystems.