A video claiming to show streets and vehicles in a Chinese neighborhood has gone viral online, racking up millions of views across social media networks.
The video shows someone walking down the street, past cars with some worm-like debris on top of the hoods and windshields, sliding down the sides of the vehicles. One person can be seen in the video carrying an umbrella.
“WATCH: China citizens told to find shelter after it looked like it started to rain worms,” one tweet with more than 12 million views says.
Google Trends data also showed people were asking if it was really raining worms in China.
Did it really rain worms in China, as the viral posts claim?
- Ministry of Public Security in China
- Dongyang Daily on Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok
- News coverage from various Chinese agencies
No, it didn’t rain worms in China. The video shows catkins, which are flowers from poplar trees.
WHAT WE FOUND
The video actually shows flowers, also known as catkins, from poplar trees that covered cars and a street in China’s Liaoning Province.
The Ministry of Public Security in China confirmed the location where the viral video was taken in a post to Weibo, a Chinese social network. The post from China’s police called into question the claim and attributed the worm-like debris to the trees.
The post implies people should do their research before assuming, by saying: “This story tells us we must read more!” The post was written in Chinese and translated via Google Translate.
The video from the street was first posted on March 1 by Chinese news agency Dongyang Daily to Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok. This is the earliest version of the video VERIFY found posted online.
The caption with that video, written in Chinese and translated via Google Translate says: “Poplar flowers falling all over the roof of the car look like bugs from a distance.”
The catkins seen in the videos come from the populus tomentosa, known simply as the Chinese poplar tree. The poplar tree has two types of flowers – male and female. Female poplar flowers appear like snow when they fall from the tree, and the male counterpart appears to have the worm-like features seen in the video. The trees are located all over China, including in the Liaoning Province, and the flowers fall off the branches and drop, or travel by wind.
The Observer, a Chinese media site, posted about the flowering on Weibo. Their post also included other photos of the same poplar debris from other areas around China.
VERIFY was not able to independently geolocate the street featured in the video. China’s government, which regulates most of the internet in the country, doesn’t grant permission for navigation sites like Google to have street view access.
But, the same license plates seen in the video can be matched to license plates used in the Liaoning Province. The Chinese symbol for Liaoning is the first symbol on the plate.
In April 2021, this video was posted to Douyin that shows another angle of the poplar plants littering another street in the Liaoning Province. The same debris appears on those cars, as well.
That video caption, also translated using Google, said: “The spikes of poplar flowers in Benxi, Liaoning covered the roof of the car. Netizens: The car was just washed for nothing!"
Sohu, another South China news agency, also reported on the flowering at about that same time. The article said the flowers are a sign of spring and were a nuisance to sanitation workers.