A recent incident that raised concerns over illegal harvesting of saw palmetto berries in Big Shoals State Park reconfirmed local law enforcement's ongoing efforts to protect this Florida-native fruit.
The incident, as reported in a press release by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, unfolded last month when authorities received reports of two groups illegally harvesting saw palmetto berries within the park, with tensions escalating between the two groups. Responding officers worked to defuse the situation and address the unlawful harvesting activities.
But this is only one of many illegal harvesting incidents reported throughout Florida just this year--and what's more, picking them on your own private land is illegal under Florida Statute 581.185 (d).
Harvesting these olive-looking fruits can cost several hundreds in fines as well as as putting you at risk for arrest and prosecution of a First-Degree Misdemeanor.
According to multiple online sources, people illegally harvest saw palmetto berries primarily for economic reasons, as they have a market value in the herbal supplement and medicine industry, particularly for prostate health.
Why is Picking Saw Palmetto Berries Illegally a Concern in Florida?
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), was put on the "Commercially Exploited Plant List" in 2018 by The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, requiring a permit for harvesting and selling. It is a native plant species in Florida, and it is illegal to pick its berries without the appropriate permits and authorization. This prohibition is rooted in concerns related to conservation and the regulation of this natural resource.
The main concerns with illegal harvesting include the following: