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The Palmetto Berry (Sereboa repens) which grows on the Saw Palmetto plant is a much sought after berry in Florida’s State Forests and preserves because it is supposed to have medicinal and herbal supplement benefits that help men with prostate problems and baldness. The berry is an important food source for bears, deer and over 200 species of wildlife living in Florida’s forests, and preserves. The Florida Forest Service prevents the over harvesting of this small berry growing on Saw palmetto plants by issuing permits to people each year for $10 per day and allows each person to take as many as they can gather. The state decided to stop issuing the permits this year because of over harvesting and the detrimental effect it may have on the wildlife trying to find food. The Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed website reports that they have had a lot of illegal poaching of Palmetto Berries since CREW’s land contains many Saw Palmetto plants. The powdered form of the berry can sell for $20-70 lb. on eBay as reported by the Ft. Myers News Press. Many migrant farm workers collect the berries for supplemental income.
The Ft. Myers News Press issued a story “Palmetto Berry. A Bear Market” on July 9, 2015 which speaks about the problem of overharvesting of the berry. The article mentions that people ignore the rules of gathering these berries and sneak into forests to pick the berries anyway. I took some pictures of Saw palmetto Bushes while I was walking through Hickeys Creek Mitigation Park. There were some berries on the plants I observed but not all of them. The Saw Palmetto plant flowers between February and April and the berries ripen in September and October. You can see the berries I took in these photo’s haven’t ripened yet and are still dark green. The Lee County website for Hickeys Creek Mitigation Park gives some useful information about the type of wildlife and plants that live and exist there.