Saw palmetto berry season is on which means deputies are arresting people for stealing them

Reporter: Erika Jackson
Published: Updated:
Saw palmetto berries are in season now and people are trying to harvest them for sale. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Saw palmetto berries are in high demand in Southwest Florida.

Just this week, more than 1,400 pounds of berries were stolen, but the suspects were caught while in action and arrested.

It’s the peak season for the berries and now is the best time for harvest.

“There’s only one place in the world where saw palmetto is growing naturally; that’s here in mostly Florida and the extreme south portion of Georgia,” said Al Curry, a field representative for Natural Medicinals.

The State of Florida started requiring a permit to harvest the saw palmetto berries in 2018.

“Everybody is trying to harvest and use a more natural product,” Curry said.

Today, the cost of berries is higher and so is the demand.

“They’re trying to capitalize on what they’re seeing as nature, but not understanding that you can’t just go onto somebody’s property and pick these berries,” said Chris Hall, community affairs specialist with the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies arrested seven people illegally harvesting the saw palmetto berries last week, four of them on Tuesday.

“What we are seeing is that they’re happening mostly in the east part of the county. And that’s because that is where the abundance of those berries seem to grow,” Hall said.

Curry is working with his partnering growers to protect the precious fruit.

“That’s a big deal right now, for landowners to patrol their property,” Curry said.

Charlotte County deputies are cracking down on trespassers on agricultural properties this month.

It’s part of its Operation Loose Wire. They’re also working closely to prevent animal neglect, farm and fuel theft, and illegal dumping.

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