Permit now required to pick berries from saw palmetto plants in Florida

You’re likely see saw palmetto plants (Serenoa repens) everywhere, lining the roads and even in your backyard. But it’s now illegal to pick and sell their berries without a permit.

Richard Gunn, lives in Lehigh Acres and says there’s plants are covered in thousands, and has picked some of these berries himself, “In just a few feet, you can acquire 20, 30 pounds” he says.

But a new law enacted in July means he’ll not only have to get a permit from the state but also written permission from the owner of the land where he picks. He said, “When it’s up to $3.50 , $4 a pound I’m that guy. I’ll quit my day job and go do it because it’s lucrative.”

Now, without this documentation, he couldn’t sell his to Sweet Cypress Ranch.

“We in our company have made a decision to only buy legal permitted berries.” said Al Curry from Sweet Cypress Ranch.

Curry says they understand the documentation won’t be easy for everyone to acquire.

“I understand that they are accustomed to getting the berries for free, and I understand that it’s going to very cumbersome, difficult, if not impossible to find the owners of the lots down in Lehigh Acres.” Curry added.

But even experienced pickers like Gunn agree the law could help keep properties and families safer, “I understand that, and whose to say it’s not an unseedy character coming around. And who’s to say they can’t put on an outfit and impersonate a berry picker for an afternoon.”

For now, pickers have to request and receive a permit for native plant harvesting through the Florida Department of Agriculture before they can see the fruits of their labor.

You can download an application for a harvesting permit HERE from the Florida Department of Agriculture website.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
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