ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Have plans to pick some saw palmetto berries to sell at the farmer's market?

If you're in Florida, you'll need a permit for that.

It is now a misdemeanor to harvest the berries without a permit, even on your own land, if you plan to transport or sell them.

The decision comes after the state Endangered Plant Advisory Council added the plant to the Department of Agriculture's commercially exploited plant list.

Commercially exploited plants, defined by state law, are “species native to the state which are subject to being removed in significant numbers from native habitats in the state and sold or transported for sale.”

The new state law aims to combat pickers who trespass on private property to pick the berries, which are a popular natural remedy for prostate issues.

"We typically get a lot of calls about people picking berries, either from people upset they are trespassing to people who see a person completely covered up," Highlands County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Richard Dressel said. "They usually have long sleeves and often wear bandanas to prevent being all scratched up, walking through the neighborhood, which makes them concerned."

Highlands deputies typically warn the pickers and tell them not to trespass, Dressel said.

Under the new law, those caught picking without a permit will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail.

The new rules, which took effect July 17, dictate that:

  • Any landowner harvesting saw palmetto berries for sale must obtain a Native Plant Harvesting Permit from the FDACS Division of Plant Industry. The permit application must be submitted at least 14 days before the intended date of the harvest. Multiple properties can be listed on one application.
  • Anyone under a contract to harvest the berries must have written permission from the landowner and must also have a Native Plant Harvesting Permit. The permit application must be submitted at least 14 days before the intended date of the harvest. Multiple people can be listed on one application.
  • Anyone entering property other than their own to harvest berries must have written permission from the landowner.
  • Anyone transporting for sale, selling or offering for sale saw palmetto berries from their own property must also have a Native Plant Harvesting Permit. The permit application must be submitted at least 14 days before the intended date of the harvest.
  • Anyone transporting, processing or purchasing berries that are not from their property does not need a permit, but must have the written permission of the landowner in their immediate possession at all times.
  • Anyone harvesting on state or any other public land must also obtain written permission.
  • The permit must be in your immediate possession at all times while harvesting berries.

Here's the good part - the application and the permit are both free.

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