Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Beginning in August, one can often find cars parked along roadsides left by individuals carrying sacks into saw palmetto thickets. They're harvesting saw palmetto berries for medicines and herbal products. Native Americans believed in the medicinal value of saw palmetto and Europeans have long used saw palmetto products. Today, we know that compounds from saw palmetto fruits can shrink non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. These and other potential uses for saw palmetto led to development of a multi-million dollar industry centered in South Florida. The saw palmetto berry harvests may now be close to a million tons each year. Berries are picked on both public and private land, and some pickers have reported earning as much as $400 per day. As prices have gone up, so have trespassing and concern for the impact of harvesting on natural ecosystems. The saw palmetto is not endangered; indeed, with newfound importance, there are fewer efforts to eliminate it. But creatures like black bears, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, and dozens of other animals that naturally depend on saw palmetto fruit could be jeopardized by significant seasonal losses to their food supply.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.