Picking palmetto berries unlawful on county property, Flagler officials warn

Palmetto berries are an important source of food for wildlife, according to county officials

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Flagler County officials warned residents Tuesday that picking palmetto berries on county property may be “tempting” — but it’s also illegal.

An ordinance in Flagler County forbids the removal of soil, rock, sand, stones, trees, shrubs, plants or wood materials from county lands, officials said. County staff added that violations can results in fines of up to $500.

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“It’s palmetto berry season, which means it is the time of year when we see people on the side of roadways and in our parks to pick the berries,” Flagler county Public Lands and Natural Resource Manager Mike Lagassé said. “I received my first call of the year about palmetto berry-picking at MalaCompra a week ago, and our parks staff called a deputy for palmetto berry poachers at River-to-Sea Preserve today. While some private property owners allow the harvesting of the berries with permission, picking palmetto berries is not allowed on Flagler County-owned or managed preserves and parks.”

Officials said palmetto berry harvesting has been an issue for the county’s natural areas, including MalaCompra Park, River-to-Sea Preserve and Varn Park in northeastern Flagler County.

“Palmetto berry harvesting activities reduce the amount of food available for wildlife and can create unwanted trails and debris on our public lands,” Lagassé said. “These berry pickers are working in hazardous conditions, damaging our parks and interrupting food sources for our native wildlife, and out-of-county private companies profit off of it.”

Due to the berry’s status as a protected wildlife food, especially for black bears, there are no licenses in effect for people to harvest the berries from county-owned properties, Lagassé added.

Palmetto berries have long been used in herbal medicine for a number of ailments, including prostate problems in men.

Anyone with information about someone illegally harvesting palmetto berries on county-owned properties is asked to report to Lagassé at (386) 313-4064 or the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office at (386) 313-4911.

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Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.