Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Palmetto Berry Harvest ...that I missed.




When the Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) blooms, you know Summer is over and Fall is arriving.

These bright babies rise up to 8 or 9 feet, simultaneously lighting up, and towering over the landscape. 
I love 'em.

At about the same time, out in the piney flatwoods, the palmetto berries are ripening.
 They look like this ... kind of like olives...and like olives, they are green when developing and black when ripe.
This is a story about how I did not become a palmetto berry-billionaire.
Like many stories, this one starts in my Cedar Key School classroom.
When you teach, you can't help but hear student conversations as they hustle in and out of the room.
Back in late September, I kept hearing kid chatter like this ...
"I made a hundred dollars yesterday after school picking."
and
"The price went up yesterday, I only picked one bucket full and made fifty dollars."

This being Cedar Key, my first thought was something to do with the seafood and clam aquaculture industry, but the terminology didn't quite fit.
Could they be talking about oysters? Buckets and "picking" kind of fit that harvest.
Nah ...
So I asked an 8th grader who had just commented on the price increase.
"Palmetto berries, Mr. P."
Of course, now it made sense.
The berries are in demand for use in supplements related to prostate health. (See the quoted info from WebMD below)
 So that is why I found myself deep in our 20-acre timber farm known as "Twig Forest" on a drizzly October day.
See, Beneath the rows of planted pine trees, Twig Forest is carpeted in palmettos...you know where I'm going with this.
That's right, visions of $$$ were bouncing around in my head.
 So I strapped on my expensive "Snake-proof" boots, slathered my clothing with high DEET bug repellent and headed into Twig.
I was scouting for berries, but if I found what I expected to find, my plan was to zip home for buckets and the 1200lb capacity garden wagon.
Can you say, "Ka-ching, Ka-ching" ... well, don't, because that would be premature.
It turned out that while palmetto plants were everywhere, thick in the sunny areas and thinner in the shade, there were no berries to be found.
The stalks were there, but empty or only containing a few berries.
Hmmm... rustlers?
Don't laugh, that is a thing.
It was in the news a few times this year.
Still ... Twig Forest is remote, even for Levy County.
It doesn't front on any paved road and the way in off the nearest paved road is essentially a dirt track with a locked gate that is placed long before our property.
It doesn't seem likely that the wildlife would eat all the berries on 20 acres, but it is possible I suppose. Then, as I covered more ground, a pattern emerged. Palmettos generally prefer dry sunny habitats, which describes much of Twig Forest. 

The tall 20-something pines don't shade it that much since most of their foliage is up high.

But on one side of Twig, the ground is wetter, more hardwoods have grown, and it is much shadier.
When faced with shade, palmettos will grow upward in their search for light, instead of spreading along the ground.

It was here, in the shade-grown taller palmettos, that I found some berries.
Only at the top of the tallest plants though...

It was in this same area that I found lots of scenes like the one below.
 Hogs...feral hogs.
The circumstantial evidence is pretty convincing, the only berries remaining were on taller palmettos and those all were above "hog height"

In Florida, feral hogs can be shot by the landowner year-round with no restrictions. In reality, these incredibly destructive invasive animals are so widespread and mobile that every dead hog is rapidly replaced ... exponentially.
Good fencing could keep them out ... at least hypothetically, but we are close to timbering and the money for fencing will come after that.

So, for now, my plan is to scout much earlier next year, and if there seems to be a crop developing, then I may delete some hogs as a deterrent during the fruiting season.

I'll keep you posted on how that works out.




Here's that info on Saw Palmetto's medicinal use:
Saw palmetto is a plant. Its ripe fruit is used to make medicine.

Saw palmetto is best known for its use in decreasing symptoms of an enlarged prostate(benign prostatic hypertrophy, BPH). According to many research studies, it is effective for this use.

Saw palmetto is used for treating certain types of prostate infections. It is also sometimes used, in combination with other herbs, to treat prostate cancer.

Some people use saw palmetto for colds and coughssore throatasthma, chronic bronchitischronic pelvic pain syndrome, and migraineheadache. It is also used to increase urine flow (as a diuretic), to promote relaxation (as a sedative), and to enhance sexual drive (as an aphrodisiac).

How does it work?

Saw palmetto doesn’t shrink the overall size of the prostate, but it seems to shrink the inner lining that puts pressure on the tubes that carry urine. (WebMD)

These survived because they are growing along my driveway at PFHQ which is hogless.
I left them for the deer.


8 comments:

Dan said...

Wouldn't it be wise to delete some feral hogs no matter what? They are so destructive.

R.Powers said...

Yes, but they are so abundant, any taken are immediately replaced.

Stefanie said...

Feral hog meat is edible, correct? I have heard if they are younger it is better eating than the old boars...how does one eliminate a hog? .22? I'm thinking we may have the same issue on our land...

I wonder if there was a TNR program for hogs if it would work at all!

Anonymous said...

Used to be a lot of palmettos over in S. Ms. Not as many. I would like to get in on that gathering myself. Good income supplement.
I will have to check out my parents place today.

R.Powers said...

Stefanie,
Wild hog is edible, even good depending on the age of the pig, but you have to be really conscious of Brucelloisis when cleaning a feral hog. The FWC recommends gloves and basically not contact with the raw meat to prevent infection. Once the meat is cooked it is safe.
A .22 would probably just make a feral hog really pissed off. I've used buckshot and any rifle caliber for deer would work too. I am not a fan of any trap, neuter, release program for any feral animal, except feral horses on Cumberland Island and similar islands.

Anonymous,
Good luck!

Wally Jones said...

Good luck with your future palmetto berry empire!
As for the hogs, there seems to be no good answer. Effective fencing may be the only solution but not a cheap one. And my money is on the hogs finding a way in, around or under it eventually.

Deb said...

I live just south of you, in Beverly Hills, and we have lots of "poachers" come on to private property to pick. I've also noticed lots of undigested berries in the coyote scat along our streets on my morning walk. No hogs here that I'm aware of but the coyotes seem to love them!

paniolo said...

The picking of palmetto is one of the reasons the Florida Black Bear got in trouble. They are a primary food source for them and when that was depleted in their natural habitat by illegal harvesting, the hungry bears ventured elsewhere to find food.