VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - Deputies in Volusia and Flagler counties arrested four people in the past week on charges of illegally harvesting Palmetto Saw berries.
The highly sought after fruit, requires a permit from the Florida Department of Agriculture and permission from the landowner - a regulation put in place last summer.
Volusia deputies arrested James Settle and Megan Walter, as they are accused of illegally picking the berries from an Avalon Drive property in Ormond Beach. Deputies said the pair didn't have a permit or permission.
The berries, which are considered a "commercially exploited fruit," are used for a variety of medical reasons like treating the prostate. Depending on ripeness, experts say they can sell for $! to $4 per pound.
Over the weekend, Flagler deputies arrested Nicholas Capau on a charge of transporting an exploited plant without a permit and Judner Etienne on charges of Possession of Harvesting Exploited Plant and Harvesting Exploited Plant Without Permit.
Evidence photos show 220 pounds of berries confiscated by deputies.
Kimberly Nicholas, who lives along Avalon Drive, said she had no idea the berries were so lucrative. In fact, grooming her yard, often includes getting rid of them.
"I have one back there and have another bush in the other corner which is real close to my house. They're not very attractive. They look dead in the bush," she said.
She said it's the trespassing that worries her.
"It's funny to call it a crime because it's just someone picking berries, but the fact that someone's up in your yard and to look out your window it's a little disconcerting to see that," she said.
"You just don't want people on your property without permission," added nearby resident Allen Raugh.
The state department of agriculture said property owners are allowed to dispose the berries for landscaping purposes. However, if they plan to harvest and pick them, they must have a permit.
Permits are free and take up to 14 days to process, according to the state's website.