Since July 2018, it has been a misdemeanor offense to harvest the berries without a permit and permission from the property owner.

A man and woman were arrested shortly after midnight Friday on suspicion of harvesting saw palmetto berries without a permit near Baseline Trailhead Park.

Frederick Allen Graff, 45, of Homosassa, and Emily Elizabeth Merson, 32, of Ocala, were picked up after a Marion County Sheriff's Office helicopter crew spotted them at the park, which is at the intersection of Baseline and Maricamp roads.

A closer look by the pilots showed the two concealing something around the shrubs at the park's entrance, according to an arrest report.

Directed by helicopter crew, a sheriff's deputy found the man and woman walking north on Baseline and stopped them.

Near the park entrance, the deputy reported finding a large pile of saw palmetto berries on a blue tarp, a backpack containing more berries, a pair of gardening shears and two sets of gloves.

The vehicle they were using was about a half mile away.

Marion County Jail records show Merson, 32, was released at 10:32 a.m. Friday on $1,000 bond. Graff, 45, remained at the jail with bail set at $1,000. He also faces a violation of probation for possession of heroin.

Since July 2018, when Florida added the saw palmetto to its list of exploited native plants, it has been a misdemeanor offense to harvest the berries without a permit and permission from the property owner.

Companies use the berries to make a herbal extract, Maia McGuire, an extension agent with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said in a blog post. "The extract is used to treat symptoms associated with enlarged prostate glands."