Saw Palmetto grows exclusively in Florida, in the southeast of the USA. Sabal serrulata, which is the Latin name for the American Saw Palm, is found to the north of the Everglades, where the climate is hot and dry. Here the fruit are freshly harvested and then slightly dried before being shipped to Switzerland where A.Vogel uses them to create herbal remedies.
'Proud princes on distant shores' was how the great botanist, Carl von Linne, once described tall, majestic palms of which there are approximately 3000 types worldwide. However the American Saw Palm cannot really be described in these terms as most seldom reach more than one metre, although the plant can occasionally grow into an impenetrable bush, several metres in height.
This dwarf palm grows in dense pine forests, tropical heat and sandy soil being its favourite territory. Yet it is not an inconspicuous plant as it has gleaming, fresh, green, fan shaped leaves. Sabal serrulata has been used in two of A.Vogel's most popular remedies - Prostasan. Alfred Vogel discovered the Saw Palm during his exploration of the Americas in the 1950s and learned that the Native Americans in Florida, the Seminole, had used the fruit of saw palmetto for hundreds of years.
One of the most important suppliers of traditional wild grown plants is Plantation Medicinals Inc., located in the small town of Felda in Florida, not far from the Okeechobee Sea. A.Vogel buys around 10 metric tons of sabal fruit from this company each year. Experience has shown that the most effective means of obtaining a good, healthy crop is to carefully select a natural cultivation and devote time and energy to ensuring that the wild palms have room to grow and are not overgrown by forest or other plants. To this end, roughly one square kilometre of fields are fenced off and laid out to ensure that organic cultivation takes place far away from industrial areas and citrus plantations, which could be a source of contamination.
Wild fires are an integral part of plant communities in Florida so engineers from Plantation Medicals control bush fires to ensure that the ever present threat of natural fires in this tropical climate is forestalled.The stems of the saw palm, which lie partially on the ground, survive the fire undamaged and afterwards have more space in which to spread. In this half-wild shelter, the dwarf palms are left to themselves and are not in any way exposed to any kind of herbicide, fungicide or other chemical agent.
When the fruit of the Saw Palm is ripe, the harvest workers must go out to the fields and hand pick the berries in seering temperatures ranging from 35 to 42 degrees centigrade. A plant normally contains from 50 to 100 berries, although in certain circumstances the larger palms can contain even more. The fully developed berries are almost as big as olives but are not really edible. In the fresh state in which they are harvested, they are green, orange or black in colour. Sometimes all colours can be found on the same panicle at the same time.
Following harvest, Plantation Medicinals carefully dry the berries. Workers oversee this process in the sweltering heat of the drying chamber to ensure that the drying takes place evenly so they are not subject to deterioration during their journey to Switzerland. Finally the wrinkled, blackened fruits are packed into sacks for shipping. Thus the precious fruits begin their journey.