If you have never seen a black bear at the urologist’s waiting to get a prostate exam there are two good reasons why. A) I would imagine most doctors have a “no bears” policy and B) from late summer through fall, American Black Bears (Ursus americanus) in the southeastern United States are feeding heavily on Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) berries – a food source that has been shown to have positive medicinal value for men with enlarged prostates.
Saw Palmettos are one of the most common palms in the U.S. and are found in the Gulf states from SW Louisiana to Florida. The shrub-like palm is often overlooked and occasionally confused for a young Sabal Palm. The palmetto has a similar fan-shaped frond but has distinguishing spines along the leaf edge, thus the name. The branching trunk often grows parallel to the ground before reaching skyward but rarely attains heights above seven feet.
The insect-pollinated flowers bloom from April through July and by September, greenish-yellow, olive-like fruits begin to ripen and turn black. They make an excellent food source for deer, bears, raccoons, pigs and gopher tortoises among others. Apparently they don’t taste good. I haven’t tried one but if someone asks me to I will.
The fruits that are not eaten by wildlife, collected by pharmaceutical lackeys or tasted by curious naturalists will fall to the ground where it make take them months to germinate as the endocarp or interior layer of the fruit slowly breaks apart. New growth is slow, but eventually the shrub matures and fruits.
The question remains, do Black Bears that live outside the range of saw palmettos have enlarged prostates? Check to see if the bear has a hard time peeing, which is the first indication of this condition. (Keep in mind that bears go into torpor in the winter and can convert urea to amino acids – the building blocks of proteins). Next get a pair of latex gloves. I haven’t tried this next step and if someone asks me to I won’t.