Many economically important non-timber forest products (NTFPs) come from widespread and common plant species. Harvest of these species often is assumed to be sustainable due to their commonness. However, because of the ecological roles of common species, harvest may affect and be affected by ecological interactions at broader scales, which are rarely considered when evaluating the sustainability of harvest. We use a case study of the mountain date palm (Phoenix loureiroi Kunth), harvested in South India to produce brooms, to present a conceptual framework illustrating how intensive harvest of a common species interacts with other anthropogenic management practices, plant-animal interactions and surrounding environmental conditions.