Remembering Herb Saylor

(April 19, 1946 to May 19, 2000)

by Michael Wood & Fred Stevens

When Herb Saylor passed away from a heart attack this past May, the MSSF lost one of its brightest lights. At the young age of 54, his death came as quite a shock. Herb was a rarity, a California native, born and raised in the East Bay. Even more unusual he never strayed far from his East Bay roots, living in San Leandro when he died. He joined the MSSF in 1974 and was its president during the 1981-1982 and 1982-1983 mushroom seasons.

Herb Saylor -- 1986

Herb was an avid outdoorsman and naturalist from an early age. He became interested in the fungi while at his family's Sierra cabin. Herb's uncle, Larry, was hosting a MSSF foray at the cabin and the diversity of fungi collected fascinated Herb. Herb became a student of the fungi and soon became an expert on two difficult groups–first the coral fungi and then the hypogeous fungi. To say Herb was passionate about mushrooms would be an understatement. He was an avid collector, and after a day in the field he would typically spend much of the following night, to the early hours of the morning, peering through his microscope and working up descriptions, powered by coffee and sweets. Many of Herb's "unknown" hypogeous fungi collections went to Dr. James Trappe at Oregon State University for study and identification. The result was several new species, one of which, Destuntzia saylorii, bears the Saylor name.

Herb was a big man with a big heart. He hosted society forays at his family's cabin on Highway 50, near Kyburz, in the Sierras. He also loaned much of his library to the herbarium at S.F. State University. Herb regularly donated his time at the society's Fungus Fairs and was a familiar figure behind the Species ID table. His microscope and books often made it possible to identify obscure mushrooms on the spot. Ironically, though Herb did professional work, he never received a degree in mycology. Fate conspired against that, with family obligations and finances standing in the way. If Herb was disappointed, it was hidden behind a buoyant, outgoing personality.

Herb was close friends with Dr. Harry Thiers who guided his mushroom studies. You would often find Herb in Harry's lab, working up specimens or discussing the intricacies of mycological taxonomy with Harry. If you look through the specimens in the Thiers' herbarium, you will find many hundreds made by Herb, most with the good notes that make the collections especially valuable.

Herb was a dear friend and is deeply missed.