Bucks County Botanist
Today is the birthday of the botanist William Herbst born on this day in 1833.
As a child, William would accompany his father on horseback as he visited his patients across Bucks County in Pennsylvania. While his dad met with the sick in their homes, William stayed outside and passed the time collecting flora and fauna for study. When he grew older, he spent time formally studying botany and attending Medical School in Philadelphia.
Although he became a doctor like his father Frederick, William Herbst was truly a botanist at heart. He developed a passion for fungi, and he wrote a Fungal Flora of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania in 1899. Once, after sending a specimen to his botanist friend, a Professor CH Peck, Herbst received a kind acknowledgment letter, which read in part:
"That was a splendid fungus you sent me. It is an undescribed species of Sparassis. I propose to name it, with your consent, Sparassis Herbstii."
In 1906, doctors were still making house-calls. Herbst died after visiting a sick patient. His obituary in The Morning Callin Allentown, PA said,
"[Herbst] suffered from a fall. Leaving a sick-room to go to the bath room, he opened a stairway door by accident and plunged to the bottom in the darkness... [Then] he sank into a coma from which he did not awake.
The doctor was one of the most lovable of men. He was firm and honest in his convictions ... [and] His beautiful nature was exemplified in the poem, "Welcome Spring Flowers," which "he wrote many years ago...
Many a time he was asked why he did not settle in some city where his [botanical] talents would receive prompt recognition, but his answer invariably was that he could study nature better in his old home."