The Ranger was saddened to hear of the death last week of Max Walters, one of the best known names in botany and practical conservation in the 20th century. When working at Wicken Fen NNR in the 1990s, I encountered Max, who was on the management committee, on many occasions. When we first met, he was typically blunt and forthright, and put this young whippersnapper firmly in his place. It was only a few days later, at home, when my eye fell on my bookcase and I recognised the name of the co-author of one of my prized New Naturalist tomes, and I realised just what an eminent scientist had seen fit to offer me his advice. As time went on I grew to enjoy our meetings, and I learnt from him and his fierce passion for plants and for botany. Perhaps his most lasting effect on me was to show me how to look beyond the gaudy ‘flagship species’ which so often form the front end of nature conservation and see the richness of other species and groups that lie behind – in his case, usually plants. This translated into a healthy scepticism about the prominence of birds and mammals in such situations, and a willingness to go out on a limb for more obscure, but ultimately more rewarding groups and species. Conservation management, ecology and botany have lost a champion, but his work lives on in those he taught, his writings, and the plants and land he cherished for so long.
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