Enthusiasm is a quality that all true scientists possess, but not all express. Yet without the magic of enthusiasm the natural history movement could never have captured the heads and heards of the British people, making scientists of amateurs and amateurs of scientists.
One of the many agreeable qualities of Wild Flowers is the way in which it retains the freshness and sense of wonder of the beginner. Dr. Gilmour is the botanical editor of this series, and we are fortunate that both he and Mr Walters, his able and learned colleague at Cambridge, have not forgotten their first excitements, difficulties, mistakes and triumphs.
Indeed, the purpose of this book is to supply an introduction to British wild flowers for those who (though keen and interested) may feel in need of guidance. Readers will also find that Wild Flowers succeeds in far more than this, since, with its accent on history, ecology and the communities of plants, it makes a really important contribution to the understanding of our flora, not only by the general naturalist but by those working in other fields of natural history.
The writers also lay great stress on the part that amateurs can play in building up the scientific knowledge of our plants. In addition, their account of the history of British field botany is probably the best of its kind yet written and there are numerous and apposite quotations from the poets, a surprising number of whom also appear to have been botanists.
Wild Flowers will help many take a broader and deeper view of what is meant by the subtitle ‘Botanising in Britain.’ No longer is botany a remote and mysterious science protected from the intelligent public by a stuffy network of private language.