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Charles Stirton was born in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in 1946. He was educated at St. Charles College in Scottsville, joined the South African Navy then returned to the Universities of Natal (Pietermaritzburg) and Cape Town, going on to win the South African Association of Botanists - Junior medal for the best Botany doctoral thesis in South Africa (1989).

Professor Stirton is a distinguished botanist with an international reputation. He is the author of four books and 120 scientific publications on weeds, arid plants, plant nomenclature, economic botany, plant taxonomy, history, pollination ecology, natural history, and the plant family Leguminosae. He set out to become an agricultural economist but ended up a botanist. He is a Chartered Biologist, a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute, and a Fellow of the Linnean Society.

He has worked mostly in the United Kingdom from the early eighties. His botanical career in the UK started with a posting as the South African Liaison Botanist to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London. In the early 1990s he was instrumental in establishing an economic botany programme in nine states of the arid NE Brazil. He specialised in the plant family Leguminosae (Peas and Beans) eventually becoming the Deputy Director and Director of Science and Horticulture at the UK's premier Garden.

In 1996 he took up the challenge of creating the first botanical garden in the United Kingdom for nearly 200 years. He provided the leadership and vision in turning an outstanding and daring concept for the building of a major new botanic garden at the turn of the 3rd Millennium into reality. His contribution to the 50 million pound landmark project to build a national botanic garden for Wales was to champion the building of the new garden on sustainable principles, the first time such a garden has been so designed. Key to the philosophy of the Garden , which embraces science, education, environment, horticulture and the arts, were his implementation of the pioneering applications of "global contexts" , "preferred futures" and the notion that "Gardens are great places to grow people" . Before he left South Africa he was a Chief Professional Officer at the Botanic Research Institute (South Africa) and an Associate Professor at the University of Natal (Pietermaritzburg).

After he had led the creation of the new Botanic garden in Wales he left in September 2002 to set up a Preferred Futures Consultancy in Wales, advising clients on the nature of the future and how it can impact on their lives and businesses. He still retains an interest in gardens where he worked for most of his career and continues to advise on the development of botanic gardens around the world. He has had a lifetime interest in arid and Mediterranean regions. Recently he advised the United Arab Emirates on the establishment of a National Botanic Garden in Al Ain.

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