SIR John Smith-Dodsworth who has died in Thames, New Zealand, aged 77 was born at Thornton Watlass Hall, Ripon, inheriting the Baronetcy on the death of his father in 1940.
He went to Ampleforth and Cirencester Agricultural College and served his National Service in the Green Howards.
From an early age his great interest was the natural world, collecting and cataloguing a wide range of species.
As a boy he would cycle all over Wensleydale in search of wildlife and plants, especially the rarer species – and between while he went pot holing and caving. He was a young man when he settled permanently in New Zealand where his passion for botany flourished while working for the New Zealand Forestry Commission as a deer culler.
He decided to investigate the native flora and, in particular to photograph and catalogue all the native ferns, which range from the almost microscopic to the large tree ferns.
His expertise had consequences, one being that the Botanical Society consulted him on many of the country’s rarer plants, and another was the publication of two important books. The first, a collaboration with Patrick Brownsey, was New Zealand Ferns and Allied Plants (1989), and the second, under his own name, was New Zealand Native Shrubs and Climbers (1991).
The study of the native flora of his adopted country became a life-long passion and, over the years, he travelled throughout the country in search of plants, documenting them for the future.
He also assisted with the establishment of the narrow gauge railway at the nearby Driving Creek Railway and Potteries, as well as the nature reserve there; these have now become the locality’s main tourist attractions.
In November 2011, in recognition of his botanical work, a fernery was planted at the nature reserve in his name and he was present at its inauguration.
A month later, he received a lifetime achievement award from the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network for services to plant conservation.
Sir John was an accomplished wood carver and restored a Maori meeting house and Church in Rotorua. He was also a commercial fisherman.
He was married four times and is survived by Margaret, Lady Smith-Dodsworth in England, Lolita, Lady Smith-Dodsworth and his wife, Nerrisa, Lady Smith-Dodsworth in New Zealand and his five children, Cyrilla and David, his heir, in England and Daniel, Joanna and John-Joseph in New Zealand.