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  • From: "Bill Meyer" <njhosta@hotmail.com>
  • Date: Sat, 28 Aug 2004 10:33:48 -0400

Hi Chick,
       I'm no expert on the code, but basically it's like this ---
       The "legality" of a name is laid out in rules set by the
International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants or ICNCP. The code
was changed substantially in the last meeting and allows numbers in the name
and more syllables too.
       Unfortunately, they sell the code book and don't put the info up
anywhere for free. The individual registration authorities (ICRA) must
adhere to the code where it is specific, but have leeway where it is open to
interpretation. A lot of it is open to interpretation. Jim Wilkins is the
current registration authority for hosta. The AHS sponsors the registration
authority and had early input into the interpretation areas and the system,
but has not been very involved with it lately. Basically, it's the
registrar's call on whether to accept a name or not, so long as it meets the
minimum obligations set down by the code.
        Below is some reading material if you're bored.

Here's a brief explanation:
The wide acceptance of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated
Plants (ICNCP) depends on its rules being truly international and applicable
to as many countries and languages as possible, and being precise and
user-friendly. In the case of the Chinese language, forbidding the inclusion
of the common or vernacular name of a genus, nothogenus or species as the
final part of a Chinese cultivar epithet may render the cultivar epithet
linguistically awkward, and so this rule should be modified. Since in French
(and in many other Romance languages) adjectives usually come after the
substantive they modify, the Code does not seem fair to stipulate that
English names such as Camellia 'Perfect Rose' could not be established after
1995, while the equivalent French names such as Camellia 'Rose Parfaite' are
still perfectly establishable. Naming cultivars with numerals or arbitrary
sequences of letters (which are not words) should be allowed (though not
recommended), and this should be clearly stated, since such names are fairly
common, as can be seen in the examples in the Code. The limit on the length
of cultivar-group epithets should be brought in line with that for cultivar
epithets, instead of being based on number of words. The Code should provide
for the formation of a "species" epithet in Latin form for all distinct
graft-chimaeras that arise from the same component species belonging to the
same genus or different genera, to distinguish them from graft-chimaeras
that arise from other component species of the genus or genera. These and
other issues that may or may not find easy solutions are presented for

About an ICRA:
*What is ICRA?

International Cultivar Registration Authorities (ICRAs), whether they
represent agricultural, forestry or horticultural disciplines, are appointed
by the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) through its
Commission for Nomenclature and Registration and are contracted to operate
within the provisions of the current edition of the International Code of
Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP).

The purpose of an ICRA is to:

Promote fixity and stability in the nomenclature of cultivars and
cultivar-groups within designated plant groups and to produce and promote
authoritative checklists and registers of all names known to have been in
use in such groups.

The primary functions of an ICRA are:

(a) To register cultivar and cultivar-group names in the denomination class
for which they have accepted responsibility, and to ensure their publication
and establishment.

(b) To record, publish and make otherwise available, full lists of all
cultivar and cultivar-group names in that denomination class whether they
are in current use or are part of the historical record so as to provide the
world community with authoritative listings of names.

(c) To maintain records, in as great a detail as is practical, of the
origin, characteristics and history of each cultivar and cultivar-group in
that denomination class.

It is NOT the function of an ICRA:

(a) To conduct trials.

(b) To judge if one cultivar or cultivar-group is more meritorious or more
useful than another.

(c) To judge distinctness of cultivars or cultivar-groups.

ICRAs record and register more than just cultivar names: they also record
and register cultivar-group names and often record other devices used in
labelling plant material so as to help avoid confusion with properly
established cultivar names. Variety denominations used by some statutory
registration authorities are exactly equivalent to cultivar names.

Cultivar names become fixed when they appear with a description in print in
a dated publication - as long as they are in an acceptable form and
generally as long as they have not been used before. The ICNCP rules on what
is an "acceptable form" and is generous in its provisions: any restrictions
are there to avoid names which are either misleading or which might lead to

There are three ways in which a name becomes fixed under the ICNCP. Either a
person publishes a new name, complete with description, in a dated, printed
work or one registers a name directly with an ICRA who will ensure that the
name is published on behalf of the registrant. The other route to
establishing a name is through its entry onto a register established by a
statutory authority such as in governmental National Lists. The name first
published for a cultivar is generally the one to be fixed, unless it fails
due to it being incorrectly formed or unless it is otherwise unacceptable.

*Trehane, P. What are International Cultivar Registration Authorities ?
(Accessed: November 6, 2003)

*Trehane, P. Introduction to the ICRA system
(Accessed: November 6, 2003)

Here are some links if you're interested --- 

History of the ICNCP - http://bsi.org/brom_info/cultivar/ICNCP.html
About naming cultivars - http://www.ishs.org/sci/icraname.htm
More discussion - http://www.genres.de/IGRREIHE/IGRREIHE/DDD/22-08.pdf

                             .........Bill Meyer

> I think I was told that we can't use digits in legal hosta names.  True?
> Any nomenclature experts out there?
> Chick
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