ISHS Commission Nomenclature and Cultivar Registration

International Cultivar Registration Authorities (ICRAs)

Welcome to the web pages provided by the ISHS Commission for Nomenclature and Cultivar Registration. The executive committee of this Commission is responsible for the appointment of all International Cultivar Registration Authorities (ICRAs) and for the monitoring of their work. The executive committee receives annual reports from each ICRA and reassesses appointments every four years.
These pages provide a full and up-to-date listing of all current ICRAs together with electronic links where these are available. The ICRA system has now been in operation for over 50 years and has contributed significantly to the stability and fixity of cultivated plant nomenclature. The scheme operates under the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) and its chief aim is to prevent duplicated uses of cultivar and Group epithets within a defined denomination class (usually a genus), as well as ensuring that names are in all other respects in accord with the latest edition of the ICNCP.
The system is a voluntary, non-statutory one and does not confer any legal protection over the name or the plant. Such protection has to be sought through statutory schemes such as national Plant Breeders’ Rights or Plant Patents. The ICRA system is in effect the horticultural world’s attempt at self-policing of nomenclature and is truly international in its scope.
The success of the ICRA system depends upon the co-operation of all those involved with the creation and marketing of new plants. Generally all that is required is the submission of the name and any other relevant data to the ICRA. In most cases there will be no direct cost to the applicant. Although each ICRA is entitled to charge a small fee to cover their costs many provide this essential service without charge. The ICRA will check each new epithet to ensure that it has not been used before and that in all other respects it is in accord with the ICNCP and then notify the registrant accordingly. Applicants should remember that registration may be refused if the name has been used before and should await the ICRA’s decision before implementing any marketing for the plant. ICRAs are not responsible for assessing the distinctiveness of the plant in question.
Each ICRA is also charged with ensuring that new names are formally established (i.e. published in hard copy, with a description in a dated publication). Establishment in this context is an important concept since it is only after such publication that the name has precedence for its use for a particular plant. Whilst the ICRA will ensure through its own publications that names are established, registrants should not necessarily rely on this and should try to ensure that their new names are securely established as soon after registration as possible.
ICRAs will also ask the applicant to provide some further details about the plant, such as parentage, the names of those concerned with its development and introduction, together with a basic description which highlights its distinctive characters. It is essential that some descriptive element is provided and the more authentic data that can be provided at this stage the more valuable will be the store of data held by the ICRA in its Register and Checklist. This database soon becomes a valuable resource for all those interested in that group of plants.
Those appointed as ICRAs represent a wide range of societies and institutions and will often be a specialist society interested in that particular group of plants. They receive no funding from the ISHS. ICRAs may be based anywhere in the world and currently are located in many European countries, North America, China, India, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Puerto Rico. In every case their remit is international, although in some cases they may operate though a series of national representatives to facilitate the initial collation of data from raisers. Most ICRAs can be contacted electronically and many maintain excellent web sites which are noted in the lists on other pages of this web site.
ICRAs may record more than just cultivar and Group epithets as they may also note trade designations and trademarks used in labelling plant material, so as to help avoid confusion with properly established names. Variety denominations used by some statutory registration authorities are exactly equivalent to cultivar epithets.
Whilst the current ICRA system covers a considerable number of the horticulturally significant plant genera the Commission is always keen to learn of other organisations who might be interested in taking up the challenge of becoming an ICRA. For further information on genera not currently covered and for guidance on how any application to become an ICRA should be submitted please contact the Chairman of the Commission, Dr Janet Cubey (janetcubey_at_rhs.org.uk).

ICRA related options:

  • Search for ICRA by Genus; Searchable database for locating plant-groups having an ICRA
  • Directory of ICRAs; A listing of all ICRAs, together with contact details and information on their publications
  • Symposia and other meetings; Details of ICRA related meetings past and future
  • Cultivated Plant Code; 7th EDITION International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP)
  • Botanical Code; The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN), including purchasing details
  • How to name a cultivar; Useful information on the formation and publication of cultivar names - essential for raisers of new cultivars
  • ISHS Commission; Information on the ISHS Commission for Nomenclature and Cultivar Registration
  • IUBS Commission; Information on the IUBS Commission for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants
  • Copyright Notice; Information on distribution of data from these ICRA pages