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Notes for International Cultivar Registration Authorities

Appointment of International Cultivar Registration Authorities

International Cultivar Registration Authorities (ICRAs), representing agricultural, forestry and horticultural disciplines, are appointed by the Commission for Cultivar Registration of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) and are to operate within the provisions of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP).

Organisations, or individuals, who wish to be considered as an ICRA for a particular group of plants should apply to the Secretary, ISHS Commission for Cultivar Registration (Melanie Underwood, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QB, UK. Email: Applicants should be able to demonstrate an ability to provide for both the time and costs in setting up and maintaining an International Register, as well as providing for the costs of publication of Checklists and Registers, and developing and maintaining any associated websites.

Functions of an International Cultivar Registration Authority

The primary functions of an ICRA are:

  • to register cultivar and Group epithets (and grex epithets in the case of orchids) in the denomination class for which they have accepted responsibility and to ensure their establishment
  • to ensure epithets registered comply with the latest edition of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants
  • to publish full lists of all cultivar and Group epithets in that denomination class
  • to maintain records, in as much detail as is practical, of the origin, characteristics and history of each cultivar and Group in that denomination class.

It is not the function of an ICRA:

  • to conduct trials
  • to judge if one cultivar or Group is more meritorious or more useful than another
  • to judge distinctness of cultivars or Groups.

The following notes are intended for the guidance of International Cultivar Registration Authorities. If any Registrar encounters procedural or nomenclatural points which they find difficult to resolve, these should be referred to the ISHS Commission for Cultivar Registration through the Secretary (contact details above).

Appointment of Registrar

Each ICRA should appoint a Registrar with, if necessary, an advisory committee to assist. In some cases it may be useful to the ICRA to consider arranging for local representatives in other countries to act as a collecting point for new applications. Such local registrars can help filter out clearly unacceptable names and can help surmount language and cultural barriers, as well as being more aware of breeding activity in their own country.

Registrars will need a good working knowledge of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP), and of the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) as well. Access to good libraries and catalogue collections will also be necessary.

Denomination class

The ICRA should fix the limits of its denomination class (or classes) following consultation with, and agreement from, the ISHS Commission for Cultivar Registration. A denomination class under the provisions of the ICNCP is a single genus or hybrid genus unless a special denomination class has been determined by the ISHS Commission. A list of special denomination classes is included in the ICNCP.

Conserved cultivar epithets

An ICRA should list any cultivar epithet that has been formally conserved by a decision of the IUBS International Commission for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants. Such listing should make clear in each case which is the permanently conserved epithet, as well as listing any relevant rejected epithets. A list of conserved epithets is included in the ICNCP.

Public relations

Every effort should be made to inform, and build relationships with, the relevant specialist societies, statutory plant registration authorities and growers in all countries of the existence of registration facilities. The general public should also be informed through technical, scientific and gardening magazines, periodicals, books and websites.

Cooperation with statutory plant registration authorities

Registrars may be consulted by statutory plant registration authorities enquiring whether an epithet has already been used for a plant, prior to denomination in a statutory register. An ICRA must therefore be in a position to respond to such enquiries. Ideally ICRAs should also be in a position to take the initiative in registering an objection, when necessary, to names proposed for recognition in gazettes published by statutory plant registration authorities.

Preparation and publication of an International Register and Checklist

It is recommended that as soon as possible a new ICRA should compile a preliminary Checklist of all cultivar and Group names that have been used in that denomination class. This should be circulated to any relevant specialists to solicit their comments and to promote the submission of any additions or corrections. Once these have been incorporated the Checklist should be published. Additional historical material may continue to be added to the Checklist as it comes to notice. Names on the Checklist should not be treated as registered, but must be taken into account when considering the acceptability of any sent subsequently for registration. Once formal registration commences the combined list becomes a Register and Checklist. Checklist names may be added to the Register if they meet all the requirements of the Cultivated Plant Code and are formally submitted through the registration process.

Whilst the Register and Checklist may be maintained and made available electronically, it is important that at least new registrations are published in hardcopy. This is to ensure that names are formally established under the provisions of the Cultivated Plant Code. It is recommended that lists of new registrations, together with corrections and amendments to those previously listed, should be published at regular intervals; an annual list is usually sufficient, but ICRAs dealing with large numbers of new names may want to publish more often. A copy of every such hardcopy publication that an ICRA publishes should be sent to the ISHS Commission.

Whilst the minimum requirement must be for hardcopy publication of new registrations, it is recommended that an ICRA should consider the hardcopy publication of the complete International Register and Checklist from time to time. Hardcopy publication may be more convenient for some users, but also guards against the possibility of the data being lost or becoming unavailable when an ICRA ceases to exist or incompatibilities develop in accessing examples of older technologies.

Listing requirements

The International Register should:

  • list the epithets of all cultivars and Groups that have been named in the denomination class(es) concerned, whether they are still known to be in cultivation or not. If required, cultivars considered to be extinct may be indicated as such, but it should be borne in mind that it can be extremely difficult to establish whether a particular cultivar is or is not in cultivation. It is especially important to remember that some names of cultivars and Groups, although no longer cultivated or used, will be of historical importance and should be cited.
    • In effect, any epithet which has been published should be included, since any printed reference is permanent and a potential source of confusion with any other use of the same epithet.
  • include all synonyms and trade designations (including translations where they have been used), and should clearly indicate in each case which is the accepted epithet.
  • list epithets which are not acceptable for registration but which are nevertheless still in commercial use. These should be clearly indicated as being unacceptable and not registered and, where possible, the reason for their unacceptability should be stated.
  • include unregistered but established epithets, indicating that they are not registered.
  • include each use of an epithet that has been used more than once within a denomination class, with the appropriate description. Where it can be demonstrated, precedence of publication should be indicated.

Reservation of names

An ICRA should exercise caution in the reservation of epithets especially if they have not yet been definitely assigned to particular plants. However, it may, for example, be useful to allow reservation during the period in which a plant is being assessed for Plant Breeders' Rights.

Reservation of epithets should in all cases only be permitted for a definite and limited period. Registrants should be advised that a reserved epithet will no longer be available if someone else happens to establish the epithet for another plant in that denomination class.

Botanical Names

International Registers are not required to list the names of species, but some Registrars have found it useful to do so. Where this is the case, specialist help should be sought to ensure that the names used are in accordance with an accepted botanical treatment of the genus or genera concerned.

In many cases ICRAs will, however, need to list the botanical names of taxa in the parentage of new cultivars and Groups. In doing so they may need to amend data as supplied by registrants in order that a consistent botanical treatment is presented in the Register.

Registration Form

Each ICRA needs to produce a registration form on which it should require all applications to be made. Advice on the general layout and content of the registration form can be provided by the ISHS Commission (contact details above), but the detailed format will vary depending on the denomination class concerned.

All such forms should request at least the following information and material:

The names and addresses of:

  • the originator (it may be necessary to distinguish the hybridizer from the person who grew a plant on to its first flowering)
  • the nominant who designated (invented or coined) the epithet
  • the introducer (it may be necessary to distinguish private distribution or exhibition from commercial introduction)
  • the registrant

In each case the relevant date(s) should also be requested; the year is usually sufficient.

  • If the cultivar or Group has been named and described previously, but not registered, the name of the person who originally published the epithet, together with a copy of the publication or full reference to its date and place of publication.
  • If the epithet to be registered is a transliteration from a language not using the Latin alphabet the original form (characters or script) of the epithet should also be recorded.
  • The parentage, when known.
  • Particulars of any associated patents, trademarks, or plant breeders' rights, together with the results of testing in recognised trials or assessments, if applicable.
  • Awards received, with dates and the name of the awarding body.
  • A description in a language using the Latin alphabet including, where applicable, details of colour (the RHS Colour Chart is a widely used standard and is strongly recommended). The ICRA should try to ensure that the registrant is prompted into giving an account of characteristics that are likely to be diagnostic. Descriptive information recorded will vary greatly between some denomination classes.
  • A listing of differential characters between the cultivar or Group being registered and any closely related cultivars or Groups.
  • A herbarium specimen and photograph, painting or drawing to be stored subsequently as a nomenclatural standard housed in a recognised herbarium. Attention should be given to copyright information, for photographs in particular, so that the ICRA, and herbarium, knows what purposes they may be used for in the future.
  • The preferred method(s) by which any new cultivar should be propagated.
  • An explanation of the etymology, derivation or meaning of the epithet, especially if this is not immediately apparent from other data given on the form.
  • Registration forms should indicate that although the ICRA will ensure eventual establishment for all registered epithets, their precedence is not fixed until publication. Registrants may therefore wish to publish new epithets themselves, following registration, to ensure that precedence of their epithets is not affected.

Registration fees

The ISHS has no funds with which to support ICRAs and relies upon the voluntary cooperation of individuals and organisations in maintaining a world-wide network of registration authorities. Some ICRAs charge a fee for their services, but there is no requirement that they should do so. The amount charged is left to the discretion of the ICRA concerned, but it should be appreciated that charges may well discourage registration and defeat the purpose of the ICRA. It should also be remembered that it is not possible for a non-statutory authority (such as an ICRA) to enforce registration as the process in itself offers no legal protection over the plant or its name.

Reappointment and registration data

All ICRAs are asked to provide regular (usually annual) reports on progress to the ISHS Commission. The Commission meets to review, and hopefully reappoint, all ICRAs every 4 or 5 years.

Should an ICRA step down from the role, the data they have compiled for their denomination class(es) should be made available to the ISHS Commission; this would then be passed on to any future relevant ICRA.

ISHS Commission for Cultivar Registration
August 2014, revised March 2016, revised September 2019