ICNCP - It all started in 1952 or did it?

International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants

The address given by the Secretary, W T Stearn,
of the International Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature and Registration
at the opening meeting on 7 September 1952.

The need for a comprehensive set of practical, easily understood and internationally acceptable regulations on the naming of cultivated plants has long been evident. The first step in the formulation of the International Code set out below was made in 1862 by Alphonse de Candolle in a letter subsequently placed before the International Horticultural Congress of Brussels, 1864. De Candolle wished to reserve Latin names for species and varieties and to use only non-Latin 'fancy' names such as 'Bijou', 'Rainbow', etc., for garden forms. He suggested that this common, traditional and ancient practice should be made the only practice. The celebrated Capitulare de Villis (A.D. 812) of the Emperor Charlemagne provides an early illustration of such procedure, apples in general being mentioned therein under the Latin name malus; but the kinds distinguished by vernacular names: "malorum nomina; gozmaringa, geroldinga, crevedella". The present-day extensive use of arbitrary names, often those of persons in no way connected with the raising of the plant, seems to have begun in France and the Netherlands in the early seventeenth century. An unprecedented number of diverse new tulips. raised from seed then called for names. It became customary to, name in the same manner new plants of garden origin belonging to other genera.

The 1864 Brussels Congress was followed by the 1865 International Botanical and Horticultural Congress of Amsterdam. Here Karl Koch likewise drew attention to the confusion produced by the use of Latin names for garden forms. In 1866, at the International Botanical Congress of London, Koch suggested that such international congresses should deal with matters of nomenclature. Alphonse de Candolle accordingly drew up his celebrated Lois de la Nomenclature botanique; which were discussed and officially accepted by the International Botanical Congress of Paris, 1867. They form the basis of the present International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (1952). De Candolle's Article 40 dealt with the names of plants of horticultural origin and gave formal expression to his proposal of 1862: "Seedlings, half­breeds (metis) of unknown origin and sports should receive from horticulturists fancy names (noms de fantaisie) in common language, as distinct as possible from the Latin names of species or varieties. When they can be traced back to a botanical species, subspecies or variety, this is indicated by a succession of names (Pelargonium zonale, Mrs. Pollock)." Article 40, its wording almost unchanged, survived the redrafting of the International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature down to 1935. It is now embodied in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (1952), Article 38, and in the following Code (Article C. 15), as a basic regulation.

This Article was the only one in the International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature adopted at the Botanical Congress of Vienna, 1905, which referred directly to the naming of garden plants. Its inadequacy soon became apparent. Alfred Cogniaux accordingly attempted to supplement the 1905 Article 30 by formulating a set of "regles de nomenclature horticole." To ascertain informed opinion he sent twenty questions on matters of horticultural nomenclature to some forty persons in Belgium, France, Germany, Java, Russia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom whom he judged to be particularly interested and competent. It is no coincidence that the forty included many people interested in the naming of hybrid orchids, for by their quick increase in number these plants now presented the horticultural world with problems of nomenclature somewhat comparable to those which tulips had evoked nearly three centuries earlier.

Among the memoranda submitted was a long and important one from The Royal Horticultural Society of London, which had formed from its Orchid Committee and its Scientific Committee a subcommittee on horticultural nomenclature, and this subcommittee was represented at the subsequent Congress by E. A. Bowles and A. B. Rendle. Cogniaux correlated the replies and submitted a report to Section IV Subsection B of the International Congress of Brussels, 1910. The subsection devoted two long meetings to their consideration. Out of the results of this discussion Cogniaux formulated the "Regles de nomenclature horticole" adopted by the Brussels Congress. He intended to submit them to the next International Botanical Congress which should have been held in London in 1915. By then the world was at war and the Congress did not take place. In 1917 Cogniaux died, aged 75 years. His code of horticultural nomenclature was thus never ratified, although most of its provisions have since become general procedure.

Meanwhile in the United States parallel efforts to evolve codes of nomenclature for cultivated plants were being made by specialist bodies, notably by the American Pomological Society [The American Pomological Society's original code dates from 1867, but was based on the even earlier 'Rules for American Pomology' agreed in 1847 by the Cincinnati, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Horticultural Societies and published in Downing's The Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art 2: 273-275 (1847), 480-431 (1848); cf. Hume, Camellias in America 222 (1946). These 1847 pomological rules, formulated twenty years before the first laws of botanical nomenclature, represent "the first movement made on either side of the Atlantic towards fixed laws of nomenclature", as Downing noted at the time. They anticipated the botanical code by accepting priority of publication as decisive and they chose, moreover, two standard works, one European, the other American, as starting points for the nomenclature of fruits, thus anticipating the 1930 suggestion on which Art. C. 12 of this International Code is based. The essential parts of Art. C. 6-9 and 21 are derived from these 1847 American pomological rules.] and the American Society of Agronomy. For the latter C. R. Ball and J. Allen Clark drew up a code of nomenclature adopted by the Society in November 1917 and published in the Journal of the American Society of Agronomy 9: 425-427 (December 1917), 10: 91-92 (February 1918). The influence of these codes in the United States has been considerable. They have, however, been as little known outside the United States as Cogniaux's "regles de nomenclature horticole" and the "Nomenklaturregeln fur den deutschen Obstbau" (cf. Neue Berliner Gartner­Borse 3 nr. 9; 3rd May 1949) have been known in the United States. Generally applicable provisions taken from all these and various other codes produced by specialist bodies were carefully studied and discussed during the preparation of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants given below. This present Code thus has a firm basis in both European and American experience over the last forty years.

The International Botanical Congress planned for 1915 did not take place until 1930. In 1927, however, at the 8th International Horticultural Congress, an International Committee for Horticultural Nomenclature was set up with A. B. Rendle, Keeper of Botany, British Museum (Natural History), as chairman, and F. J. Chittenden, Director of The Royal Horticultural Society's Gardens, Wisley, as secretary. Both had helped to prepare The Royal Horticultural Society's 1910 Brussels memorandum. The connexion between the Natural History Museum, The Royal Horticultural Society and horticultural nomenclature has thus been long and intimate. The immediate task of this Committee was the one which Cogniaux had tackled in 1910, i.e. to supplement the International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature with rules 'for the naming of garden plants. No direct attention, however, seems to have been paid to Cogniaux's excellent pioneer work. At the 9th International Horticultural Congress of London, held in July 1930, the Nomenclature Committee was enlarged. It drew up a new set of rules which were presented as resolutions to the International Horticultural Congress and duly passed. A month later at the 5th International Botanical Congress, held in Cambridge in August 1930, Rendle called attention to the work of the London Horticultural Congress Committee. He stated that its rules contained nothing contrary to the International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature, and he then proposed that they should be added to the third edition as an appendix. The Subsection of Nomenclature accepted this proposition and as Appendix VII (Nomenclature of Garden Plants, by A. B. Rendle) they appeared in the third (1935) edition of the Rules. By this action the nomenclature of cultivated plants became once more the joint concern of both horticulturists and botanists.

An important suggestion made at the 1930 International Horticultural Congress was "that the starting point for nomenclature of horticultural groups should be:

(a) some recognized horticultural monograph; or

(b) An ad hoc list of varieties drawn up by a recognized body of specialists in the particular group; or

(c) where such bodies do not exist, by some recognized society which shall be specially charged with the work.

Such lists should be kept up to date by (b) and (c), and additions periodically published through some recognized medium" (IX Int. Hort. Congr. Rep. 29).

The merits of this suggestion led to acceptance at the 11th International Horticultural Congress, Rome, 1935, of the proposal that priority for names of horticultural varieties should rank from the date of acceptance of a list of each group by an International Horticultural Congress. A list of such works relating to carnations, dahlias, gladioli, irises, narcissi, orchids, rhododendrons, lilacs (Syringa), tulips and ferns was also accepted at the 11th International Horticultural Congress, of which, however, the proceedings remain unpublished. At the 12th International Horticultural Congress held in Berlin in August 1938, lists relating to conifers, delphiniums, day-lilies (Hemerocallis) and peonies were also approved. It was then decided that these should be adopted as standards of nomenclature for six years, i.e. until August 1944, by which time but for the Second World War another Congress would have been held. The lists themselves have thus long ceased to have validity under this proposal, but the concept of different starting points for the nomenclature of different cultivated groups is a sound one, paralleled in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (Article 23) by the different starting points for the nomenclature of mosses, lichens, fungi, algae, and fossil plants. It has accordingly been incorporated, in the following Code (Article C. 12), the year 1753 being taken as a general starting point.

Apart from this the 1930 rules underwent little addition or modification at the International Congresses of Paris (1932), Rome (1935) and Berlin (1938). Rendle died in January 1938. His place as chairman was taken by F. J. Chittenden, while R. Zander became secretary of the Permanent Horticultural Nomenclature Committee, as it was then named. It was reconstituted anew in 1950, with W. T. Stearn (U.K.) as secretary, and since November 1951 has been known officially as the International Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature and Registration and informally as the London Committee. Its re-organization was made necessary by the death of Chittenden in 1950.

Meanwhile, dissatisfaction with the inadequacy of the rules for the nomenclature of hybrids and other genetically complicated groups increased. The American Society of Plant Taxonomists accordingly submitted a group of proposals to the 1948 symposium on nomenclature at Utrecht. The Utrecht gathering requested W. H. Camp, in collaboration with other interested persons, to present formal proposals on these matters to the 7th International Botanical Congress. The American Horticultural Council then brought forward suggestions, from a committee comprising C. G. Bowers, G. H. M. Lawrence, P. A. Munz and J. F. Styer, which dealt with the rules for the naming of cultivated plants. After circulating the combined proposals, Camp edited and published them in the American Journal of Botany 37: 31-38 (January 1950) and submitted them to the 7th International Botanical Congress at Stockholm, 1950. Here the Subsection on Nomenclature set up a special committee (now known officially as the Committee for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants and informally as the Stockholm Committee) to consider such proposals.

Camp (U.S.A.) acted as chairman of this Committee and W. T. Stearn (U.K.) as secretary; the other members were H. H. Allan (New Zealand), B. K. Boom (Netherlands), J. M. Cowan (U.K.), H. P. Daepp (Switzerland), J. E. Dandy (U.K.), J. S. L. Gilmour (U.K.), N. Hylander (Sweden), G. H. M. Lawrence (U.S.A.), H. W. Rickett (U.S.A.), R. C. Rollins (U.S.A.) and F. C. Stern (U.K.). The Committee met regularly for two weeks. Its recommendations were adopted by the Botanical Congress, those relating to hybrids in general being officially passed for addition to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (1952), of which they now form Appendix H; those relating to the old Appendix VII (the 1930 rules) were accepted in principle, their final adoption being made conditional on their discussion and approval by a parallel committee of horticulturists acting under the auspices of the International Committee for Horticultural Congresses. Early in 1951 the new draft of the rules resulting from the work at Stockholm was circulated widely. As a result of this publicity, by September 1951 many proposals for its emendation had been received and correlated; to them the secretary added proposals suggested by the study of the Nomenklaturregeln fur den deutschen Obstbau, the Code of the American Pomological Society, etc.

To prepare the ground for the nomenclature meetings of 1952 a joint meeting of the London Committee and the Stockholm Committee took place at The Royal Horticultural Society's Offices, London, on November 22-24, 1951, in the same manner that the symposium on nomenclature at Utrecht in 1948 preceded the Botanical Congress at Stockholm in 1950. Without such a preliminary meeting neither Congress could have satisfactorily got through the vast body of nomenclatural business before it in the time available. The joint London meeting was attended by A. P. Balfour (U.K.), Boom (Netherlands), Camp (U.S.A.) chairman, Cowan (U.K.), J. W. S. Cracknell U.K.), Daepp (Switzerland), Dandy (U.K.), Gilmour (U.K.), H. G. Hillier (U.K.), Hylander (Sweden), W. E. Th. Ingwersen (U.K.), J. Lange (Denmark), J. Lanjouw (Netherlands), R. Maatsch (Germany), J. M. S. Potter (U.K.), Stearn (U.K.) secretary and convenor, Stern (U.K.), A. Thorsrud (Norway), R. de Vilmorin (France) and R. Zander (Germany) as official voting members and A. G. L. Hellyer, A. Simmonds and P. M. Synge as observers participating in the discussions. Under the stimulating chairmanship of W. H. Camp the joint Committee discussed item by item the Stockholm new draft and the additional proposals. Despite the considerable initial divergence of views natural to so big an international assembly of experts representing a diversity of horticultural and botanical interests, the joint Committee reached general agreement on all points. The task of formally drafting, correlating and arranging these decisions into a code was then entrusted to an editorial subcommittee consisting of Camp, Gilmour and Stearn. The agreed text appeared in the Journal of The Royal Horticultural Society 77: 160-172 (May 1952). The 42,000 copies distributed brought proposals for its emendation from Australia, East and West Germany, Czechoslovakia, Malaya, the United Kingdom and the United States, a proof of the wide publicity which the code had received and the interest it had aroused. Of these proposals the most extensive came from Germany, where the Deutsche Gartenbau-Nomenklatur­Ausschuss redrafted almost the whole code. They were correlated by the secretary and circulated to members of both Committees just before the opening of the 13th International Horticultural Congress of London in September 1952.

The International Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature and Registration met every day from the 7th to the 13th of September 1952 in joint session with members of the Stockholm Committee for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants. These meetings were open to the general public. They were attended by Balfour (U.K.), Boom (Netherlands), C. G. Bowers (U.S.A.), Cowan (U.K.), Cracknell (U.K.), Daepp (Switzerland), Dandy (U.K.), H. Duperrex (Switzerland), S. B. Emsweller (U.S.A.), Gilmour (U.K.), H. J. Grootendorst (Netherlands), A. Guillaumin (France), Hylander (Sweden), Ingwersen (U.K.), H. A. Jones (U.S.A.), Lange (Denmark), A. Lecrenier (Belgium), Maatsch (Germany), J. R. Magness (U.S.A.), Potter (U.K.), H. A. Senn (Canada), Stearn (U.K.), Stern (U.K.), Thorsrud (Norway), Vilmorin (France) and Zander (Germany) as Committee members. Although voting was restricted to the above official members of the two Committees, all persons present were invited to participate freely in the discussions. Non-members who thus took part included T. H. Everett (New York Botanical Garden), L. D. Hills, R. E. Holttum (University of Malaya), A. Nehrling (Massachusetts Horticultural Society and American Rose Society), C. North (National Institute of Agricultural Botany, Cambridge), B. Park (National Rose Society), T. R. Peace (Forestry Commission), D. Sander (British Orchid Growers Association), G. M. Schulze (Botanischer Garten, Berlin-Dahlem), Simmonds (R.H.S.) and Synge (R.H.S.). Their cooperation ensured that a wide range of views and interests was taken into consideration and it proved of great value. The meetings took place under the chairmanship of Thorsrud, with Gilmour as deputy chairman, Stearn as secretary and rapporteur general, and J. Souster (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) as recorder. The subcommittee on registration consisted of Cracknell, Grootendorst, Maatsch, Nehrling, Park, Sander and Simmonds.

Camp (U.S.A.), who had played so important a part in the 1950 Stockholm and 1951 London discussions, was unfortunately not able to attend the Congress. Letters to the secretary from American organizations and individuals and the presence of American representatives ensured that American views and interests were adequately championed. Fortunately, no one approached any matter in a nationalistic and aggressive spirit. A friendly, constructively critical, frank and cooperative attitude characterized the representatives of all nations taking part. Without such an attitude and without free discussion it would have been impossible for the joint Committee to have covered its extensive agenda in the time available arid to the satisfaction of all concerned.

The Committee considered in detail the 'Proposed International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants' and the amendments and additions put forward. It kept in mind the need for the minimum disturbance of existing names and sought to provide sound guidance for future procedure. It reached general agreement on every matter discussed, and thus was able at the end to recommend to the Congress as a whole a revised text essentially similar to the 'Proposed International Code' but with many small amendments and additions. Since it was not practicable to lay before the Congress at its final session the complete text, the Congress was asked to give its approval to the main points embodied in the Code (Articles C. 1, 2, 4-8, 10, 13, 15-17, 23, 25, 29, 34) [The letter 'C' (for cultivated plants) has been placed before the number of each article of this Code to obviate confusion with the articles of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (which have no preceding letter) and its Appendix II, 'Names of Hybrids' (which are preceded by the letter 'H'] and set out in a report distributed to all persons attending this session. Gilmour gave an address explaining their intent and implications. The Congress then formally adopted a resolution expressing its approval of these main points and charging the Committee with the preparation of the full text, embodying these points, for wide circulation and trial prior to submission to the next Horticultural Congress.

The full text of the revised Code, prepared by the secretary (Stearn) as editor, was circulated early in October 1952 to all members of the joint Committee, including those unable to attend the Congress. Their suggestions were then correlated and sent to an editorial subcommittee with sixteen members, among them R. Ciferri (Italy) and R. Mansfeld (Germany), who were requested to vote for or against each proposal. The Code given below is the final version based on these decisions. It is preceded by a concise version or summary requested at the Congress as a guide to the main provisions of the full Code and prepared by Camp, F. C. Coulter (U.S.A.), Gilmour and Stearn on behalf of the joint Committee.

From the above summary it will be evident that this Code is the outcome of much thought, discussion and correspondence, together with no little expenditure of money and time, by many competent persons in many countries over some forty-seven years. It represents the collective wisdom of persons having a first-hand practical acquaintance with the nomenclatural needs of amateur gardeners, plant breeders, nurserymen dealing in alpines, bulbous plants, herbaceous perennials, trees and shrubs, seedsmen dealing in vegetables and ornamental annuals, agriculturists, foresters, systematic botanists and award-giving and name-registering societies. Much of the work of correlating and tapping this experience has been done during the past three years under the auspices of The Royal Horticultural Society of London, the British Museum (Natural History) and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

The acceptance of a code depends, in the long run, not upon its origin and history but upon its merits and publicity. It accordingly needs fair trial in many places and over a number of years. The following Code can only achieve the aims set out in its first article, i.e. to promote uniformity, accuracy and fixity in the use of names and to debar or discourage procedures leading to confusion and error, if it is adequately supported and widely adopted. The breeders and introducers of new plants are urged, in their own interest, to give names which are in accordance with the Code. Seedsmen and nursery­men should try to bring their catalogues into line with it. Registering authorities should refuse to register names not in accordance with the Code; no awards should be given to plants not named in accordance with the Code. Specialist societies should use it as a basis for their own codes of nomenclature. Writers on cultivated plants should endeavour to employ only names correct according to the Code; by frequently mentioning the Code as a standard of procedure they will help to make it known and appreciated. Instructors should bring it to the notice of their students and explain its provisions to them. Government agricultural and horticultural departments should take note of its provisions when drafting legislation. By action of this kind its utility and any weaknesses which need emendation will become evident. The Code is, however, provisional in that it can be modified and revised at the next International Horticultural Congress if such genuine trial reveals the need for any changes. Until then the text presented below stands as the official International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants approved by the 13th International Horticultural Congress. Copyright is disclaimed. Any person, institution or government interested in promoting uniformity, accuracy and fixity in the names of cultivated plants is accordingly welcome to reprint or translate this Code and to give it maximum publicity. Two copies of any such reprint or translation should be sent to the Secretary, International Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature and Registration, c/o The Royal Horticultural Society, Vincent Square, London, S.W.1, England.


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