The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants: The New Edition

The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants

The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature establishes the rules which govern the scientific naming of both wild and cultivated plants. The cultivated plants are all those plants which mankind has developed and selected to grow, cultivate and use and the origin of which is chiefly due to intentional human activity.

The International Code of Nomenclature lists scientific or Latin names of all plants while at the same time promotes accuracy, uniformity, and stability in formulating in formulating the scientific names of all plants (Botanical Code) and the cultivar names of agricultural, forestry, and horticultural plants (Cultivated Plant Code).

In essence, The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP), guides through the rules and regulations for naming cultigens. Cultigens are species of plants which represent a cultivated form and have not originated from a wild type. They are the result of artificial selection and are also referred to as man-made or anthropogenic plants. Cultigens can be formed in various ways such as plant breeding, genetic modification, and tissue grafting.

According to ICNCP, the names of cultigens are set in three classification categories:

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    the cultivar
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    the Group (formerly cultivar-group)
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    and the grex

While the ICNCP used to fail to recognize the use of trade labels or any marketing devices as scientifically acceptable names it did offer advice how they should be presented. The ICNCP does not name all cultigens as some do not have recognized commercial value.

In short, this code aims to secure a stable method of naming taxa of cultivated plants, while avoiding ambiguity and eliminating errors.

The History of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants

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The first edition of the ICNCP was agreed in 1952 in Wageningen and then published in 1953. There have been seven subsequent editions – the one published in 1958 in Utrecht, the next in 1961 which was actually an update of 1958 edition, and then 1969 in Edinburgh, 1980 in Seattle, 1995 again in Edinburgh, 2004 in Toronto and 2009 in Wageningen. The most recent, ninth edition was published in 2016.

The origins of ICNCP can, according to William Stearn, be traced back to to the International Horticultural Congress of Brussels in 1864. During the congress, the letter from Alphonse de Candolle to Edouard Morren was put forward which suggested that Latin names ought to be reserved for wild species, while non-Latin names should be used for garden forms. This view was later supported by Karl Koch at the 1865 International Botanical and Horticultural Congress and at the 1866 International Botanical Congress. Koch also set forward a proposal that future Congresses should deal with nomenclatural matters. De Candolle, who had a legal education, drew up the rules of botanical nomenclature or Lois de la Nomenclature Botanique which were subsequently adopted by the International Botanical Congress of Paris in 1867, and thus represent the first version of actual International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN).

The Article 40 of the Lois de la Nomenclature Botanique dealt with the names of plants of horticultural origin and stated that cultivated plants should be given “fancy names in common language” (Vienna Rules, 1906), as different as possible from the Latin names reserved for wild plants. In case their origin can be traced to a botanical species, subspecies or variety, it is suggested that a sequence of names should indicate the origin. The core sentiments of this Article remain present even in the new version of the ICNCP.

The first official version of the ICNCP  published in 1953 by the Royal Horticultural Society and edited by William Stearn was a 29-page booklet. In accordance with the structure of the Botanical Code, the ICNCP is first presented in the form of an initial set of Principles which are then followed by Rules and Recommendations subdivided into Articles.

International symposia for cultivated plant taxonomy initiates Amendments to the ICNCP, which, in turn, make allowances for rulings the International Commission which deals with the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants delivers. As a rule, every re-edited or new version must incorporate a summary of the changes made to the previous version.

The Process of Making The New Edition of the International Code for the Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants

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The newest edition of the International Code for the Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants is the ninth one. It was published in 2016 and replaces the eighth edition also referred to as Scripta Horticulturae Number 10 or Regnum Vegetabile Vol. 151., which was published in October 2009.

The suggestions to alter the previous edition had been set forward by all interested parties, and the number of proposals was published in Vol. 5, 2011, Vol. 6, 2012 and Vol.7, 2013 of Hanburyana. During the meeting of the IUBS International Commission for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants, which was held in the period from 20th to 21st of July 2013 in Beijing, China, it was decided to prepare a new edition.

Janet Cubey gathered and organized all the proposals submitted, and forwarded them to all the Commission Members prior to the meeting. In this way, even those who were not able to attend could state their opinions and make them known. Moreover, all those attending the Sixth International Symposium on the Taxonomy of Cultivated Plants held on 15–19 July in Beijing, received Copies of the proposals as well.  On the closing day of the Symposium, an open discussion regarding the proposals was organized.

During the IUBS International Commission, meetings were held in order to discuss the proposals to amend the Code thoroughly. The apposite proposals were voted on by all those present, but, at the same time, the opinions of those members who were unable to attend were conveyed to the meeting and taken into account.

Jean Maison (CPVO, France), Yolanda Herta (UPOV, Switzerland), and Natalie Iwanycki (Royal Botanical Gardens, Canada also attended the meeting as observers and contributed to it significantly. As a result of the meeting, the Editorial Committee designated to perform the editing of the Code and arrange it for publication was selected. This Editorial Committee included Chris Brickell as its Chairman, and Valéry Malécot, Crinan Alexander, Marco Hoffman, John David, Alan Leslie, and Xiaobai Jin. Janet Cubey was proclaimed Editorial Committee Secretary.

The Beijing Forestry University and Qixiang Zhang and Xiaobai Jin, the conveners of the Symposium, provided the facilities and hospitality for the Commission meeting.

The Chairman Chris Brickell, Janet Cubey, John David and Alan Leslie initially prepared the new edition at Wisley by using both  transcribed recordings taken at the meeting and the notes taken by the Editorial Committee Secretary. Next, the drafts were sent to all other members of the Editorial Committee initiating further discussion.  The final version and a request for an additional vote on the provisions of Art. 34 were also forwarded to each Commission member in order to consider all their comments and suggestions before the publishing.

The following members submitted proposals and suggestions for the revision of this Code: Roger Cross (Australia), Julian Shaw (UK), Xiaobai Jin (China),James Armitage (UK), Janet Cubey (UK), Hiroyuki Iketani (Japan), John McNeill (UK), Saskia Bodegom (Netherlands), Alan Leslie (UK), Charles Nelson (UK), Johan van Scheepen (Netherlands), Roger Spencer (Australia), Dawn Edwards (UK), Richard Sanford (UK), Adrian Young (UK).

The Changes Incorporated In the New Edition

The overall format and style and the general order of the Articles in the ninth edition remain the same as in the eighth which was published in 2009. However, the numbering within the Articles has been modified to take the removal and addition of certain provisions into account. The new edition of the Code thus includes the comparative key listing of all the modifications in numbering which were made to the Rules, Notes, Recommendations and Divisions between the two editions (The section titled: The Comparison Between the 2009 Code and This Edition).

While the Principles remain essentially the same, there are two important changes. Firstly, the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature is renamed to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. Secondly, the use of trade designations is recognized by the New Edition although it is also clearly stated that this Code does not regulate it.

Numerous changes and amendments relating to the Rules and Recommendations for the categories cultivar, Group and grex have also been introduced and listed in the Preface of the New Edition.

Where to Find or Buy The New Edition?

The newest edition of the International Code for the Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, referred to as the Scripta Horticulturae 18, can be found online in the PDF form. It can also be purchased as a hard copy by ordering from International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), in which way you also support the work of the Society. The members of the ISHS enjoy 20% discount.

About the Author

I’m Emily and after a ten year career as a journalist I have moved on to share my passion for gardening. While getting out in the garden is one of my favourite hobbies, and helps me de-stress after a long day in the office, I often found myself frustrated at not getting the results I wanted from my plants. Through blogging, I have uncovered the answer to lots of common problems and now I want to share my knowledge with other horticulture enthusiasts.

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