A.R.S. Rhododendron Registry
By J. Harold Clarke
Action was taken recently by the A.R.S. Board of Directors to set up a Registry for American Rhododendron varieties. The writer was appointed Registrar and chairman of a committee to draw up a set of rules for this important activity of the Society. Other members of the committee are Mrs. Ruth M. Hansen, W. P. Riddlesbarger, Rudolph Henny and Robert Bovee. The rules have not yet been completely worked out but it seemed advisable to inform the members of the progress to date. If breeders have names they would like to submit immediately the Registrar would be glad to check the lists of names available to him and inform the breeder that, to the best of his knowledge, the names have, or have not been used before.
Why Have Registration?
The basis of practically all plant production is the horticultural variety, and the rhododendron is no exception. One doesn't buy just a rhododendron but a 'Pink Pearl', a 'Purple Splendour', or possibly a 'Britannia'. It naturally follows then that the name must refer to a single, definite, known type of plant, that the name must not be misleading, and that the prospective buyer must have some idea as to the characteristics of the plant connected with the name, either by actually seeing a specimen or by reading a description. If the same name is used for two different varieties someone is going to be disappointed, and yet it is not unusual for two breeders in different parts of the world to individually select the same name.
There are many other ways in which names may be unfortunate or misleading, including outright deception on the part of unscrupulous dealers. The whole problem of confusion in names of cultivated plants has been given a great deal of study by various organizations. It is hoped that the A.R.S. registration system now being developed will be of value to breeders by helping them select good names which have never been used before, and which will not be easily confused with existing names. It should protect the buyer of rhododendrons by helping to eliminate duplication and confusion.
How Registration Will Work
Registration is, of course, entirely voluntary but it is hoped that all new rhododendron names being considered by American breeders will be checked with the Registrar before being used. All new azalea names presumably should be checked with the American Horticultural Society, as that organization is setting up a registration service for the Azalea Series of the Genus Rhododendron. All existing names of American varieties which have been published in the Bulletin or Yearbooks of the A.R.S. will be automatically included in the Registry list.
A master check list, to include all present rhododendron and azalea names throughout the world will be prepared so that breeders may consult it to determine if a certain name has already been used. This is a big job and will take time as there are thousands of varieties. The list may never be 100% complete as names in relatively little known publications and catalogs may escape detection.
The A. R. S. Code of Nomenclature will govern the type of name. Names submitted which do not conform to the Code will be returned to the breeder with a suggestion that other names be selected. Only clones, no group names, would be registered. Lists of names should not be submitted for blanket approval, to be used later, but the name should be for a definite clone which will be released for general distribution within a reasonable time.
When an acceptable name has been submitted the breeder will be given a descriptive card to fill out and when that has been received registration will probably be complete. However, it has not yet been decided whether or not there shall be a filing fee to cover the cost of the necessary expenses involved. Another thing to be considered is the possible use of a symbol of some kind which could be used to designate registered varieties only.
Brief descriptions of registered varieties would be published in the A.R.S. Bulletin and lists of names would probably be published about every five years in the Society's Rhododendron Books.
Obviously the Registrar would have no way of checking the accuracy of the descriptions submitted by breeders. His sole responsibility would be to determine, in so far as possible, that the name conforms to the rules.
An International Problem
The registration of plant names has been given attention by International Horticultural Congresses, and a rather technical International Code of Nomenclature drawn up, which various plant societies are invited to use as a basis for a more simplified Code of their own. The last Congress made provision for International Registration Authorities in various fields with National Registration Centers in countries where there is sufficient interest. The Royal Horticultural Society of England was designated as the International Registration Authority for Rhododendrons. It seemed desirable, however, to start a Registry in this country at this time as so many American varieties are being named-about 200 listed in the Rhododendron Book. In all probability some type of cooperation between the A.R.S. and the R. H. S. will be worked out to the mutual benefit of breeders and fanciers in the two countries.