The Naming and Registering of New Varieties
By J. Harold Clarke, Ph.D.
Chairman, Nomenclature and Awards Committee
Several American rhododendron breeders are now actively working to produce new and better varieties and particularly varieties which will be better adapted to local growing conditions. It is highly desirable that all really superior varieties be propagated and distributed so that other gardeners can eventually obtain them. If inferior varieties are named and distributed there will be many disappointments and the breeder may later be embarrassed by having his unworthy children brought to his attention.
Occasionally gardeners have a plant which they like but of which they do not know the identity. They may think it is a seedling and worthy of being named but it is necessary to be very sure of one's self before naming such a plant. There is always a chance that it is some old variety whose identification tag has been lost and even if not, such odd plants are seldom good enough to warrant naming.
If a seedling is really of superior merit and it looks like it might become a good commercial variety, then it would be better not to distribute cuttings or scions indiscriminately until after it has been named. Furthermore, sister seedlings which are so like the best plant that they might later be confused with it, should not be distributed in such a way that they might later become confused with it. It is true that the British have given names to groups of seedlings of the same parentage but that practice is not approved by the ARS. Only superior plants should be named and that should be on the basis of one individual plant, and all propagating wood should come from that original plant.
Growers having varieties that they are thinking of naming, would do well to read the ARS Code of Nomenclature which has been published in the ARS Bulletin for April, 1951, on Page 69. It will be noted there that a new variety should be adequately described both as to plant and flower characters in some accepted publication such as the ARS Bulletin. The preparation of a description for such publication may help the breeder decide whether the variety is worthy of naming or not. Unless one can note really outstanding characteristics it might be best to wait a while or perhaps decide not to name the variety after all. There will always be a place for better varieties but it is certainly to be hoped that the already long list of names will not be cluttered up with inferior sorts which will never become of any great importance.
After a name is decided upon it is highly desirable that it be registered with the Secretary of the American Rhododendron Society. Unless such names are recorded at some central point there may be duplications which would result in much confusion. There is an official American Rhododendron Society Check List Card which breeders may secure by writing to the Secretary or to the writer of this article. Such cards help to get the essential data down in an orderly fashion. If breeders prefer to write in and give a short description of their variety by letter, the following information should be given: Proposed name of the variety. Parentage; if both parents are known, then the female parent is written first. If only one parent is known, it should be recorded as open pollinated seedling of that variety. Name of person making the cross. Year cross was made if that is known. Year the variety was named. If it has been described or illustrated in any publication, give name of publication and date of the article. Plant size. Usually this is given as estimated average height of mature plants. Habit of growth. Leaves: whether deciduous or evergreen, size, color, etc. Flower color, flower shape, shape of truss and number of flowers in truss. Season of bloom. Hardiness, if known. Any additional remarks which will help to describe the variety or tell anything about its possible usefulness.
Unless the breeder is well informed as to present names of rhododendrons and azaleas, it would be advisable to avoid special announcement of the name until it has been registered. If the name is already in use, then you will be informed of that fact and asked to suggest another name. There is nothing more confusing than to have two varieties of the same kind of plant being sold under the same name.
Those breeders who may have given names to varieties some years ago are requested to register the names if they have not done so, provided the varieties are to be distributed. Names given seedlings which will never be propagated and sold by nurserymen, need not be registered.
It is desirable that this information be sent the Society within the next few weeks so that the American Stud List can be compiled. Azaleas and azaleodendrons should of course, be listed.