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Registering New Clematis

by Victoria Matthews, (former) International Clematis Registrar

Clematis come under the wing of the RHS in its capacity as an International Registration Authority and I act as Registrar. The function of the Registrar is twofold. First, to complete a record or "Register" of all cultivar names so far published (The International Clematis Register) and, second, to register new cultivar names.

The International Clematis Register ("Register") includes all cultivar names, whether or not the plants are still in cultivation. Any name which has been published must be included in the Register because any printed matter is permanent and a potential source of confusion with any other use of the same name. The purposes of the Register are to prevent the duplication, of names and to make certain that names accord with the rules laid out in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (1995).

The Register is more than just a list of names. For new names, most of the information collected on registration forms will be incorporated. For older names, comparable information gleaned from historical sources will be included, although such information may be sparse.

It is worth noting that it is not the function of the Registrar to judge the distinctness of a cultivar, nor to judge whether one cultivar is better than another. Also, the acceptance of a cultivar name does not imply that the plant is of horticultural merit.

The RHS published the first edition of the International Clematis Register in early 2002 and annual supplements will now be issued. As the Registration Authority for Clematis, the RHS is required to publish information about new cultivars, hence the necessity of supplements.

Registration of new cultivar names

There is a worldwide interest in Clematis and new cultivars are being developed in countries as far apart as Canada, Estonia, Holland, Japan, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It is extremely important that new cultivars are registered, otherwise there is a danger that two completely different cultivars could be given the same name with resulting confusion both for nurserymen and the buying public. The rule (that no two taxa may bear the same name) applies to both wild and cultivated plants at all taxonomic levels.

If you have a new cultivar which you consider to be distinct enough to deserve a name, you should request a registration form from the Registrar (it is available on this link from the RHS website), fill it in and return it. The Registrar will check your chosen name and let you know whether or not it is acceptable - if it is, it will be registered. There is no charge for this service .

It is important that the form be completed as fully and accurately as possible, because it will provide the basis of the entry in the Register. Information given in the Register can only be as good as that supplied by the registrant. In addition to the completed registration form, the Registrar would very much appreciate a photograph of the plant and a pressed specimen: These will be deposited in the RHS Herbarium at Wisley, where they will form part of the "Standard Portfolio" for that cultivar.

It is important that registrants do not leave registration until the last moment. Nothing is more frustrating to a commercial firm than to have their chosen name rejected after the catalogues, publicity and labels have been printed.

A note on new cultivars. Before rushing to register, make sure that you really do have a cultivar! A single plant does not qualify: a cultivar is a group of individual plants which collectively is distinct from any other, which is uniform in overall appearance and which remains stable in its attributes. You should also convince yourself that your cultivar really is an improvement on others and worth naming.

A note on publication. Registration alone does not offer protection for a cultivar name. In the case of Clematis, the Register will publish names submitted and accepted prior to its publication date: subsequent names will be published in the annual supplements. However, there is a danger that your chosen name could be used by someone else unless you ensure its prompt publication. In order to be absolutely fixed a name has to be published and accompanied by a description of at least the obvious characteristics. This can be done in a nursery catalogue or in printed matter which is distributed to the general public or at least to botanical or horticultural institutions with libraries (Newspapers, non-technical magazines and similar publications which are not designed to last are not acceptable places for publication). It is important to ensure that the publication is dated, at least to the year. If someone else publishes your chosen name (even if yours has been registered) before you or the Registrar publish it , you will have to think of an alternative name and this can be a nuisance.

The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (in its 8th edition at this point in time) sets out strict rules for the formation of cultivar names and can currently be downloaded from the link above.

The first edition of the International Clematis Register is now out of print although it is available from the RHS website, along with its supplements.

The current International Clematis Registrar is:
Sarah Holme,

c/o RHS Gardens Wisley, Woking, Surrey, GU23 6QB

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