International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants

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International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants
EditorsChristopher D. Brickell, Crinan Alexander, Janet J. Cubey, John C. David, Marco H.A. Hoffman, Alan C. Leslie, Valéry Malécot, Xiaobai Jin, et al.
CountryThe Netherlands
Release number
Subject Cultivated plant taxonomy
Published International Society for Horticultural Science (June 2016)
Media typePrint
ISBN 978-94-6261-116-0 (9th ed.)
Preceded by8th edition (October 2009) 

The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP), also known as the Cultivated Plant Code, is a guide to the rules and regulations for naming cultigens, plants whose origin or selection is primarily due to intentional human activity. [1] Cultigens under the purview of the ICNCP include cultivars , Groups ( cultivar groups ), and grexes . All organisms traditionally considered to be plants (including algae and fungi) are included. [2] Taxa that receive a name under the ICNCP will also be included within taxa named under the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, [3] for example, a cultivar is a member of a species.


Brief history

The first edition of the ICNCP, which was agreed in 1952 in Wageningen and published in 1953, has been followed by seven subsequent editions – in 1958 (Utrecht), 1961 (update of 1958), 1969 (Edinburgh), 1980 (Seattle), 1995 (Edinburgh), 2004 (Toronto) and 2009 (Wageningen). [4] The ninth (most recent) edition was published in 2016 (Beijing). [5]

William Stearn has outlined the origins of ICNCP, tracing it back to the International Horticultural Congress of Brussels in 1864, when a letter from Alphonse de Candolle to Edouard Morren was tabled. This set out de Candolle's view that Latin names should be reserved for species and varieties found in the wild, with non-Latin or "fancy" names used for garden forms. Karl Koch supported this position at the 1865 International Botanical and Horticultural Congress and at the 1866 International Botanical Congress, where he suggested that future congresses should deal with nomenclatural matters. De Candolle, who had a legal background, drew up the Lois de la Nomenclature botanique (rules of botanical nomenclature). When adopted by the International Botanical Congress of Paris in 1867, this became the first version of today's International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN). [6] [7]

Article 40 of the Lois de la Nomenclature botanique dealt with the names of plants of horticultural origin:

Among cultivated plants, seedlings, crosses [métis] of uncertain origin and sports, receive fancy names 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 sequence of names (Pelargonium zonale Mistress-Pollock). [lower-alpha 1]

This Article survived redrafting of the International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature until 1935 and its core sentiments remain in the present-day ICNCP of 2009.

The first version (1953) was published by the Royal Horticultural Society as a 29-page booklet, edited by William Stearn. [9] Following the structure of the Botanical Code, the ICNCP is set out in the form of an initial set of Principles followed by Rules and Recommendations that are subdivided into Articles. Amendments to the ICNCP are prompted by international symposia for cultivated plant taxonomy which allow for rulings made by the International Commission on the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants. Each new version includes a summary of the changes made to the previous version; the changes have also been summarised for the period 1953 to 1995. [10]

Name examples

The ICNCP operates within the framework of the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants which regulates the scientific names of plants. The following are some examples of names governed by the ICNCP:

Note that the ICNCP does not regulate trademarks for plants: trademarks are regulated by the law of the land involved. Nor does the ICNCP regulate the naming of plant varieties in the legal sense of that term.

Trade designations

Many plants have "selling names" or "marketing names" as well as a cultivar name; the ICNCP refers to these as "trade designations". Only the cultivar name is governed by the ICNCP. It is required to be unique; in accordance with the principle of priority, it will be the first name that is published or that is registered by the discoverer or breeder of the cultivar. [11] Trade designations are not regulated by the ICNCP; [12] they may be different in different countries. Thus the German rose breeder Reimer Kordes registered a white rose in 1958 as the cultivar 'KORbin'. This is sold in the United Kingdom under the selling name "Iceberg", in France as "Fée des Neiges" and in Germany as "Schneewittchen". [13]

Trade designations are not enclosed in single quotes. The ICNCP states that "trade designations must always be distinguished typographically from cultivar, Group and grex epithets." [14] It uses small capitals for this purpose, thus Syringa vulgarisLudwig Spaeth (trade designation) is distinguished from S. vulgaris 'Andenken an Ludwig Späth' (cultivar name). [15] Other sources, including the Royal Horticultural Society, instead use a different font for selling names, e.g. RosaIceberg 'KORbin'. [13]

See also


  1. "Dans les plantes cultivées, les semis, les métis d'origin obscure et les sports, reçoivent des noms de fantaisie, en langue vulgaire, aussi différents que possible des noms latins d'espèces ou de variétés. Quand on peut les rattacher à une espèce, à une sous espèce ou une variété botanique, on l'indique par la succession des noms (Pelargonium zonale Mistress-Pollock)." [8] In the modern style the species name would be italicized and the cultivar name (fancy name) put in quotes, e.g. Pelargonium zonale 'Mistress Pollock'.

Related Research Articles

In biological classification, the order is

  1. a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms and recognized by the nomenclature codes. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family. An immediately higher rank, superorder, may be added directly above order, while suborder would be a lower rank.
  2. a taxonomic unit, a taxon, in that rank. In that case the plural is orders.
Cultivar Plant or grouping of plants selected for desirable characteristics

A cultivar is an assemblage of plants selected for desirable characteristics that are maintained during propagation. More generally, a cultivar is the most basic classification category of cultivated plants in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP). Most cultivars arise in cultivation, but some are from wild plants that have distinctive characteristics.

In botanical nomenclature, variety is a taxonomic rank below that of species and subspecies, but above that of form. As such, it gets a three-part infraspecific name. It is sometimes recommended that the subspecies rank should be used to recognize geographic distinctiveness, whereas the variety rank is appropriate if the taxon is seen throughout the geographic range of the species.

<i>Pelargonium</i> Genus of plants

Pelargonium is a genus of flowering plants which includes about 280 species of perennials, succulents, and shrubs, commonly known as geraniums, pelargoniums, or storksbills. Geranium is also the botanical name and common name of a separate genus of related plants, also known as cranesbills. Both genera belong to the family Geraniaceae. Carl Linnaeus originally included all the species in one genus, Geranium, and they were later separated into two genera by Charles Louis L'Héritier de Brutelle in 1789.

<i>International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants</i> Code of scientific nomenclature

The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is the set of rules and recommendations dealing with the formal botanical names that are given to plants, fungi and a few other groups of organisms, all those "traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants". It was formerly called the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN); the name was changed at the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne in July 2011 as part of the Melbourne Code which replaced the Vienna Code of 2005.

In botany and plant taxonomy, a series is a subdivision of a genus, a taxonomic rank below that of section but above that of species.

Botanical name Scientific name for a plant, alga or fungus

A botanical name is a formal scientific name conforming to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) and, if it concerns a plant cultigen, the additional cultivar or Group epithets must conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP). The code of nomenclature covers "all organisms traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants, whether fossil or non-fossil, including blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria), chytrids, oomycetes, slime moulds and photosynthetic protists with their taxonomically related non-photosynthetic groups ."

In taxonomy, a nomen nudum is a designation which looks exactly like a scientific name of an organism, and may have originally been intended to be a scientific name, but fails to be one because it has not been published with an adequate description. This makes it a "bare" or "naked" name, one which cannot be accepted as it stands. A largely equivalent but much less frequently used term is nomen tantum.

Botanical nomenclature is the formal, scientific naming of plants. It is related to, but distinct from taxonomy. Plant taxonomy is concerned with grouping and classifying plants; botanical nomenclature then provides names for the results of this process. The starting point for modern botanical nomenclature is Linnaeus' Species Plantarum of 1753. Botanical nomenclature is governed by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN), which replaces the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN). Fossil plants are also covered by the code of nomenclature.

International Botanical Congress (IBC) is an international meeting of botanists in all scientific fields, authorized by the International Association of Botanical and Mycological Societies (IABMS) and held every six years, with the location rotating between different continents. The current numbering system for the congresses starts from the year 1900; the XVIII IBC was held in Melbourne, Australia, 24–30 July 2011, and the XIX IBC was held in Shenzhen, China, 23–29 July 2017.

In botany, an infraspecific name is the scientific name for any taxon below the rank of species, i.e. an infraspecific taxon. The scientific names of botanical taxa are regulated by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN). This specifies a 'three part name' for infraspecific taxa, plus a 'connecting term' to indicate the rank of the name. An example of such a name is Astrophytum myriostigma subvar. glabrum, the name of a subvariety of the species Astrophytum myriostigma.

A Group is a formal category in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) used for cultivated plants (cultivars) that share a defined characteristic. It is represented in a botanical name by the symbol Group or Gp. "Group" or "Gp" is always written with a capital G in a botanical name, or epithet. The Group is not italicized in a plant's name. The ICNCP introduced the term and symbol "Group" in 2004, as a replacement for the lengthy and hyphenated "cultivar-group", which had previously been the category's name since 1969. For the old name "cultivar-group", the non-standard abbreviation cv. group or cv. Group is also sometimes encountered. There is a slight difference in meaning, since a cultivar-group was defined to comprise cultivars, whereas a Group may include individual plants.

In botanical nomenclature, a hybrid may be given a hybrid name, which is a special kind of botanical name, but there is no requirement that a hybrid name should be created for plants that are believed to be of hybrid origin. The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICNafp) provides the following options in dealing with a hybrid:

A cultigen or cultivated plant is a plant that has been deliberately altered or selected by humans; it is the result of artificial selection. These anthropogenic plants, for the most part, have commercial value in horticulture, agriculture or forestry. Because cultigens are defined by their mode of origin and not by where they are growing, plants meeting this definition remain cultigens whether they are naturalised in the wild, deliberately planted in the wild, or growing in cultivation.

An International Cultivation Registration Authority (ICRA) is an organization responsible for ensuring that the name of plant cultivars and cultivar groups are defined and not duplicated.

Principle of Priority

Priority is a fundamental principle of modern botanical nomenclature and zoological nomenclature. Essentially, it is the principle of recognising the first valid application of a name to a plant or animal. There are two aspects to this:

  1. The first formal scientific name given to a plant or animal taxon shall be the name that is to be used, called the valid name in zoology and correct name in botany.
  2. Once a name has been used, no subsequent publication of that name for another taxon shall be valid (zoology) or validly published (botany).
Taxonomic rank Level in a taxonomic hierarchy

In biological classification, taxonomic rank is the relative level of a group of organisms in a taxonomic hierarchy. Examples of taxonomic ranks are species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, domain, etc.

Cultivated plant taxonomy

Cultivated plant taxonomy is the study of the theory and practice of the science that identifies, describes, classifies, and names cultigens—those plants whose origin or selection is primarily due to intentional human activity. Cultivated plant taxonomists do, however, work with all kinds of plants in cultivation.

Grex (horticulture) hybrids of orchids

The term grex, derived from the Latin noun grex, gregis meaning 'flock', has been expanded in botanical nomenclature to describe hybrids of orchids, based solely on their parentage. Grex names are one of the three categories of plant names governed by the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants; within a grex the cultivar group category can be used to refer to plants by their shared characteristics, and individual orchid plants can be selected and named as cultivars.

The Kew Rule was used by some authors to determine the application of synonymous names in botanical nomenclature up to about 1906, but was and still is contrary to codes of botanical nomenclature including the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. Index Kewensis, a publication that aimed to list all botanical names for seed plants at the ranks of species and genus, used the Kew Rule until its Supplement IV was published in 1913.


  1. Spencer & Cross (2007)
  2. Brickell (2009 , p. xi), Preface
  3. Brickell (2009 , p. 5), Article 1.2
  4. Brickell (2009)
  5. Brickell (2016)
  6. Stearn (1952)
  7. Stearn (1952a)
  8. de Candolle (1867, p. 24)
  9. Brickell (2009 , p. xix), Previous editions
  10. Trehane (2004 , pp. 17–27)
  11. Brickell (2009 , p. 3), Principle 3
  12. Brickell (2009 , p. 4), Principle 6
  13. 1 2 Beales (2011 , p. 41)
  14. Brickell (2009 , p. 21), Article 17.3
  15. Brickell (2009 , p. 17)