Latin in cultivar names
Mon, 04 Jun 2007 09:31:57 PDT
> That's where the rule "no Latin cultivar names" comes from. I don't 
> know if it's "no Latin" or "no Latin-form or Latin-like or could-be-
> confused-with-Latin-by-idiots".

The two articles of the Code relevant to this are:
"19.13 For a cultivar name to be established on or after 1 January 1959
its epithet is to comprise a word or words in any language other than
"19.14 Notwithstanding Art. 19.13, Latin words or words in Latin form
may be used in new cultivar names when it can be demonstrated that they
are current in a language other than Latin, for example as terms, common
phrases, personal names, and place names." (e.g. "caveat emptor", "non
sequitur", "Julius Caesar", "Bognor Regis", "Nova Scotia", etc.)

What interests me is that there is no reference to intention in how the
word for the cultivar was chosen.  'Album', 'Albus' and 'Alba' are
perfectly valid words in the English language, although in such a
context neither of them refer to whiteness, but say the person of the
Allium was actually a keen stamp collector, a Harry Potter fan, or had a
deep-rooted Scottish heritage.  The Code is certainly not clear about
how to deal with these cases.

The reason Latin was prohibited after 1959 is to make as clear a
distinction as possible between cultivar and botanical name.  Good
practice is therefore to try as far as possible to avoid its use unless
it is an old cultivar, but I acknowledge that the tendency to stick an
'Album', 'Variegatum', 'Flore Pleno', 'Nanum' on the end of common
mutations is just too tempting as people do understand what it means.
However, it is much more useful to give these mutations a proper
cultivar name as then it identifies that clone and distinguishes it from
the next one that happens to appear with white flowers.  If you cannot
think up a good name then just call it white-flowered form or something
informal like that and wait for someone else to think up something

Of course, there is the question as to whether having Latin in cultivar
names is that much more confusing - or should we just allow it anyway?


Dr Christopher Whitehouse
Keeper of the Herbarium
RHS Garden Wisley
Surrey GU23 6QB
Tel: 01483 224234
Fax: 01483 211750

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