By Kit Knotts
Though Piers was not a part of the original "People, Places & Plants of the PCL of Waterlily Names" articles that appeared in Pond & Garden May-June 2000, Volume 2, Issue 1, he must be included here for the story to be complete.
As I tried to find a starting point for work on the PCL (Provisional Check List of Waterlily Names) in limited notes passed on to me by IWGS, I decided to email the Canadian member of the ISHS (see below) Commission. He passed me along to the UK and I soon received a phone call from Piers offering information and guidance. I could hardly understand him, not the accent but the terms! I began to have an idea how much I had to learn. He told me I needed have, read and understand the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, "The Code". I got my copy, read it and still didn't have a clue. I started in anyway. Piers kept me going when, tearing my hair at midnight trying to figure out how to proceed with the project, an email from him would magically (if sporadically) appear on my screen and point the way.
I call him "The Boss of the Code" which made him, at least in my mind, my boss while building the PCL. He would demur and say he was only a contributor but he saved my life more than once. When we met in person in Denver in April of 2001, I was astounded by his depth of knowledge of the naming of plants, botanical nomenclature, and came to realize that he is THE authority on nomenclature in the world today. He is also amazingly down to earth and funny beyond description.
I resigned as Registrar for IWGS (International Waterlily
and Water Gardening Society) on completion and approval of the
PCL. My interest in nomenclature is still high though -- the
challenges of the learning curve presented by "The Boss"
He lives and works in Witchampton, Wimbourne, Dorset UK in the countryside north of Bournemouth on the South Coast. He comes from a farming family and founded Yockletts Nursery (1974-1982) which specialized in pot-grown perennials, woodland plants and ground cover. After closing the nursery, Piers devoted his energies towards stabilizing nomenclature in the nursery trade with the publication of his Index Hortensis Volume 1: Perennials (1989).
A popular lecturer worldwide, Piers is well known for his informal and witty style which makes the complex field of horticultural nomenclature not just understandable to the lay person but enjoyable as well. As keynote speaker for the April 2001 Colorado Water Garden Society "Links To Learning" Seminar, he related this charming story about the origin of Linnaean nomenclature:
"In the 1700's, during the period known as the Age of Enlightenment," began Piers, "the cultural revolution in Europe included natural history. The interest in plants was widespread and a young man named Carl began the study of the flora of his native Sweden. Since surnames didn't really exist at the time, this man gave himself the last name of Linnaeus, after the linden trees near his home."
Linnaeus, it seems, was an arrogant, naughty, saucy young
man who, as he flitted around Northern Europe, collected as many
ladies as he did plants and plant names. Nevertheless his system
of naming plants, developed somewhat by accident, is that used
almost universally today. During that time the convention was
to use descriptive phrases in Latin for genus and species plant
names. As more and more plants were discovered, the names got
longer and longer. In 1753, Linnaeus published his Species Plantarum,
the title another testament to his arrogance, since it means
literally all the species on the planet.
The "Bible" for naming wild plants is the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. It addresses rules of naming and tries to unravel the confusion in nomenclature created by the wars, distances and bad communication of the past. For many years, the same system was used for manmade plants. In the 1950's, a new Commission was assigned the task of developing the first ICNCP, currently in its sixth edition with another due in 2003. Until the 1995 Code was published, even the Preamble was incomprehensible to most lay people. Piers, as Chief Editor of the 1995 Code, made it a handbook that all can use.
Within waterlilies as in all other groups, we can't duplicate names or it will cause great confusion. The names of wild plants are expressed in Latin form and must also be described in Latin or the names cannot even be considered as valid. Fortunately for most of us, cultivar names must be expressed in a modern language with certain restrictions in length, form, etc. In order to be "accepted" names, they must be "published and established" under specific conditions set forth in the Code.
When you have a new and wonderful waterlily and consider naming and registering it, the first thing you have to determine is that you do indeed have a new cultivar. There are a number of criteria that need to be met, the most important of which are "Is it really different?" and "Do I have a number of plants that are uniform and stable in their characteristics?"
The full name of the new cultivar is the genus name, in this case Nymphaea, together with the name you give it, the "epithet". New names must be published in a dated publication (not electronic!) in order to be "fixed", protected under the Code. For the complete version of "How To Name A New Cultivar" go to http://www.ishs.org/sci/icraname.htm
The ISHS, the leading worldwide organization of Horticultural Scientists, was formally established in 1959. The aim of the ISHS is to promote and to encourage research in all branches of Horticulture and to facilitate the cooperation of scientific activities and knowledge transfer on a global scale. It is now over 40 years since the International Cultivar Registration Authority (ICRA) system for recording and publishing cultivar names came into being as well. Trehane has recently revised the ICRA section of the ISHS web site.