Brugmansia Registry

FAQs about Cultivar Names


The answers we have provided are in some instances somewhat simplified in order to be of general application. Sometimes it may be necessary to refer to the detailed provisions of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants. If you cannot find or are unsure of an answer to your question, you are very welcome to email us at


Q. What is a cultivar?

A. Cultivar is short for ‘cultivated variety’.  A cultivar is a distinct and unique assemblage of plants selected for particular attributes that persist unchanged through propagation.

In perennial plants such as Brugmansia a cultivar is a clone: i.e. all plants of a cultivar are genetically identical (and genetically distinct from other cultivars) and the cultivar is propagated vegetatively – e.g. by cuttings or tissue culture. In this circumstance, the cultivar cannot be propagated by seed, as it does not ‘breed true’. In annual plants, such as some Datura, a cultivar represents a seed line which has undergone repeated selection and inbreeding until its selected characteristics are stable from one generation to the next.


Q. Where do cultivars come from?

A. Some cultivars are clones propagated from individual plants selected direct from wild (or feral, when escaped outside their natural geographic range) populations of species or naturally occurring hybrids. Such cultivars are said to have been discovered and when registered have a ‘discoverer’ cited (when known).

Other cultivars are the result of more or less careful and deliberate breeding and selection of hybrids within and between species. Such cultivars when registered have a ‘hybridizer’ cited, and, where the plant has been raised from seed by someone other than the hybridizer, have a ‘seedling parent’ cited as well. The parent plants’ names are cited too, when known.

The last main category is sports. These are cultivars derived from mutant branches on ‘host’ cultivars, which are removed and propagated by cuttings. The most common sports are variegated mutants of the host cultivar. Some host cultivars repeatedly produce the same sport in various parts of the world and/or at different times, in which case the sport is regarded as the same cultivar even though it has arisen repeatedly. An example is the variegated Brugmansia ‘Maya’, which repeatedly produces sport branches with a consistently different variegation pattern and color (which has not yet been named in this case).


Q. What is a Cultivar Group?

A. A grouping of cultivars based on shared defined aspects of their appearance, for example (but not restricted to) the shape and/or color of the flowers. Cultivar Groups are formally named within the provisions of the Code, and once established their names and definitions are permanent. Cultivar Groups have not yet been proposed and established for either Brugmansia or Datura.

Cultivar Groups based on breeding history are not permitted under the Code (but see below). The rationale for this is that knowledge of breeding history requires recorded information that cannot necessarily be gained by observation of the cultivar. If that information is lacking or becomes lost, the cultivar cannot be placed in its Group.


Q. What is a Cultivar Breeding-History Set?

A. A grouping of cultivars based on breeding history. In response to the needs of breeders, ABADS has developed an informal cultivar classification of this kind for Brugmansia as a means of indicating the species that have contributed to the formation of cultivars where this information is available. Many cultivars do not have good information on their parentage, and cannot be assigned to a breeding history Set with certainty.

The Code does not provide for this kind of classification, so it is said to be ‘informal’. The names of the Sets do not need to be, and in fact cannot be formally established as such.


Q. What is a cultivar name?

A. The name of a cultivar is at least the botanical genus to which it belongs, which is correctly written in italics – e.g. Brugmansia, plus the unique identifier of the cultivar in question – the cultivar epithet, which is correctly written in regular font and in single quotation marks – e.g. Brugmansia ‘Ecuador Pink’. This example can also be written in full as Brugmansia versicolor ‘Ecuador Pink’ because this cultivar belongs to the species B. versicolor. Likewise, cultivar names for hybrids which have a botanical name can be written in full – e.g. Brugmansia x candida ‘Grand Marnier’. However, the majority of inter-specific hybrid combinations in Brugmansia do not have their own botanical names and so are written as e.g. Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’. This ‘shorthand’ is acceptable for all cultivars regardless of their full botanical name.

The botanical part of the name is often left out when the context is obvious in which the cultivar epithet is being used. It is common practice, though strictly speaking incorrect, to refer to the cultivar epithet alone as the cultivar name.

Once formally established in accordance with the provisions of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, a cultivar epithet is (except under unusual circumstances) permanent and internationally recognized, whereas other names such as trade names and common or folk names are not. However, even though formally established, a cultivar name has no legal protection whereas trade names may.


Q. Who is in charge of cultivar naming?

A.  The principles, rules and recommendations governing the naming of cultivated plants are developed under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) by the International Union for Biological Science Commission for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants in consultation with experts worldwide. Periodically the Commission reviews and updates the principles, rules and recommendations with the aim of bringing ever-greater stability to the naming of cultivated plants.

The ISHS also has oversight of the implementation of the principles, rules and recommendations and delegates this responsibility for certain plant groups to International Cultivar Registration Authorities (ICRA) which it appoints.


Q. What is the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants?

A. Often abbreviated to the ICNCP or the Cultivated Plant Code or simply the Code, it is a book containing the principles, rules and recommendations governing the naming (nomenclature) of cultivated plants, plus other information including a directory of ICRAs. It is published by the ISHS and is now in its seventh edition (the 2004 Code). Its purpose is to set the ‘ground rules’ for the orderly management of the millions of cultivated plant names to international standards.


Q. What is an ICRA (International Cultivar Registration Authority)?

A. An expert body, often a Society, charged with the responsibility of managing the names of cultivars and cultivar Groups in the plant genera for which it is delegated this role by the ISHS. An ICRA maintains an official Register of accepted cultivar names and appoints an officer – the Registrar - to carry out this task. ABADS was designated ICRA for Brugmansia and Datura in 2002. Besides the Register, an ICRA may maintain other information including data on rejected or doubtful cultivar names, and also undertake to publish and thereby establish cultivar names which have been provisionally accepted into the Register but which are not yet established.


Q. What is a cultivar register?

A. It is a list or database of cultivar names and, where appropriate, Cultivar Group names, together with information about them, to which cultivars and associated information are more or less constantly being added.


Q. Who maintains cultivar registers?

A.  Any person or organization with an interest in doing so may maintain a register. [But please also see the next two questions]. However, ABADS in its capacity as the International Cultivar Registration Authority for Brugmansia and Datura has a particular responsibility to strive for high standards of comprehensiveness and accuracy in its Register, and to ensure that the principles, rules and recommendations in the Code are applied appropriately. Other persons or organizations maintaining registers of Brugmansia and Datura cultivars are not required to meet such standards, though they may voluntarily do so.


Q. What does cultivar registration signify?

A. Where an application for registration of a cultivar has been accepted by ABADS as the ICRA, it means that the name has found to be correctly applied (i.e. used for the right plant), that it accords with the Code, and that it has been established. Names that have not been established but which meet other requirements are provisionally accepted into the Register prior to being effectively published.


Q. Is a cultivar name established by registration?

A. No. A cultivar name is only established by effective publication and meeting other requirements of the Code. ABADS undertakes to effectively publish names accepted for registration within 8 months of accepting the submission if they have not already been established or been submitted for publication elsewhere.


Q. How are cultivar names established?

A. Names are formally established in perpetuity by publication in print, with the printed matter generally available [i.e. not confidential], dated at least to year, and with the name having a form which complies with the Code and accompanied by a description of the cultivar or reference to a description published elsewhere.

The description is a word or, preferably, words that a) indicate one or more recognizable characteristics of the cultivar and/or b) distinguish the cultivar from one whose name has been previously or is being simultaneously established.

It is desirable that the description distinguishes the cultivar from similar ones; for example, ones with the same parentage.

The 2004 Code recommends [Recommendation 22A] that ‘authors should avoid publishing new names of cultivars or Groups in ephemeral printed matter of any kind, in particular that which is multiplied in restricted and uncertain numbers, where the permanence of the text may be limited or where the publication in terms of number of copies is not obvious, or where the printed matter is unlikely to reach the users [botanists, agriculturalists, foresters or horticulturalists generally]’.


Q. Are all published cultivar names established?

A. No. Cultivar names that are published only in electronic media are not established because this does not constitute effective publication under the Code. Cultivar names that are published in print media are only effectively published if accompanied by a description or reference to a published description, and then they may not necessarily be established unless they meet other requirements of the Code.


Q. Can a cultivar name be reserved?

A. No. A name is either established or not. There is no formal mechanism for holding a name pending its proper establishment.

In the event that ABADS received registration submissions for two different cultivars with the same proposed name, we would treat the first received as having priority, other things being equal. However, if one had already been effectively published, that would have priority regardless of when or if it had been submitted for registration.

It is recommended that a cultivar name that has already been used but not formally established should generally be considered off-limits for use for a different cultivar, to avoid confusion, particularly if it is a name in recent common use. ABADS will advise you if your proposed name has been used already.


Q. Can a cultivar name be changed?

A. Once a cultivar epithet is established, it cannot be changed unless a change is required under the Code. For example, an established epithet cannot be changed merely because it seems inappropriate, odd or difficult to pronounce (e.g. suggesting the cultivar originated in a place it did not, or has flowers of a shade of yellow it does not, or is in a language only a minority of people speak).

The botanical part of a cultivar name can change if botanists change the name of the genus or species to which the cultivar belongs. For example, if Brugmansia was merged with Datura again (which is unlikely) the cultivar name Brugmansia ‘Dr Seuss’ would change to Datura ‘Dr Seuss’.

In the event that a name is established with an accidental spelling mistake, it can be corrected.


Q. How do I choose a cultivar epithet?

A. Carefully, because once established it is permanent! Within reason, and allowing for quite a number of rather technical and rarely encountered additional constraints in the 2004 Code, you can call a cultivar almost anything you like, provided the name is not Latin, not offensive, not enormously long, not liable to cause confusion and not already formally established or widely used (but not formally established) for another cultivar of the genus in question.


Q. In what language should cultivars be named?

A. Broadly, the cultivar epithet is in any language except Latin (the language of botanical naming). A name established in, say, German stays in German and does not get translated into, say, English when written in an English language publication.

If a cultivar is named in a language that does not use the roman alphabet (e.g. Thai, Japanese, Hebrew etc), the name is not established unless also transcribed into the roman alphabet (a,b,c etc) at the time it is effectively published.

Some long-established cultivar epithets are permitted to remain in Latin form, such as Brugmansia ‘Knightii’, but they are placed in single quotation marks and not italicized to distinguish them from botanical epithets.


Q. Do cultivar epithets have to make sense?

A. Not necessarily. They can be made up words or even contain numbers. They do not have to be of the correct spelling of words if a variation on ‘correct’ spelling is intended by the person naming the cultivar.


Q. Should cultivar epithets indicate what the plant looks like?

A. It is preferable (but not a strict requirement) that epithets are not purely descriptive (e.g. ‘Pale Pink’) because this increases the risk of them being applied to anything that fits the description contained in the name and hence creating confusion. On the other hand, names which are partly descriptive and also obviously names may be useful (e.g. ‘John’s Pink’).


Q. Can two cultivars have the same name?

A. Not within what is called the denomination class. The denomination class is the boundary within which names are considered. For Brugmansia and Datura, the respective denomination classes are the same as these genera. Therefore, the same name may not be used for two cultivars within Brugmansia nor within Datura, but the same name may be used for a Brugmansia and for a Datura cultivar because these are different denomination classes.

In the event that the same cultivar name is used twice within either Brugmansia or Datura, the first established has priority and the later one is changed. However, in the event that usage of the later name is widespread, the later name may be formally conserved by the ICRA by publishing its decision and rationale for doing so.


Q. Can a cultivar have more than one name?

A. In general, no. However, plants are sometimes given trade names different than their established cultivar name (if they have one), which may assist in marketing.

Where a cultivar is found to have been named (as a cultivar rather than with some other sort of name such as a trade name) more than once, the earliest established name has priority unless that conflicts significantly with current use.


Q. When are cultivar names unacceptable or to be rejected?

A. The only circumstances in which ABADS, as ICRA for Brugmansia and Datura, will reject names are when they transgress the rules of 2004 Code. Names which are not in accord with the recommendations of the Code will be discussed with the applicant to see if the applicant will agree to amend the proposed name to accord with the recommendations. Names that are rejected will be discussed with the applicant with a view to finding a suitable alternative and the reasons for rejection explained.


Q. When should cultivars be named?

A. Part of the definition of a cultivar is that its selected characteristics should be stable under propagation, meaning that the features that define the cultivar do not undergo significant alteration when the plant is multiplied. The concept of stability allows of course for some inevitable variation depending on the growing conditions. Cultivars should therefore not be formally named until the plant has been propagated, multiplied and observed for instability. Moreover, in some plants including Brugmansia, the flowers of the first season’s growth may not be typical of subsequent years, and one should therefore try to wait at least eighteen months to two years from the first flowering before naming and releasing a new cultivar.


Q. When should I not name a cultivar?

A. You should not name or submit a cultivar for registration without the permission of the person(s) who discovered or created and raised it if they are still alive. You should not name or submit a cultivar for registration without taking all reasonable steps to be certain that it has not already got a name. You should not name a cultivar until you have propagated the plant and observed it for instability.

We encourage you only to name or distribute cultivars that represent a significant improvement over existing cultivars available in your region. It is easy for all of us to have ‘parental’ bias about a cultivar we have raised, so we encourage you to get feedback about your cultivar from a critical colleague! Nevertheless, it is not ABADS’ role as the ICRA for Brugmansia and Datura to pass judgment on the quality of a cultivar.


Q. Can anyone name and submit a cultivar for registration?

A. Yes.


Q. Can cultivar names be established on websites and other electronic media such as compact disks (CDs)?

A. No. Listing in electronic media even with a description and photograph does not constitute effective publication, as these media are not considered permanent under the 2004 Code.


Q. Must both parents be registered cultivars for my cultivar to qualify for registration?

A. No, neither parent need be registered.


Q. Must I know the names of both parent plants to register my cultivar?

A. No, you do not need to know either. However, it is highly desirable that you do know at least the female parent because the more information there is about the cultivar, the more it contributes to general knowledge about Brugmansia breeding. It is therefore better to breed with named cultivars. Nevertheless, some very good cultivars have arisen as chance seedlings with unknown or doubtful parentage!


Q. Do I need to disclose the parentage of my cultivar in order to register it?

A. Technically not. However, we encourage you to be professional, open and honest about the parentage. Remember too, if a cultivar is good, it will outlive you, and future generations will want to know how it arose!


Q. How can I be sure a cultivar has the right name?

A. The best approach is to acquire plants from reputable knowledgeable growers. Try to keep good records so that if you sell or give away cuttings, you can pass the plant on with its correct name. Some people sell seed named with the name of its female (pod) parent, implying that you can grow that cultivar from seed. This is not a good practice as the seedlings will be genetically different from their parents (except in inbred seed lines of annual Datura cultivars) and so are not the same as the mother cultivar.


Q. How can I find out the name of my plant?

A. Many named cultivars are quite similar to one another, so it may be difficult to find its correct name. In addition, there are many unnamed plants available so it may be that your plant does not have a name at all. It is best to acquire plants that you can be reasonably confident have the right name in the first place and keep them securely and indelibly labeled. Failing that, you may be able to at least narrow down the possibilities by comparing your plant with photographs in our galleries, or posting a picture and description in our forums. It can still be quite difficult to identify a Brugmansia cultivar from photographs, though some are more distinctive than others. Getting to a reasonable level of certainly can be quite involved and may entail your obtaining properly named plants which you think might be the same cultivar as yours and growing them on for comparison.


Q. I want to sell plants of a cultivar but do not know its name, though I have tried to find it out. What should I do?

A. Be honest! List it as ‘name unknown’ and give a description of its qualities. Avoid guessing or inventing a name, which will only create confusion.

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Disclaimer: While the information at this Web site is believed to be true and accurate, the American Brugmansia & Datura Society Inc. (ABADS) and the authors cannot accept any legal responsibility for any errors or omissions that may have been made. ABADS makes no warranty, expressed or implied with respect to the material contained herein. Copyright of all original Images submitted for public display will be retained by the contributor. The contributor does, however, agree to grant ABADS a non-exclusive license to modify, reproduce, and distribute all images in the manner that it sees fit. You must request written permission from ABADS Board of Directors in order to copy and publish any part of this website.

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