With the rapid expansion of the number of hosta
cultivars available to the gardening public over the past several
decades, there has been a great need to find a way keep track of
them all. As might be suspected, many of the cultivars vary only
slightly from one or, in some cases, many other similar hostas. If
Mark Zilis' book,
The Hostapedia, you will see
many instances where he declares that two cultivars are actually the
same plant but under two different names.
In an attempt to help gardeners
and professional horticulturists differentiate
between all of these plants, The American Hosta Society went through
the process of establishing an International Registrar for the
Genus, Hosta. The Registrar is appointed by the International
Registration Authority for the Genus, Hosta which is part of the
International Society for Horticultural Science. The first Registrar
was Mervin Eisel who served from 1974-1992. He was followed by
Dr. Jim Wilkins
and Gayle Hartley Alley who became the Registrar in 2016.
A. Registrar's Role - There is a
certain amount of misunderstanding when it comes to the role of the
Registrar. His or her responsibilities are pretty narrowly defined
as to what they can and cannot do during the
Perhaps the key area of confusion regards the
Registrar's role in determining the merit, worthiness, uniqueness or
stability of a new hosta cultivar. To put it bluntly, they have NO
real role in judging if the plant being registered is truly
something new and worthy of introduction. They may point out
similarities to other cultivars but, in the end, it is up to the
registrant to proceed. So, if you look at a new, big, blue hosta
cultivar and wonder why it was allowed to be registered since it
looks just like 400 others, it is not the Registrar's fault.
What the Registrar does is to make a permanent
record of the name and description of the cultivar so it is kept in
a central location. When someone has a new hosta cultivar which they
would like to register, they complete a form, add a small
registration fee and send the information off to the Registrar. He
or she then checks to make sure that the application fulfills the
requirements of the International Code of Nomenclature for
Cultivated Plants. There are specific guidelines for the form and
number of words that may appear in a hosta cultivar's name. The
Registrar also checks the records to make sure that the name has not
already been used by another registered plant.
The registration will list the name or names of
a) Originated (hybridizer, discoverer or sport
c) Introduced (into the nursery
d) Registered (filled out the forms) the cultivar.
All this information will help establish "ownership" of a particular
cultivar. In some cases, the same name(s) appears in all four
categories while in some, all the people are different.
Finally, each year, the Registrar publishes an
announcement that lists the cultivars approved for registration
during the previous year. This constitutes the public notification
that the registrations have taken place. Only at that time is the
cultivar considered officially registered.
B. Why Not Register a New Cultivar? -
Zilis (2009) estimated that there were around 7,500 different
named hostas out there in the world when he published his book in
only about 5,000 of them had been registered. Even that number has
been somewhat inflated by the fact that The American Hosta Society
and certain individual
Hostaphiles have made a concerted effort to
go back and register many of the older cultivars. Several
have been registered on behalf of deceased originators and some
cultivars of unknown origin have been registered by the
For example, several of the fine blue, 'Tardiana' hostas originated
by Eric Smith in
England back in the 1960s have been registered
posthumously on his behalf by the
British Hosta and Hemerocallis
Society and others.
Even with all that effort, an estimated 2,500
or more hostas or about 33% of named cultivars have not been
registered. Why? Over the past 30 years of being around the hosta
world (but not as a hybridizer myself) I have heard a lot of
"reasons" why these named hostas are not registered. Some of them
. It takes too much effort to fill out the
. I'm just in it for a hobby and don't like
having to conform to other people's rules.
. I named the hosta and gave it to a few
friends but it really does not warrant registration.
. The origins of that cultivar are long
forgotten and nobody knows anything about it.
Mr. PGC Comment: According to several
sources, the American Hemerocallis Society has around 60,000
registered daylily cultivars. As I understand it, it is almost
unheard of for someone to introduce a new daylily and NOT register
it. What a difference. Why the difference?
_ C. Plant Patent - Yes, just like
any other "invention", a new hosta cultivar may be patented. This
process involves the U.S. Patent Office and has nothing to do with
the registration process of The American Hosta Society discussed
above. If a plant is successfully patented, anyone other than the
owner of the patent who wants to propagate it must pay a royalty for
every new plant produced. Just like other patents, there is a time
limit as to how long the owner has exclusive control over the plant.
The classic hosta, H. 'Royal Standard' was the
first one to receive a U.S. patent. It was obtained by Wayside
Gardens when they were still a nursery in Ohio back in 1965. H.
'Solar Flare' by
Henry Ross of Ohio was the second patent granted to
a hosta. That happened in 1981. There are now over 51 hosta
cultivars that are protected by U.S. patents with more going through
the process each year.
More on the Hosta