National Plant Collection© helps PAGS launch its new online International Register of Pelargonium cultivars

The Pelargonium and Geranium Society (PAGS) launhed its new ‘free to view’ web-based International Register of Pelargonium cultivars at the RHS Great London Plant Fair on 14th April 2015.

Fibrex Nursery’s National Plant Collection© of Pelargonium, as approved by plant conservation charity Plant Heritage, has been instrumental in bringing the new online Register to life with pictures of their Collection which contains many rare cultivars.

The original paper-based Register does not have any pictures so adding them was going to be difficult and time consuming, as many plants have been lost. However with the help of Fibrex Nursery, over 400 photographs have been taken so far and it is planned to shoot the remaining 1,600 plants in the collection this year once they are in flower again. 

The International Register and Checklist, with over 16,000 entries, was originally produced and published in 2008. This took many years to compile, as the source documents were either hand written or old catalogues, some over 100 years old and produced in a number of countries around the world. Hybridisers have continued to introduce new plants and to send details of them to The Pelargonium and Geranium Society (PAGS), who are responsible for the upkeep of the Register.

Currently the Pelargonium Register is a printed spiral bound document of 314 pages. The addendum, which was introduced in 2011, is a separate document of 42 pages including covers. Maintaining and reprinting the Register is prohibitively expensive both for the Society and the customer. In addition, once printed it was soon out of date as new plant entries were submitted. 

The solution was to convert the Register onto a website that was separate to the PAGs site which, up to this point had collected the new cultivar data from the hybridisers. The current Register is an alphabetical list of plants with descriptions of what the plant looks like. It was decided to utilise what is currently in the Pelargonium Register albeit laying out the content according to web page convention. 

To keep the Register up to date the website uses an electronic submission form which automatically sorts the entry into the same database structure as the other entries. New plants can be submitted for inclusion in the Register along with a photograph of the plant. The Registrar has the responsibility to verify and approve the submission. 

A key characteristic of the new Register is that it is fully searchable. Every plant entry is ‘tagged’ with key characteristics as it is entered into the database and this enables it to be searched by a number of relevant terms. Therefore, if a user wants to view the Register as it is displayed in the printed Register, i.e. alphabetically, then that is how the default display is on the web page. However, if the user wants to only see Zonal Cultivar types with single flowers they can select the characteristics from a drop down menu. A user can be as selective as they like, for example, they can search for all Tri-coloured Plants with double flowers that were registered prior to 1900. Once the search terms are picked the page will display all the relevant items. A free text search will also be available allowing the use of any term to search through the database. 

The Pelargonium and Geranium Society is a non-profit making organisation and have been fortunate to receive a significant grant from the Stanley Smith (UK) Horticultural Trust, without whose help this project would not have been possible. 

The International Registrar is responsible for reviewing applications for registrations of new cultivars and in assessing a new cultivar for acceptance into the Register. PAGS strictly adhere to the code and practices of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants guidelines. This makes the plant name legitimate; gives it priority as well as ensuring clarity rather than confusion and avoids repetition of a name, something that happened frequently in the past. 

The next steps will be to set up sub editors around the world to update the Register with plants introduced in their countries and to supply pictures of plants the Register is still missing.

Plant Heritage has approved five Collections of Pelargonium of different scopes
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