ARS History
& Awards

History of the ARS Publications & Rhododendron Registration

The lifeblood of any organization is its publications.  To those who live at a distance the one way to keep their interest was through publications.  At the fall 1944 meeting, it was decided that the president would appoint an editorial committee to publish a monthly bulletin and a yearly outline.  Hence, the ARS Quarterly Bulletin and annual Yearbook were started as a benefit of membership in the Society.

The first publication of the ARS was the 1945 Yearbook under the direction of Dean Collins of the Oregon Journal.  The publication of the first Yearbook was quite an undertaking as the society was without funds and no previous experience in publications.  It was a war economy; help was scarce in all lines of endeavor, even paper was scarce.  There was no other way but to go to work and make the best of it.  Friends and good credit accomplished a great deal.

Mr. Dean Collins of the Oregon Journal offered to edit the books for the years 1945 and 1946.  Mr. Peter Binford, of the firm of Binford and Mort, Publishers, agreed to publish the books with provisions to pay for them when money was available.  The first editions were of fifteen hundred copies, quite a sizable accomplishment for the new society.

Mr. Endre Ostbo, of Bellevue, Washington, furnished the cost of the first colored plate of his new hybrid, R. 'Mrs. Donald Graham.' The Oregon Journal furnished the other cuts gratis.  Lewis Ostbo of the Engraving department of the Journal made the cuts.

The Society published Yearbooks were edited at first by Dean Collins and later by Robert M. Gatke in 1945 (hybrids), in 1946 (species), 1947 (stud book), 1948 (azaleas), and 1949 (hybrids).  In addition to rhododendron information, a roster of the charter members of the Society was included in the 1945 book.  In 1953, Dr. J. Harold Clarke became Yearbook Editor and oversaw the ARS publications Rhododendrons in 1956 and Rhododendrons for Your Garden in 1961.

The first Quarterly Bulletin was published in 1947 under Rudolph Henny's editorship, who continued in this post until his untimely death in 1963.  As Alfred Martin put it: "This devoted man served without compensation during his first 10 years as editor." [5]  The first bulletin was the April 1947 edition.  The ARS sought to "publish appropriate bulletins to be mailed to members, containing information on care, growth, propagation, names, descriptions of hybrids and species, and other interesting and vital information on the Rhododendron Family." [1]

The contents of the first Bulletin were:

You can see that all articles in this issue are related to Society business.  Rhododendron related articles such as information on care, growth, propagation, names, descriptions of hybrids and species were reserved for the Yearbook until 1950 when the Yearbook was discontinued.

From 1945 through 1949, the Yearbook was published and mailed free to members.  With the printing costs of the Yearbooks ever rising, the membership was asked in 1949 to decide whether to continue them or make a major commitment to the Bulletin instead.  The Bulletin won.  After the 1949 Yearbook, the quarterly bulletins of the Society took its place, under the editorship of Mr. Rudolph Henny.  In comparison to the first issue of the Bulletin in 1947 which was all Society related articles, the January 1950 issue which was meant to replace the Yearbook was a complete turn around and while retaining Society related articles it also included great technical content:

Then in 1956, the ARS set up a Registry for North American rhododendron varieties.  J. Harold Clarke was appointed Registrar and chairman of a committee to draw up a set of rules for the registry.  When breeders submitted names, the Registrar checked them against the lists of names available to him and informed the breeder that, to the best of his knowledge, the names had or had not been used before.  The name would refer to a single, definite, known clone of a plant; the name would not be misleading; and any prospective buyer could have some idea as to the characteristics of the plant connected with the name, either by actually seeing a specimen or by reading the description.

Registration was entirely voluntary but it was expected that all new rhododendron names being considered by American breeders would be checked with the Registrar before being used.  Initially, all new azalea names were checked with the American Horticultural Society, as that organization set up a registration service for the Azalea Series of the Genus Rhododendron.  The 1956 Yearbook, Rhododendrons, listed known varieties of rhododendrons and American rhododendrons.  All existing names of American varieties which had been published in the Bulletin or Yearbooks of the ARS were automatically included in the Registry list.

The ARS Code of Nomenclature governed the naming.  Names submitted which did not conform to the Code were returned to the breeder with suggestions of other names that could be selected.  Only clones, no group names, were registered.  No names were preapproved or saved for future use.  When an acceptable name was approved, the breeder was given a card to fill out describing the plant in great detail.  When that was returned and approved, the registration process was complete.

The July 1957 Quarterly Bulletin of the ARS published the first list in the ARS Plant Registry.  Here is an example of one of the plants registrations in that first list:

'Captain Jack'  P. A.: 'Mars' X R. eriogynum Rudolph Henny, Brooks, Ore., to 4 ft., upright spreading, leaves to 8" X 3", flowers currant red, HCC 821/1, funnel campanulate, 21 to 24 flowers per truss, mid-season.

The publishing of the names and descriptions of newly registered plants became a regular feature of the QBARS and eventually in the JARS when it was introduced in 1982.

The registration of plant names was under control of the International Horticultural Congresses.  It devised a rather technical International Code of Nomenclature which various plant societies were asked to use as a basis for a more simplified Code of their own.  The Royal Horticultural Society of England was designated as the International Registration Authority for Rhododendrons.  The ARS set up a North American Rhododendron Registrar to work with the official RHS registrar for the mutual benefit of breeders and fanciers in both North America and Europe.  The ARS registrar handled the details of registration and proposed names were forwarded to the International Registrar for final determination as to whether they had been used before.  Dr. H. R. Fletcher of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, was the International Registrar.  He prepared a checklist of Rhododendrons and Azaleas which contained close to 10,000 names.  This list pointed to the urgent need for registration of Rhododendron variety names.  Unfortunately, many names had already been used more than once, some 5 and even 6 times for different clones.

At first azalea names were not sent to the ARS Registrar, but sent to Dr. Henry Skinner, Director, U. S. National Arboretum, Washington, D. C.  Rhododendrons and azaleas shared many names.  However, from this point on names used for rhododendrons were not used for azaleas and vice versa.  By 1958, the ARS Registrar was handling azaleas also.

The ARS Registrar would only register clones, not groups.  It was permissible to name an outstanding seedling of a species or an unknown cross.  Latin names or names formed by combining parts of the Latin names of the parents were not acceptable.  Names including single letters, the articles A or The, and titles such as Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc. were avoided.  Names of states or countries, without another word could not be used.  Names likely to be confused, as Caroline and Carolina, and those which exaggerate, as "Best of All" were avoided.  A variety could not be named after a living person without their consent.

Registration was for two important reasons:

  1. To prevent duplication of names and the use of names which were misleading.
  2. To get the descriptions of named plants on record.

After the death of the editor, Rudolph Henny, in 1963, the Board created a new office of Executive Vice-President, a part-time employee.  He would edit the Quarterly Bulletin and any other publications, serve as registrar, handle the details of the secretary's office, act as general business manager, build up the membership, and promote the Society.  It was offered to ARS President Dr. J. Harold Clarke, who accepted.  He then resigned as president and Edward B. Dunn, the vice-president, automatically came into office.  In view of these changes the Board recommended that the dues be raised to $7.50 a year, with $1.50 going to the chapter.  There were 2,500 members and 21 chapters.

In 1969, J. Harold Clarke was awarded the Gold Medal for outstanding service to the ARS.  He was employed as a plant scientist by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.  He had served as president of the ARS, Yearbook Editor, Editor of the Quarterly Bulletin, Executive Vice President, Executive Secretary and Plant Registrar.

In 1974, Edwin K. Parker became ARS Registrar.  He created the American Rhododendron Society Plant Registration Form illustrated to the right.

In 1981, Ed Parker received the ARS Gold Medal for his thirty years of service to the ARS.  It read in part, "Due to your persistent, imaginative and patient approach to this thankless and frustrating task, the registration of American Rhododendron Hybrids is now recognized internationally for high standards, professional approach and technical completeness.  For your countless hours of service in design of new standards, voluminous correspondence, maintaining complete files, constant quest for accuracy, preparation of quarterly publications, and competent cooperation with international authorities, the American Rhododendron Society with pleasure presents the Gold Medal, its highest honor, to Ed Parker." [4]

For 35 years, The Quarterly Bulletin of the American Rhododendron Society was a 6" x 9" booklet with about 60 or 70 pages per issue.  Then in 1982, in order for the Bulletin to be a journal of record for scientific papers, the name changed to the Journal of the American Rhododendron Society and the size changed to 8" x 11" with about 50 or 60 pages.  Ed Egan was the editor during this period and the change was made with absolutely no fanfare.  The improvements to our Quarterly including the new format resulted in reduced costs and a more flexible use of color.  The ARS Journal stood out among publications in the horticultural field.  Now the JARS has been published with the new format for almost 35 years.  The quality has remained first class.

In 1985, Jay Whitney Murray became the ARS Registrar.  Her husband, Robert, established a computer database containing registration information.  Still, only clones could be registered.  Then in 1988, the International Rhododendron Registrar announced the registration of collective names for assemblages of hybrid Rhododendrons.  This could involve either a group or a grex name and although both were acceptable the group name was preferred.  Such epithets were to be coined with great restraint and only where the breeder considered their use essential.  Moreover, under no circumstances could a selected clone of a group be given the same name (e.g. Rainbow group and cv Rainbow).  However, the use of that group name as an element in a cultivar name was permitted (e.g. Rainbow group and 'Blue Rainbow').  It definitely was neither necessary nor desirable that every new collection of hybrid seedlings be given a collective name.

In 1999, the ARS recognized Jay and Robert Murray with the ARS Gold Medal for their exceptional service to the ARS.  The award read in part, "Her registration of plant names required careful attention to detail and long hours.  Together they created a computer database of more than 25,000 registered and unregistered names of rhododendron and azalea cultivars which greatly improved the registration process.  With her knowledge of taxonomy and terminology she has been an invaluable proofreader for the Journal and the Seed Exchange catalog." [9]

In 2013, Alan Leslie, the International Rhododendron Registrar wrote a tribute to Jay Murray as she stepped down from being the North American Rhododendron Registrar due to failing eyesight.  Jay had processed 3,106 registrations.  The RHS had recognized Jay Murray's exemplary service in 2005 by awarding her the Loder Rhododendron Cup.  In 2013, the International Society for Horticultural Science, which oversees the entire plant registration process, awarded Jay the ISHS Medal.

In 2013, the ARS awarded Jay and Robert Murray the Pioneer Achievement Award.  It read in part, "have functioned as liaison with the Royal Horticultural Society processing over 3,000 applications for cultivar registration.  However, their contributions go far beyond the registration process, as their efforts extended to helping hybridizers in the development of new plants, in taxonomic studies, and in the creation of a method of systematizing associated data in a digital database when digitization was in its infancy.  Their stewardship of this core Society function has earned the Murrays the ARS Gold Medal, RHS Loder Cup, and the approbation of the many Society members they have so well served in this capacity." [11]

In 2013, the new ARS Registrar was Michael Martin Mills of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter.

The following is a chronological list of the ARS Editors:
1944 - 1947           Dean Collins (Yearbook)
1947 - 1953           Robert M. Gatke (Yearbook) & Rudolph Henny (Bulletin)
1953 - 1963           Rudolph Henny (Bulletin) & Dr.  J. Harold Clarke (Yearbook)
1963 - 1969           Dr. J. Harold Clarke (Bulletin)
1969 - 1972           P. H Brydon (Bulletin)
1972 - 1973           Reuben A. Hatch (Bulletin)
1973 - 1978           Molly Grothaus (Bulletin)
1978 - 1985           Ed Egan (Bulletin/Journal)
1985 - 1991           Adele Jones (Journal)
1991 - 2009           Sonja Nelson (Journal)
2009 - present       Dr. Glen Jamieson (Journal)

The following is a chronological list of the ARS Registrars:
1963 - 1969           Dr. J. Harold Clarke
1974 - 1985           Edwin K. Parker
1985 - 2013           Jay Whitney Murray
2013 - present        Michael Martin Mills


  1. "Some Reminiscences Of The First Secretary Of The American Rhododendron Society, Part 1"; by George D. Grace; QBARS V15, N2.
  2. "Some Reminiscences Of The First Secretary Of The American Rhododendron Society, Part 2"; by George D. Grace; QBARS V15, N3.
  3. "Edward B. Dunn Our New President"; (no author); QBARS V17,N4; October 1963
  4. "ARS Medal Awards"; (no author); JARS V35, N3; Summer 1981.
  5. "An ARS Retrospective: Our First Decade, 1944-1954, Part 1"; by Franklin H. West; JARS V48, N2; Spring 1994.
  6. "An ARS Retrospective: Our First Decade, 1944 - 1954, Part II"; by Franklin H. West; QBARS V48, N3; Summer 1994.
  7. "An ARS Retrospective: Our Second Decade, 1954 - 1964, Part III"; by Franklin H. West; QBARS V48, N4; Fall 1994.
  8. "An ARS Retrospective: Our Fourth Decade, 1974 - 1984, Part V"; by Franklin H. West; QBARS V49, N2; Spring 1995.
  9. "Gold Medal Award: Jay Whitney Murray and Robert A. Murray"; (no author); JARS V53, N3; Summer 1999.
  10. The Pacific Coast Rhododendron Story; by Sonja Nelson; Binford & Mort Publishing; 2001.
  11. "Pioneer Achievement Award: Jay and Robert Murray"; (no author); JARS V67, N3; Summer 2013.

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