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How an international name is given to a new coconut variety ?

The international name of a coconut cultivar (or variety)  is made of two parts: a cultivar name and an abbreviation. Specific populations or origins or variants within a cultivar can be referred to using a population name after the cultivar name and by a number after the abbreviation. To avoid confusion, it is highly desirable to use standardized naming procedure. The present document explains how a coconut cultivar is named.

The national researchers in charge of the coconut genetic resources programme are fully responsible for naming the coconut cultivars from their country. However, they are prompted to follow a number of guidelines in order to ensure proper standardization. An international name must not duplicate any previously recorded name (including synonym names).

A cultivar name should consist of two parts. It should not exceed 30 characters and is written in English (except possibly for the first part). The first part of the name includes one of these:

•  a vernacular cultivar name,
•  a place or region or country of origin,
•  a prominent biological trait of the cultivar,
•  an ethnological trait linked to the history of the cultivar,
•  a colour, if the cultivar is homogeneous for fruit colour (autogamous dwarfs), or
•  a combination of those.

The name of the country of origin (or the corresponding adjective) is optional but may be the only element of part one. If not, the other elements are placed after the country. Avoid unnecessary words such as “local”, “ordinary” or “coconut”. Examples are given below:

•  Agta Tall: Agta is a vernacular name describing a prominent trait (blackish necrotic pericarp),
•  Markham Valley Tall: Markham Valley is a place name,
•  Indian West Coast Tall: was renamed from “West Coast Tall”. “Indian” is desirable here because “West Coast”
alone can refer to many places in the world,
•  Andaman Giant Tall: combination of a place (Andaman) and a prominent trait,
•  Malayan Yellow Dwarf: combination of a place (country) and a colour,
•  Raja Brown Dwarf, combination of an ethnological trait and a colour.

The international abbreviation of a cultivar consists in three to four letters, eventually followed by two digits. An
abbreviation must not duplicate any previously recorded abbreviation (preferably including synonym abbreviation). The first part of the abbreviation is a mnemonic of the full name, as shown in the following examples:

• For the West African Tall, the abbreviation is WAT,
• For  the  Bali Yellow  DwarfBAYD  was  preferred  to  the  previous AYD,  which  was  a  poor  mnemonic  (The abbreviation BYD already designates Brazilian Yellow Dwarf).

For self-pollinating varieties: a letter (G, Y, R, O or B) codes the colour of the fruit. In the case of green fruits, the letter G can be omitted:

•  MYD for Malayan Yellow Dwarf,
•  CATD (without G) for Catigan Green Dwarf.

The abbreviation also indicates the type, by using the letters T or D when applicable. For instance:

•  PRD for Pemba Red Dwarf (autogamous dwarf with homogeneous colour),
•  WAT for West African Tall (allogamous tall with various colours within the cultivar),
•  RTB for King Coconut (synonym Rath Thembili, semi tall).

The idea of populations within a cultivar has been developed in order to be accurate in specifying the origin of germplasm, while avoiding creating too many unnecessary cultivar names. This population name is added after the cultivar name; and two digit numbers are added to the abbreviation. Examples are given below, with population names in italics:

•  Cotabato Tall Ionas (COTT01) is one of several populations collected near Cotabato in the Philippines during a “Course grid strategy” survey,
•  East African Tall Kenya (EAT32): corresponds to the former Kenya Tall conserved in India,
•  Malayan Yellow Dwarf Jamaica (MYD03) is more heterogeneous than the usual MYD. This population has been maintained for a long period outside of country of origin and it has diverged from the original population through genetic drift, selection or unwanted pollen mixture,
•  Panama Tall Aguadulce (PNT01) is phenotypically close to the typical Panama Tall (PNT) but is introgressed with a small proportion of genes from the Atlantic coast coconut palms,
•  Sri Lanka Tall Ambakelle (SLT02) is a selected population of the Sri Lanka Tall (SLT),
•  Maitum Tall Spicata designates some individual palms that have special characteristics of the inflorescence, belonging to the Maitum tall cultivar.

This naming system is quite special because, from the beginning of the COGENT network, researchers were requested to systematically give names to all the accessions they collected. We strongly recommend the national researchers NOT to give a new cultivar name to each and every population they collect in farmer’s field. This will avoid the unwanted multiplication of cultivar names and the costly conservation of the same germplasm under different appellations.

To receive a new cultivar name, the accession collected must really have special traits that distinguish it from the other cultivars existing in the country and at international level. For instance, the cultivar “Brazilian Yellow Dwarf” had to be renamed as a population of the Malayan Yellow Dwarf: “Malayan Yellow Dwarf Brazil”, because the observation of morphological traits clearly indicated duplication.

International name are not definitely fixed and they may evolve with time. For instance, the researchers from Vanuatu, a Melanesian Archipelago, gave population names to the many accessions they collected:

• Vanuatu Tall Pélé
• Vanuatu Tall Nipeka
• Vanuatu Tall Waluembue
• Vanuatu Tall Walarano
• Vanuatu Tall Napueiamasan
• etc...

Then researchers will have to observe in the genebank the characteristics of these populations, using morphological, productivity and molecular traits (DNA analysis). For instance, if the population "Vanuatu Tall Nipeka" prove to have clear distinct traits, its name will have to evolve: it will be renamed as a new cultivar, probably “Nikepa Tall”. On the other hand, if the populations "Vanuatu Tall Waluembue" and "Vanuatu Tall Walarano" prove to be identical, they will be merged under one of the names only; when the accessions will have to be regenerated, the  two accessions will be merged, as there is no need to conserve the same germplasm as two separate accessions.

Use of the international cultivar names in scientific publications is strongly recommended. Whilst there may be good reasons to use another name, it is a good practice to include a table or a list establishing the link between the alternative names and the international names.

Efforts to standardize coconut cultivar names have been undertaken for decades. The International Workshop on Coconut Genetic Resources, held in Cipanas (Indonesia) in October 1991. recommended setting up the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (presently known as COGENT) and to network information and documentation. This was implemented during a meeting held in Montpellier (France) in May 1992, where representatives from national collections clarified the status of existing collections and outlined what would become the Coconut Genetic Resources Database (CGRD). They compiled a list of descriptors and designed standardized methods of observation.

Once the first version of the CGRD was released, Brazil, China, Cook Islands, India, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Western Samoa were visited by CIRAD experts in the framework of the CGRD project (Bourdeix 1996; 1997a; 1997b; 1998; Bourdeix et al. 1999; Baudouin 2002). National researchers were trained in gathering and inputting data into the database. These visits offered the experts many opportunities to interact with national researchers about the names of their coconut cultivars. Many new names were recorded and some had to be revised. All modifications were made under the direct authority of the researchers in charge of their national coconut research programmes. Surveys made in the Philippines and in Brazil added further names. The CGRD now  is the major source for the drafting of the present international coconut cultivars name list.

R. Bourdeix, Montpellier, April 2012.


Hamelin C, Bourdeix R, Baudouin L. 2005. The international coconut genetic resources database. In: Batugal P, Ramanatha Rao V Oliver J, editors. Coconut Genetic Resources. International Plant Genetic Resources Institute – Regional Office for Asia, the Pacific and Oceania (IPGRI-APO), Serdang, Selangor DE, Malaysia. pp. 427-438.
Baudouin  L,  Bourdeix  R,  Bonnot  F,  Hamelin  Ch,  Rouzière  A.  2000.  COGENT  establishes  an  international  coconut  genetic resources database (CGRD). COGENT Newsletter 3:1-2.
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Bourdeix  R.  1997b.  Actions  de  formation  en  Afrique  et  Amérique  Latine/Caraïbes.  Cours  de  formation  des  formateurs  à l’utilisation  du  manuel  Stantech  (Techniques  Standardisées  de  Recherches  pour  l’Amélioration  du  Cocotier).  Mission Report, August 1997, Doc CIRAD-CP No. 857. CIRAD, Montpellier, France. 49p.
Bourdeix R. 1998. Coconut germplasm and breeding in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. CIRAD 1997 Annual Review Report (March 1998), Doc CIRAD-CP No. 998. CIRAD, Montpellier, France. 50p.


The Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT) aims to promote national, regional and global collaboration among coconut-producing countries and
partner institutions in the conservation and use of coconut genetic resources for enhanced livelihoods.

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