Why Is It Confusing to Refer to Organisms by Common Names?

It is confusing to refer to organisms by common names because some unrelated organisms share the same common name. One example of this are the plants known as geranium. One of them is the pelargonium, and the other is the true geranium, which is also known as cranesbill.

Pelargoniums are popular houseplants and bedding plants with balls of brilliantly colored flowers that rise above fan or ivy-shaped leaves that are often fragrant. These plants blossom from mid-spring to autumn, depending on the varietal.

Cranesbills, or true geraniums, are border plants that are good for rock gardens. They are hardy plants with simple flowers that come in shades of blue, pink or white. It is important that a gardener know the difference between cranesbill and pelargonium because of the differences in their looks and habits as well as their needs for sunlight, soil, water and feeding.

Similar confusion can arise with the animals that are known as dolphins. One type of dolphin is a fish, and the other is a marine mammal. The dolphins that are mammals belong to the order Cetacea, and are further divided into 43 species. These animals breathe air and nurse their young with milk. The dolphin fish, also called a mahi-mahi or dorado, are of the species Coryphaena hippurus.