Many plants and animals have common names as well as scientific names. Common names provide a general description of the organism. Most people understand what is meant by rose, dogwood, or ragweed. However, common names are often not specific enough for identification of the species. For example, there are several kinds of dogwood trees. The specific kind of dogwood is not specified by the simple common name for this plant.
Why Use Scientific Names?
Common names can be misleading and make it difficult for people from different cultures and different parts of the world to communicate. For example,
Scientific names describe both the plants' distinguishing characteristics and the relationships among organisms.
Living organisms are classified hierarchically (in ranked categories). Starting with the most basic and least inclusive level, species are typically defined as organisms that are able to interbreed and produce recognizably similar offspring. Similar species are grouped into a genus; genera sharing distinguishing characteristics are grouped into families, and families into orders, classes, and so on.
For the purposes of this Web module, the levels of
Other things to note: