Geranium vs. Pelargonium

Beautiful, BC(Zone 9b)

Yesterday a customer asked me what is meant by Zonal Geranium, so I looked it up. Then I got to thinking, "Why are Geraniums called Pelargonium" but there are true Geraniums? Can anyone shed some light on this?

Corvallis, OR(Zone 8b)

It is rather complicated or so it seems and started in the 1700s. Most of today's active Botanists consider there to be 5 genera in the Geraniaceae family. The botanical (scientific) names of three of those are the subject of this forum: Geranium, Pelargonium and Erodium.
Today it seems that the genus Geranium has at least 3 common names including Geranium, Hardy Geranium, and Cranesbill. The Genus Pelergonium has at least 2 common names, which are Geranium and Zonal Geranium. Erodium's common names are Erodium and Storksbill. In Europe the many members of the Genus Geranium were early on commonly called Geraniums. In South Africa where most Pelargoiums are from they were also commonly called Geraniums.
Since most of the cultivated members of the Genus Geranium are perennial and hardy in temperate climates they now tend to be called 'Hardy Geraniums' or to a lesser extent 'Cranesbills'.
The cultivated members of the Pelargonium Genus tend to be annual and not hardy in temperate climates and perhaps that is where the Zonal of 'Zonal Geraniums' comes from? Long answer to a short question but maybe it helps. There is a longer answer but of no great help.

Beautiful, BC(Zone 9b)

Thanks OwlCreekGarden. I also realized when I said, "Why are Geraniums called Pelargonium" what I meant to say is, "Why are Pelargonium called Geraniums". I just didn't understand when there are true Geraniums why the Pelargoniums are called Geraniums. I guess the common name from South Africa stuck in Europe. When I was looking up "Zonal Geranium" I did find out the dark band on the leaf is where the name comes from but can't remember where I found that.

Corvallis, OR(Zone 8b)

I think you are right about the Zonal group. Seem like I read that somewhere myself. I suppose then those without the dark band are just Pelargoniums called Geraniums. Hope your spring has sprung as it seems it has here as of today. We will see.

Beautiful, BC(Zone 9b)

Ditto. It actually felt like spring today for the first time. Good sales at the garden centre ta' boot.

Hanceville, AL(Zone 7a)

Is a geranium a pelargonium, or is a pelargonium a geranium? Luciee {;^)

Batavia, IL

Geraniums and pelargoniums are both members of the genus geraniaceae. Geranos is Greek for crane or cranesbill and Pelargos is Greek for stork or storksbill. The seed pod of each resemebles the respective bird's bill in their name. How is that for useless info taking up space in a mind. I am waiting for it to come up on Jeopardy and I will be all set.

Hanceville, AL(Zone 7a)

Thanks, 2manyhosts. Looks like they are kissing cousins. Luciee

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I am a bookaholic. Right now I am reading a book about the Hardy Geraniums. It says this name problem began in 1753! That is when Linnaeus put the cranesbills (now Geraniums), storksbills (now Erodium) and Pelargoniums in a single genus he called Geranium. So when the tender flowers from South Africa that we now know as Pelargoniums were introduced to Europe, people called them Geraniums. In 1789 the genus was divided into the three genera we know today, but it was too late, everybody was already calling Pelargoniums geraniums. So there you have it. Like 2manyhosta I have lots of useless info taking up space.

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