Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Redshank Captain, but not as we know it........
Historically, one of the reasons why so few naturalists take an interest in mosses as opposed to, say, birds, is that very few mosses have ever had colloquial names in English conferred on them. So anyone with an aversion to Latin names (and there are plenty of those) tended to steer well clear of these obscure groups with unpronounceable names; unless you are in the company of died-in-the-wool bryologists it has been difficult to have a friendly chat about mosses that you've seen recently, unlike birders who can happily converse in hides for hours about bar-tailed godwits or whatever, without worrying that they'll appear to be overly academic or natural history snobs. Latin names, though essential, are a great conversation killer unless you are in like-minded company.
So there has been a democratizing and very worthy trend in field guides for some of the less well-known forms of wildlife - fungi and mosses and liverworts, for example - to invent common names for everything, so that everyone in the English-speaking world is on the same linguistic wavelength.
This little moss, with the striking red capsule stalks (setae) and caps (calyptras) set at a jaunty angle on its capsules, which has been known as Ceratodon purpureus since it was first named, has now been given the English name redshank (logically enough) in the latest moss field guide.
So, if you are a bryologist, that'll get your ornithologist mates' attention, when you tell them you've been clearing your garden path of redshank with a pressure-washer hose.