Mnium hornum – Swan’s neck thyme moss – was collected for the Darwin Tree of Life project by Dr David Bell on the 18th August 2020, in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
While all known plant species are given scientific names, common names tend to be restricted to plants that people use and have had a need to communicate about – oak, woundwort, cabbage, bedstraw, etc. Mosses and liverworts are so frequently overlooked, and the distinctions between them can be so small, that most species have never made it into the common tongue. However, in 1997 Sean Edwards published a list of English common names for British bryophytes, removing a perceived barrier to the wider public’s engagement with the bryological world.
The capsule of the woodland moss Mnium hornum droops gracefully from a recurved seta like the head of a swan at the end of its neck, clearly the inspiration for the common name:
Mnium hornum photographed by Sean Edwards