11 March 2016

Scarlet Elf Cups

Scarlet elf cups (Sarcoscypha sp.) are fungi which are occasionally found growing on moss-covered dead wood during the early months of the year and are notable for their brilliant colour. We have only found these twice before
(see http://www.fredandsarah.plus.com/botany/sarcoscypha.html for the first time we found them), but this year they are appearing in large numbers.

There are two species, S. austriaca and S. coccinea, which can only be separated by careful microscopic examination, particularly of the curliness of the hairs on the outer surface of the cup. S. austriaca seems to be the commoner species and we have failed to find any conclusive examples of S. coccinea in our area. For information on the differences between the two species, see
The ground under a local willow tree is covered with what must be 500 or more individuals, and we have also found several other sites of 50 or more nearby. The largest individual cups measured 7.5cm across, though most are much smaller than this.

We wonder if this is due to the excessive rainfall we have had this winter. At one location they are even growing on deadwood floating on a pond, which certainly suggests that they like it wet.