Scarlet Elf Cup – Sarcoscypha Coccinea

The scarlet elf cup, Sarcoscypha coccinea, is one of the most eye catching of our native fungi. The fruiting bodies appear in the late winter to early spring, so the flash of red can sometimes be the only colour visible amidst the greys and browns of a scrubby woodland edge.

The fungus is saprophytic, and grows on dead deciduous wood. It favours damp conditions, and is often found among a carpet of moss, as on the ash limb pictured below.

When fresh and newly emerged, the fruiting bodies have a very distinctive cup shaped form. The outer surface is pale, blending in well with the dead wood on which the fungus grows, while the inner surface is a beautiful deep red. As the fruiting body ages it loses its cup-like shape and gradually unfurls into a flattened disc.

Keen mycologists may also be interested in the differences between Sarcoscypha coccinea and the similar species Sarcoscypha austriaca, as outlined in the link below.

By Chris Eyles, Senior Warden for Exmoor


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