Friday 15 March 2019

Scarlet Elfcups

Many people think that fungi only appear in late Summer / early Autumn, but having now been seriously interested in fungi for over four years, I can tell you that this is definitely not the case. There are fungi to be seen in every month of the year - just different ones. Right now Scarlet Elfcups (Sarcoscypha coccinea and austriaca) are definitely in season.

In a local woodland area that I know well, there is a patch of these. Fortunately (for me) they are in a fairly well-hidden location where not many people go. To be fair, these fungi are not big and you do have to look quite carefully to see them, but once you know what you're looking for there are quite a lot of them.

The patch I have been observing this year is about 25 or 30 metres away from where I saw similar fungi this time last year, but curiously this year there are none at all in in that place.

Scarlet Elfcups grow on old (often mossy) twigs and branches in amongst the leaf-litter of the woodland floor. Damp conditions are preferred.

Scarlet Elfcup growing on a twig - showing the characteristic goblet shape

This year I first spotted Scarlet Elfcups at the end of January, at which time they were mostly very small, like these:

Now, several weeks later, they have grown much bigger. Here my little plastic soldier "Woody" (35mm tall) helps me demonstrate their size:

This type of fungus is reportedly edible, though by all accounts pretty tasteless and rubbery, so I think "non-poisonous" might be a better description. Some people use them (raw) to decorate salads - often ones comprised mainly of foraged wild ingredients - but I'm not tempted to try them. I'm always wary of eating any fungi raw, because in so many cases they are toxic unless well cooked. I would also advise careful cleaning / washing before consumption. My next photo (enlarged) shows a colony of aphids inhabiting the rim of a Scarlet Elfcup:

Still, I think they are very attractive to look at, so for the time being I shall just continue to admire them!


  1. Your local woods seems to have an abundance of fungi.

    1. Yes indeed, and I think most woods are the same. Many people walk right past loads of fungi every day without seeing them.


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