Scarlet Elfcup

Scarlet Elfcup ©Mark Robinson

Scarlet Elfcup

Scientific name: Sarcoscypha austriaca
As its name suggests, the Scarlet Elfcup is a bright red, cup-shaped fungus. It is widespread, but scarce, and can be found on fallen twigs and branches, in shady, damp places.

Species information

Statistics

Cup diameter: 1-5cm
Stem height:

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to April

About

The Scarlet Elfcup displays bright red cups with short stems. It can be seen in late winter and early spring on fallen twigs and branches (often Hazel, Elm and Willow), usually buried under moss. It is reasonably widespread, but not very common. It is mostly found in damp, shady areas. Fungi belong to their own kingdom and get their nutrients and energy from organic matter, rather than photosynthesis like plants. It is often just the fruiting bodies, or 'mushrooms', that are visible to us, arising from an unseen network of tiny filaments called 'hyphae'. These fruiting bodies produce spores for reproduction, although fungi can also reproduce asexually by fragmentation.

How to identify

The Scarlet Elfcup has rounded, regular-shaped fruiting bodies that look like cups; they have a bright scarlet and smooth inner surface. The outer surface is pale pink and covered in tiny hairs. The cup has a very short stem.

Distribution

Widespread, but scarce.

Did you know?

The Scarlet Elfcup is very similar in appearance to the Ruby Elfcup (Sarcoscypha coccinea), although the latter is slightly smaller and deeper red in comparison.

How people can help

Fungi play an important role within our ecosystems, helping to recycle nutrients from dead or decaying organic matter, and providing food and shelter for different animals. The Wildlife Trusts manage many nature reserves sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife, including fungi: you can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member. Our gardens are also a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside. Try leaving log piles and dead wood to help fungi and the wildlife that depends on it. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS.