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Sarcoscypha austriacaScarlet Elf Cup

By Leanne Downs9 March 2020

The Scarlet Elf Cup or Sarcoscypha austriaca is a species of fungi native to the United Kingdom and many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Their common name comes from the folklore tale that Elves drank morning dew using scarlet elf cups. When looking at them, it’s easy to see how that story came about.

Where can I see Scarlet Elf Cups?

Scarlet Elf Cups can be seen all over the UK throughout winter to early spring. They usually grow in clusters on dead wood among the leaf litter of the forest floor. They prefer damp conditions so are more likely to be spotted after periods of heavy rainfall.

An example of the size variation in Scarlet Elf Cups

How to identify Scarlet Elf Cups

They are easy to recognise for their striking red colour and bowl-like form, though they can also be orange. They grow up to 4cm in diameter, with the outer surface appearing paler and slightly downy in texture. Their stems are barely perceptible under the concave spore surfaces, which sometimes makes an audible puff when it releases spores into the air.

A foraged open sandwich using a small amount of raw Scarlet Elf Cup, after testing sensitivity

Uses for Scarlet Elf Cups

Scarlet Elf Cups mushrooms are accepted to be edible, though care is needed when eating raw. It is recommended only to consume small amounts and always try a small amount first to make sure there are no adverse reactions. They are difficult to confuse with any other fungi, apart from the visually identical Sarcoscypha coccinea or Ruby Elfcup – which has similar edibility.

Leanne Downs

About Leanne Downs

Leanne Downs is the content editor for Thryve and works as an outdoor writer, blogger and photographer. She loves hiking, hillwalking and wild camping.

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