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Scarlet elf cup (Sarcoscypha coccinea)

This beautiful woodland fungus grows on decaying sticks and branches in damp spots and beneath leaf litter.

Common name(s): scarlet elf cup, scarlet elf cap, red cup,scarlet cup, moss cups, fairies’ baths

Scientific name: Sarcoscypha coccinea

Family: Sarcoscyphaceae


Overview: cup shaped fruiting bodies that are scarlet red and orange in colour.

Fruitbody: irregularly shaped cups that have a smooth bright red inner surface and then a paler downy outer surface. Cups are approximately 4 cm across.

Stipe (stalk): short stem up to 3.5 cm long that attaches to the leaf litter. This is mostly the same colour as the outer surface of the cup.

Spores: white spore print.

Look out for: the distinctive saucer shape of the cup.

Could be confused with: orange peel fungus (Aleuria aurantia) which is larger and grows on soil.

Where and when to spot

When: early winter to early spring.

Where: decaying sticks and branches particularly in damp areas of the woodland floor, it can also be seen on ditch sides and stream banks.

Conservation status

Uncommon in the UK although widespread.

How we use scarlet elf cup

Toxicity: not poisonous but considered inedible.


It has been used as a medicine by the Oneida Indians to stop bleeding. It was placed under bandages and on the navels of newborns to promote healing.


  • In past times they were made into arrangements with moss and leaves and sold as table decorations.
  • They make a tiny puffing sound when they release their spores into the air.
  • Found in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America and Australia.
  • Decomposers of dead wood, particularly hawthorn, beech, hazel, willow and elm.
  • A popular delicacy enjoyed by rodents and slugs.