Species of the week- 16

I’ve been doing a lot of fieldwork during the past week, so was spoilt for choice with cool species to choose from for this blog. In the end I settled on this species, as it’s from a kingdom I’ve not yet covered in species of the week: the fungi. The species is the Scarlet Elfcup, Sarcoscypha austriaca. It’s a truly beautiful little cup fungus:


Probably Sarcoscypha austriaca


Any mycologists out there will have realised immediately why my image is captioned ‘probably’. There is a very similar species known as the Ruby Elfcup (Sarcoscypha coccinea), which can be very tricky to tell from this species without microscopic examination of the spores. However when not worn off, S.austriaca has coiled surface hairs, which aren’t coiled in S.coccinea. I must admit, I didn’t check this individual, so it could’ve been either. That said, S.austriaca is currently the commoner of the two species (it used to be the other way around).

I chose this species because it’s been an amazing few weeks for seeing it down here in the South-west. Every other twig on a damp woodland ride seems to have its own petite red cup. In places it’s quite a spectacle!

The Scarlet Elfcup typically fruits during late Winter and Spring, during mild, wet periods of weather. It is very widespread throughout the British isles, and is best looked for on damp, rotting twigs of Maples, Sycamore and Hazel, growing amongst mosses and leaf litter. Here is the distribution of S.austriaca/coccinea:


According to the NBN Gateway, neither have a record in West Cornwall (Vice-county 1) yet, so I’d better examine the next few I see more closely! It appears that even the brightest of fungi can be as under-recorded as invertebrates.





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