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Scarlet Elfcup

Edible Edible
Spring Spring
Winter Winter

Easy to identify and spot, this tasty mushroom can be found from December to March when there isn’t that many other fungi about.

Mushroom Type
Common Names Scarlet Elfcup (EN),, Cwpan Robin Goch (CY), Czarka Austriacka (PL), Osztrák Csészegomba (HU)
Scientific Name Sarcoscypha austriaca
Season Start Dec
Season End Apr
Average Mushroom height (CM) 3
Average Cap width (CM) 6
Please note that each and every mushroom you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.


Vivid scarlet cup shaped cap. Initially deeply cup shaped flattening to a shallower disk shape, sometimes with split edges upon aging.
The cap has microscopic tubes called asci that release the spores from the upper ‘cup’ of the mushroom.


Tiny, the spores are explosively ejected from the cap surface with a fair amount of force.


Very short and thin, tapering toward the base and covered in tiny fine white hairs.


Thin and fragile.


Growing in clusters on dead wood particularly hazel and quite often hidden under leaf litter.

Possible Confusion

With its bright colour, shape and season it is very hard to confuse this mushroom with any other with the exception of the less common, almost identical and edible Ruby Elfcup (Sarcosypha coccinea), although several different sources confuse the two.

Spore Print

White. Ellipsiod to cylindrical. There are tiny oil droplets at either end of the spores.

Taste / Smell

A tasty mushroom, well worth the effort of cleaning. There is some controversy as to whether this mushroom can be eaten raw so play it safe and always cook them.


Common but sometimes hiding in the leaf litter. When you find one look around there will almost always be more about.

Other Facts

One of a handful of mushrooms to be found at the coldest time of year this mushroom actually makes a ‘puffing’ sound when it explosively releases its spores. If a fresh mushroom is picked and then given a quick blow across the surface and held to the ear the sound is quite surprising (be careful not to fill your ear with spores, they are harmless but the thought of mushrooms growing in my ear brings on caution).
This mushroom must be cooked before consumption.


23 comments for Scarlet Elfcup

  1. Julia says:

    Thank you for information on scarlet elf cup fungi – out walking today in a woodland area came upon lots of them just on the ground and never encountered them before! our son in law informed us they type of fungi so looked up in iPad and found your site and read up about them ( we in our 70s and glad that we now know for future info)

  2. Ken says:

    Found some of these today growing on an decaying log, have never seen them before, now we know what they are thanks to your great website.

    1. Toffin says:

      I am still quite new to foraging but does it matter if these are growing on dead yew or other harmful trees?

      1. Eric Biggane says:

        Scarlet Elf Cups grow on Hazel so you don’t need to be concerned.

  3. Tony Facchetti says:

    I noticed this mushroom earlier today while scouting for ramps. When I first noticed it amongst the leaves I though it was the remains of a red plastic ball. Then thought maybe it was the egg shell of a strange bird…. Then I realized it was a mushroom and found your site on the internet. Thank You for identifying and explaining. I will go look to see if there are more!

  4. Kevin says:

    I was lucky to find some of these in their baby stage. I will watch them grow into their full bloom.

  5. Aimee says:

    thank you this, i read that they were edible but i was very scared to try since i had never foraged for mushrooms before. theres tonnes of them in some woods by my house so i will try frying some.

  6. Bert McGregor says:

    That was very interesting read, thank you.

  7. Gary williams says:

    Can these mushrooms be tried out and rehydrated?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Yes, most mushrooms can be de-hydrated successfully.

  8. Maria says:

    Love this and thank you ..wandered in from someplace else to check these little fellows out..they are in our garden..so mushrooms and toast tomorrow..thank you indeed this is a great site..best wishes and stay safe….

  9. Steven Wood says:

    Hi, found some beautiful elf cups while out walking and keen to try them, but unsure of the best way to clean and cook them. Can you give any advice?
    Many thanks.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      They can be a little tricky to clean depending where and what weather you find them in but they are one of the few mushrooms that don’t suffer from cleaning in water.

  10. susan leake says:

    I found some today, as you say on decaying wood but not buried at all by leaf litter. My confusion with this mushroom and its edibility is that I thought that red was for danger as in the red agaric mushroom and that it would be poisonous.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It is not true that red is a danger sign, we eat red foods commonly. Raspberries, red cabbage, apples and red meat are just a few examples.

      1. Hannah A. Ehlert says:

        Any idea why they are so red? Berries are usually red to be spotted by birds and the seeds then carried away. Does it help spore dispersal to be red?? thanks

  11. Ingrid Poldan says:

    Found some today, but were actually more in ground around dead tree than on it.And also hiding under leaves-)

  12. Neil Swan says:

    Found some today can you advise on ways to cook and what dishes they are best srrved up with

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I like them fried in butter but they can be used like any other mushroom. They usually need good cleaning to remove mud stuck to the underside but will brighten any dish you use them in.

      1. Neil Swan says:

        Thank you, we are having them tomorrow in a toasted pitta bread with cheese and tomato

  13. Steve says:

    We took our 3-year old granddaughter for a walk by the reservoir in Slaithwaite and found lots of these mushrooms which I’d never encountered before. We made up a story about the creatures that live in the magic woods (hazel) and she’s overjoyed to know they’re called Scarlet Elfcups!

  14. Tre4 says:

    Just found some in the French Alps – the snow has just melted and these popped up. Fried up with garlic and butter and handfull of prawns – yum

  15. Vickie says:

    I am in Michigan US . We have purchases land outside of Ionia, where we plann to build a small house on a hill. We came today to decide which trees still need to be removed. when I stepped outside of the car something said look down under the leaves and there they were buitiful little red mushrooms. What a treasure. this happened just a few minutes ago. April 8th 2023

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