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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
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.


4 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.

  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.

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