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I’ve blogged about Scarlet elfcups before (here and here) but this post is a little different. A few days ago I talked about dipping my toes into the waters of fungal microscopy (and thanks to those of you who were concerned that I might end up with Athlete’s foot in the process!). Yesterday, I made my first fungus identification on my own … small steps but I’m chuffed!


As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, there are two red elfcups, Scarlet (Sarcoscypha austriaca) and Ruby (Sarcoscypha coccinea), and it’s impossible to tell them apart without microscopic examination. There are two distinguishing features: the spore shape and the shape of the hairs that cover the outer surface of the cups. In Scarlet elfcups, the ends of the spores are flattened, almost square and the hairs are curly (as shown below left) whereas, in Ruby elfcups, the spores are more elliptical and the hairs are straight – sorry, no photos of those as Ruby elfcups are not that common and the specimen I examined today turned out to be a Scarlet.

Many thanks to SEWBReC for letting me use their microscope and gear for this identification and to Amy Hicks for taking the photos. Also, thanks to Mary Gillham Archives Project Officer Al and volunteer John for bringing me the elfcup present back from a local nature reserve.