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170415 Helvella acetabulum Vinegar Cup (4)

I found these little fungi at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park during a long ramble on Thursday. So well camouflaged were they amongst the leaf litter and fallen branches that it wasn’t until I bent down to pick up a rotting branch to check for slime moulds that I spotted the first one. These are Vinegar cups (Helvella acetabulum) and, according to the Welsh biodiversity recording database, this is only the fourth recorded find in Wales. I imagine they’re not as rare as that makes them sound, but simply under-recorded – I blame their camouflage!

Luckily (actually, a huge relief!) these fungi could be identified using an excellent key on the Fungi of Great Britain and Ireland website (thanks to Brian Douglas of Kew for pointing that out). The key check went as follows:

(1) Stipe (stem) ribbed and furrowed over its entire length, internally chambered, quite short, but with ribs present on the underside of the cap; (2) cap cupulate; (3) Ribs on stipe extending conspicuously to the underside of the cap, usually to at least half way (4) Hymenium (interior of the cup) brown; cap externally dark brown above (these were partly eaten so hard to tell), (definitely) paler below. Ribs of stipe branching, sharp-angled, not interconnected by cross-veins, not reaching the margin of the cap. Fruiting in spring.

If only all fungi were that easy to identify! These lovely Helvellas can be found from April through to June, mostly on rich mouldy soil in deciduous forests, though they do also like calcareous soil conditions.