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Quite a find — the scarlet cup

Several months ago, a friend went for her regular morning walk. As usual, she took photos of snails, interesting clouds and whatever else struck her fancy.

This particular morning the photo of the day was of a small mushroom with a brilliant scarlet colored cap. 

Neither of us knew what this mushroom was, so I posted the photo on my Facebook wildflower page. Within minutes, someone posted a response: the scarlet cup, or scarlet elf cup mushroom (Sarcoscypha coccinea). Well, almost. It’s S. dudleyi. The S. coccinea isn’t found on the East coast.

The Sarcoscypha are bright red cup mushrooms common in many areas of North America. There are four common species here.

One, S. occidentalis, is easily differentiated by size and stem. The remaining three are often lumped together in field guides as S. coccinea because the differences are highly technical and require a microscope to observe.

The scarlet cup is usually found in maple woods, growing on hardwood that is partially buried in moist, rich forest soil. It’s one of the first and most colorful signs of spring. It’s bound to make you smile at the sheer exuberance of the color.

Happy mushroom hunting.

Cynthia Wood is a master gardener who writes two columns for The Herald. Her email address is cynthia.crewe23930@gmail.com.