Tuesday 22 February 2011

Toadstools and Mushrooms (1): Scarlet Elf Cup

I was looking out for Spring flowers as we walked around the gardens at Aberglasney last weekend ... and my eyes alighted on these curious red circles. I feel they have sprung right out of Wonderland, alongside the caterpillar with his hookah! Five carotenoid pigments are responsible for the stunning colour. 

I have come across these 'fruiting bodies' before, but have never known what they were - other than that they were examples of fungi. This time I was quite happy with my identification of 'Scarlet Elf Cup' aka 'Scarlet Cup Fungus', when I discovered on the Gower Wildlife blog that there are two almost identical saprobic species ... Sarcoscypha austriaca and Sarcoscypha coccinea. 

Slugs devour this fungus during the summer months, and rodents have been known to eat it during winter. I noticed a vole hole almost adjacent to one of the Elf Cups.

You can see a fine illustration here (if you click and scroll down a little) of the coccinea species, by the French pharmacist, Jean Louis Émile Boudier (1828 - 1920).

This shows the proximity of the stream

Kingdom: Fungi  |  Division: Ascomycota  |  Class: Pezizomycetes  |  Order: Pezizales  |
Family: Sarcoscyphaceae  |   Genus: Sarcoscypha   |   Species: S. coccinea / austriaca


Crafty Green Poet said...

what wonderful fungi Caroline, they do look most magical!

Andrea said...

The color of that cup-like fungi is really nice, what do you mean by "five-carotenoid pigment"? Also i cannot see the caterpillar, or i might misunderstood the meaning.

Caroline Gill said...

Thank you for your comments. I was referring, Andrea, to the fact that it takes FIVE different colour agents to produce this red. I'm no scientist ... just an enthusiast who is keen to learn!

As for the caterpillar, well, we have a well-known fantasy story here in the UK, 'Alice in Wonderland', in which a caterpillar sits on a toadstool, smoking a hookah. If you click my livelinks on the post, you should see an illustration. It was just that these strange fungi reminded me of this tale - that's all.

Andrea said...

Thanks Caroline for that reply. I am familiar with the title 'Alice in Wonderland' but haven't really known or read its details, poor me! We also have many kinds of fungi or mushrooms here, but i haven't come accross that beautiful bright color yet.