Scarlet elf cup

Scarlet Elfcup (Sarcoscypha coccinea)
Beautiful fungi, the Scarlet Elf Cup have a vibrant colour that brightens up the dullest winter days. In European folklore, it was said that wood elves drank morning dew from the cups.

Table of Contents

Scarlet Elf Cup: Profile

Common names

Scarlet Elf Cup, Scarlet Elfcup, Scarlet Cup, Moss Cup, Red Cup, Fairies’ Baths, Cwpan Robin Goch (CY), Osztrák Csészegomba (HU), Czarka Austriacka (PL)

Botanical name

Sarcoscypha coccinea

Fungi family

Sarcoscyphaceae (Cup fungi)


Widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. Common and widespread in Britain and Ireland.

Where to find Scarlet Elf Cup

Dead wood near streams and deciduous woodland. It’s quite often hidden under leaf litter.

When to find Scarlet Elf Cup

Early winter to early spring.

How to identify Scarlet Elf Cup

Scarlet Elf Cup grow in dead wood amongst the leaf litter. The fruiting body takes appearance of irregularly shaped cups with a smooth, bright red inner surface and a whitish felted outer surface. The edges of the young specimens are often slightly incurved while mature ones may develop split edges. The stem is very short and thin, barely noticeable.

Scarlet Elf Cup lookalikes

The less common Ruby Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca) is practically identical, however both of them are edible.

Some Peziza sp. may resemble superficially. Orange Peel Fungus (Aleuria aurantia) are also related to Scarlet elf cups but are orange in colour, instead of bright red.

Scarlet Elfcup (Sarcoscypha coccinea)

All about Scarlet Elf Cup

These little gems appear in the depths of winter, when not too many things are growing in the wild. The fruiting bodies display a flash of bright colour amidst the boring monochrome landscape characteristic of the season.

Scarlet Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha coccinea) is virtually indistinguishable from the similar Ruby Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca) without microscopy. Both of them are generally reckoned to be edible and their vivid red colour serves to distinguish them from anything else.

Indeed, the edibility of Scarlet Elf Cups is disputed. Some sources still list the fungi as inedible, perhaps because the texture is quite different to what you’d normally expect from a mushroom. Nonetheless, Scarlet Elf Cup has been eaten for years with no bad reports.

Culinary uses and recipes with Scarlet Elf Cup

Scarlet Elf Cups have a subtle earthy flavour with a slightly woody texture. They can be stir fried and sprinkled in salads for colour.

The fruiting bodies seem to be designed to use them like little baskets. Fill them with any other seasonal ingredients to make raw wild canapés, like Three Cornered Leek, Garlic-Mustard, Wild Garlic or Wood Sorrel.

Scarlet Elfcup (Sarcoscypha coccinea)

Safe foraging of Scarlet Elf Cups

No hazards known.

Ecological importance of Scarlet Elf Cup

Scarlet Elf Cup helps to decompose dead wood and recycle nutrients, supporting the growth of early spring plants.

This mushroom is a food source for rodents and slugs.

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Alvaro // Wild Plant Guy

I am the human behind BritishLocalFood. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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5 thoughts on “Scarlet elf cup”

  1. Do you actually purposefully collect these and eat them, or is this a case of “Tried them, they were okay, but I’m not going to bother with them again”? I’ve seen their edibility described as anything from “tasty” to “not recommended/not edible.”
    My impression is there probably aren’t any well-kept secrets about good edible mushrooms and that if they were really good, we’d know about it…

  2. On my early morning walk through woodland by the river Greta, I saw some delightful cheerful Scarlet Elf Cup funghi amongst the springy mosses and growing by dead wood piles. Such a gorgeous discovery to find a little information about these colourful funghi.


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