Whatcom Magazine

Scarlet cup fungus brightens late-winter forests, but don’t eat it

Scarlet cup fungus is striking to look at, but like most cup fungi it’s not worth eating and it could be poisonous. Still, it presents a cheery sight in the woods in the late winter when few other fungi are visible.

Sarcoscypha coccinea is a bright-red cup fungus related to morels and other Ascomycota (one of the two large fungal groups) that typically shows itself during January and February in our area.

The cups are up to 1.5 inches in diameter and occur on dead sticks buried in the litter of leaves and needles in lowland forests. The fungus that produces the cups lives in the sticks and decomposes them. The inner surface is smooth and is scarlet when young, fading to more reddish-orange when old.

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