It's the time of year for stumbling across the bright red bursts of colour that heralds Sarcoscypha coccinea, commonly known as the scarlet elf cup, scarlet elf cap, scarlet cup or Fairies' Baths.
After what feels like a long, inhospitable winter, and as Spring calls out "hold on...hold on...I'm almost here!", to come upon the Scarlet Elf Cup is almost an onslaught to the senses. This burst of colour reassuringly reminds us that life isn't always going to be this dreary and dull.
A fungus that grows during the cooler months of winter and early spring, it can be found in amongst the snowdrops in humus rich, damp, deciduous woods with plenty of fallen wood, from which they grow. The contrast of the red elf cups, white flowers and vibrant green moss makes it a very special place to be when awaiting the warmth of spring.
The Scarlet Elfcup, and its close relative the Ruby Elfcup, are considered by some authorities edible as long as they are thoroughly cooked. A few field guides now record these fungi as inedible, and some even suggest that they are 'suspect'.
Sarcoscypha coccinea was used as a medicinal fungus by the Oneida Indians. The fungus, dried and ground up into a powder, was applied as a styptic, particularly to the navels of newborn children that were not healing properly after the umbilical cord had been severed.
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