Red elf cup fungus growing among moss and dead leaves, the Wildlife Trusts

© Chris Lawrence

Ruby elfcup

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Scientific name: Sarcoscypha coccinea
As its name suggests, the ruby elfcup is a bright red, cup-shaped fungus. It is widespread, but scarce, and can be found on fallen twigs and branches, particularly in areas with higher rainfall.

Top facts


Cup diameter: 1.5-5cm
Stem height: 1-2cm

Conservation status


When to see

November to March


The ruby elfcup displays bright red cups with short stems. It can be seen in late winter and early spring on fallen twigs and branches (often Hazel), usually buried under moss. It is uncommon in the UK, although reasonably widespread. It is mostly found in areas with high rainfall. Fungi belong to their own kingdom and get their nutrients and energy from organic matter, rather than photosynthesis like plants. It is often just the fruiting bodies, or 'mushrooms', that are visible to us, arising from an unseen network of tiny filaments called 'hyphae'. These fruiting bodies produce spores for reproduction, although fungi can also reproduce asexually by fragmentation.

What to look for

The ruby elfcup has rounded, regular-shaped fruiting bodies that look like cups; they have a bright red and smooth inner surface. The outer surface is whitish and covered in tiny hairs. The cup has a very short stem.

Where to find

Widespread, but scarce.

Did you know?

The ruby elfcup is very similar in appearance to the scarlet elfcup (Sarcoscypha austriaca). There's no physical difference. You can only tell them apart by microscopy (tiny fine hairs are the difference).