Its at this time of year that the fruiting bodies of the Scarlet/Ruby Elf Cup show themselves through the lush green moss in my local woodland, they can appear at any time during the colder winter months, but here I have only noticed them in early spring. they are described as widespread and uncommon, a hardwood rotter, I always feel quite excited when I find one.
Nearly all the specimens I have found have been in the damp shady areas of the woodland, usally on rotten twigs or branches covered in moss on the woodland floor. the distinctive red colouring makes them easy to pick out when they are around.
Easy to identify as Elf Cup, the problem lies in separating the two near identical species, which brings to mind a conversation I had several months ago with a chap searching for fungi through the leaf litter, he told me he was looking for Birds Nest Fungi, maybe he was, but there was a distinct odour of cannabis emitting from his clothes, I suspect he was searching more for the "magic mushroom" variety, but each to their own, certainly an interesting and knowledgeable character as we discussed the various fungi to be found around the woodland, he was quite interested in the Scarlet/Ruby Elf cup varieties. he tried to explain the difference for me, a bit over my head, apparently a microscope is needed. my field guide proved him right.
And so to the two varieties, Scarlet Elf Cup sarcoscypha austriaca and the Ruby Elf Cup sarcoscypha coccinea they look very similar, cup shaped fungi ranging from 2-7cm when fully open, they have a small stalk of 1-2cm, but its usally just the cup seen on the surface of the moss or leaf litter that draws your attention.
The outer surface is covered in tiny hairs, this is what the microscope is required for, these hairs form either a mat of tangled coils for the Scarlet Elf Cup or straightish uncoiled hairs for the Ruby Elf Cup.
There is also a difference in the spores, the spores of the Ruby Elf cup are supposed to be narrower than the spores of the Scarlet Elf Cup. a definite microscope job required there.
All in all, I have no real chance of separating these species.
They shall remain forever Scarlet/Ruby Elf Cups for me.