Scarlet Elf Cup Mushroom

Medicinal Mushroom of Spring

Scarlet Elf Cup Mushrooms (Sarcoscypha coccinea)
Scarlet Elf Cup Mushrooms (Sarcoscypha coccinea)

On one of the first days this spring with no snow cover on the ground, I noticed this group of Scarlet Elf Cup Mushrooms (Sarcoscypha coccinea) on the forest floor. This medium to large mushroom, with its bright scarlet stalked cups, fruits in very early spring, often rising through the snow.


These mushrooms are widely distributed in hardwood forests east of the Rocky Mountains, and along the West coast. The Scarlet Elf Cup is a saprobic species, growing on rotting wood. Basswood (Tilia) is the preferred wood type for the species, and American Basswood (Tilia americana) grows in abundance in the woods of Distant Hill. 


The fungus has been used medicinally by the Oneida Indians of Northern New York State. The dried fungus was used as a styptic for the navels of newborns after the umbilical cord was cut in order to help it heal properly. Scarlet Elf Cups were also used as a dressing for wounds.