Stalked Scarlet Cup

Stalked Scarlet Cup

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Sarcoscypha occidentalis

Tiny red cup on a tiny white stalk. Grows on fallen wet sticks and branches in damp deciduous woods. May–June; later in cooler years. Cup shallow; outer surface white and smooth; inner surface scarlet. Stalk with equal sides; white. Spore print whitish cream. Spores magnified are elliptical, smooth, with one drop of oil at each end.

Lookalikes: The scarlet cup (S. dudleyi) has a larger cup (commonly 1½ to 2 inches across) and either a very short stalk or none at all. It appears earlier in the season than the stalked scarlet cup.

Cup width: 1/4 to 5/8 inch; cup height: 3/8 inch; stalk length: 3/8 to 1¼ inches; stalk width: 1/16 inch.
Habitat and conservation: 
Grows scattered on fallen wet sticks and branches in damp deciduous woods. Although it is often overlooked, the stalked scarlet cup is easily identified by its bright red color, tiny white stalk, and very small size.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Not edible.
Life cycle: 
This species exists as a network of fungal cells (mycelium) within rotting wood. The mycelium obtains nourishment by digesting, and rotting, the wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the cuplike mushroom outside the wood. Spores are produced in the lining of the cup and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. The mycelium can live for years.
Human connections: 
Mushrooms decorate nature the way wildflowers do, adding to our pleasure on hikes. Stalked scarlet cups, though tiny, are a delight to see. They're cute!
Ecosystem connections: 
Fungi are vitally important for a healthy ecosystem. This fungus feeds on dead wood, decomposing it. This cleans the forest and helps nutrients to cycle back into the soil—an unglamorous but vital role in the ecosystem.
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