Picture Ohio! – A Study in Scarlet

Scarlet Cups (Sarcoscypha austriaca)
Scarlet Cups (Sarcoscypha austriaca)

Very few mushrooms fruit in early spring, but this is a great time to search for Scarlet Cups (Sarcoscypha austriaca), which fruit on fallen branches and twigs, especially maple, along stream valleys in wet woodlands. Usually scarlet cups occur singly, or in pairs, but my eagle-eyed friend Cheryl spotted this much larger group along the Adam Run Trail at Hampton Hills Metropark in the Cuyahoga Valley. I used a 180mm Sigma macro lens and my Nikon D7000 on a sturdy tripod to take this portrait, using natural lighting.

Scarlet cups belong to a large group of fungi called Ascomycetes, in which the spores are formed in long, sausage-shaped sacs known as asci that cover the scarlet surface of the cup, technically called an apothecium. Each scarlet cup contains millions of asci, which release the myriad of spores like puffs of smoke when they are mature.

During the next few weeks, as you enjoy the progression of wildflowers in Ohio’s woodlands, look for scarlet cups, another harbinger of spring.

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