Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A surprise forest find

I have something new to share with you guys! At least it's new to me. Do you recognize what this is?

My mom and I were taking a walk in a local park which is surrounded by forest area.

We noticed quite a few trees were down, probably because of the extreme winds we've been having lately. There was one in the center of the trees that was charred looking. Mom suggested that maybe lightning took it down and I wanted to see if I could find any proof of that.

I didn't find any signs of lightning striking the tree, which I assume would be a burnt area on the ground or some sort of crack in the bark. The problem with the tree appeared to be some diseased funky stuff that made it darker.

The forest floor was wet and muddy. I carefully tried to walk on the dry leaves and watch my step. While I was carefully looking at the ground, I spotted something red under one of the leaves.

Not knowing what it was, I took a stick and flicked the leaves off it. After clearing away the leaves, I still wasn't sure what I was looking at.

It appeared to be growing out of the dead trees that were lying on the ground. I thought it might be some sort of fungus. I started poking around other groups of leaves on other fallen trees and found more of these.

Some of them looked like a grapefruit peel.

This one looked like a little tea cup, which fits with one of the names these sometimes go by: scarlet elf cup.

Neither of us had even seen this fungus before, maybe because it likes to hide under the leaves. I did a little research online for images of "red fungus" and not all of those results were pleasant! But after a little scanning, I found what I was looking for.

Its fancy scientific name is Sarcoscypha coccinea. It also goes by some cuter names like scarlet elf cup and scarlet elf cap. Turns out, we saw it where we could expect to - on the forest floor, growing on damp, decaying wood. It was also usual for it to be hiding under old leaves.

Something cool I learned about the scarlet elf cup is that it was used by some Native American tribes, like the Oneida to stop bleeding. They'd first grind the fungus into a powder before applying it to the wound. Isn't it interesting that something so bright red would be used to stop blood? Don't you wonder how early people knew how to do these things? I also learned that in Scarborough, England these little elf caps make decorative additions to centerpieces. I tried to find a photo of one of those, but didn't manage to.

One more piece of trivia about the scarlet elf cap, is that when it lets loose its spores, it makes an actual "poof" sound. Wouldn't that be something to witness?

Do your recognize what this is? It's a magnolia bud. They're very fuzzy and remind me of a rabbit's foot.

I was excited to see a few signs of spring, like this iris.

And this daffodil. It really did feel like spring had arrived that day with the 70° weather.

Does anyone know what this is? I don't...

I liked the way the pine trees were framing the rest of the woods, kind of like a curtain. There are always plenty of pine cones to be found under here.

I know this one is a bit blurry, but it's the only pic I managed to get of this giant bird. I think it was a hawk. 

There were a few more birds to see, like this pair of geese.

Also some adorable ducks.

The sun was really catching this one's colors. Do you see the female next to him? I didn't until I really focused in with my camera. She blended right in with her surroundings.

Hope you enjoyed these glimpses of early spring here, and keep your eyes open if you take a walk in the woods. You might just see some little scarlet elf caps hiding under the leaves!


  1. A type of Tree fungus. there are many types.
    Some very nice images in post. Hope that all is well with you and yours, dear Lady Justine.

  2. the Yellow flowers are found in this area as well, more often they are White sometimes you will find Yellow. unsure.

    1. Dr. Theda ~ Yeah, and I don't think that fungus was too good for the tree! That magnolia tree I showed a bud from also had it and that had me wondering if that tree was doing OK. I think this was the first time I'd seen a tree like that, with the little yellow flowers. It looked perfect for spring. I'm pretty sure I've never seen it in white around here. It would be interesting to find out what it is. Glad you enjoyed the photos! :)

  3. Thats an interesting find, Scarlet Elf Cup. I've never seen or heard of it before now. Is it rare? Spring has been on the way here for about six weeks now. The temperature keeps going up and down, but Nature seems to know what to do.

    1. Ali ~ Yeah! I was excited to find something new in those woods. I'd started to think I was familiar with pretty much everything in there, but I bet that's far from the case. There are probably all sorts of things growing and living in there that I can't even see. These Scarlet Elf Cups were hidden enough. I don't think the Scarlet Elf Cup is particularly rare. It exists on nearly all the continents - just not Antarctica. Probably a lot of growing things don't exist there. Anyway, there's the definite possibility you could see these too. If you're in a wooded area in spring where there is damp, dead wood on the ground. Oh yeah, the temps have been up and down here too. It may have been 70° on this day in the park, but it shot down to the mid 30s by the next day! Yeah, somehow nature is keeping up with all this. The birds and plants are still doing their thing. :)

  4. That's interesting! I like woods like this that you can actually walk through, instead of the ones that are so dense that you can't walk through.

    1. Matt ~ Yeah, it's definitely better to walk through the kind of woods where you don't need a machete to clear your path. ;) The area I went through wasn't exactly made to be walked on. I mean, there wasn't a path and it was muddy. But it wasn't a big deal. I actually think it's more exciting to go where there isn't a path already. You have some forest type areas where you are, right?

    2. Yes, we have foresty places around here. Sometimes I go camping at Fremont peak (a state park) about thirty miles from here. In this area it's a weird mix of coast and woods with rolling hills forests and all points in between. Big Sur is south of here. Yeah I like cross-country camping and hiking, it's quite an adventure, but you got to be carful not to get injured as you get up-close-and-personal with bugs and bushes. CA forests are pretty dense.

    3. Matt ~ I looked up Fremont Peak to get an idea of what it looked like there. It looked rocky and mountainous. Looks like a good place for a hike! There are some pretty pictures of the area online, especially the ones with the sun catching the peak. It looks like maybe the sun is setting in those pics. Looks like there's a nice lake around there too. The forest areas around Big Sur look beautiful! I'm reminded of the forest areas on Grimm. Oh yeah, you never know with bugs. I'm trying to learn as much as I can bug-wise, but it seems like there's always another one to wonder about!

  5. The winds are crazy!! I swear I live in a wind tunnel!And I have to say those scarlet elf cup's are neat. Try not to blow away up North!

    1. Bob ~ I can imagine! The Chicago area can get crazy with wind, so you're probably getting it even worse than we are. At least, I remember you being in the Chicago area.

      Yeah! I love those little scarlet elf cups. What a discovery!

      Haha, OK. I am trying to avoid the wind as much as possible and am trying to take in anything from outside. I've been seeing people's decorative stuff and garbage just flying by!

  6. wow Fantastic pictues and stoey. My camera is in the shop getting fixed and I'm soo looking forward to taking photos and videos again!

    1. DJ Trish ~ Thank you! :) What kind of camera do you have? I bet you're looking forward to being able to use it again. I'd probably be frantic if I couldn't use my camera for a while!