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Large Cups - Pezizomycetes p.p.

I am assuming that most cup fungi are saprophytic, but I don't know if that has been well studied. Exceptions of known mycorrhizal groups will be noted. Fall fruiting unless otherwise stated, but "ascos" are known for having more spring fruiters than "basidios".

Key to Large Cups:


Helvella - also found in the false morels, Helvellas are sometimes cups on a stick. The stem will be longer and thicker than in other genera (compare Plectania nannfeldtii), or short but complex and fluted. Thought to be mycorrhizal. (Compare Gyromitra, Disciotis and the black cups). Spring and fall unless noted. One ear cup fungus is now known to actually be a Helvella.

H. corium - blackest cup and stem apex on a mostly round stem. <4cm wide and high. Spring.

H. macropus - brown cup, possibly the scurfiest. <4cm wide, <8cm high.

H. fibrosa/cupuliformis - brown -grey, maybe less scurfy.

H. solitaria (queletii) - stem is more fluted. Longer stem than H. leucomelaena. 

H. acetabulum - little stem, but the ribs extend up the cup. Spring.

H. costifera - perhaps greyer with blunter ribs, stem buried. Spring.

H. leucomelaena - black extends partway down bottom of cup. Ribbed stem, shorter than H. solitaria. Spring.

H. crassitunicata - pubescent strongly ribbed stem. May be brown.


Gyromitra - also found in the false morels, but some are cup shaped without a significant stem. They are recognized by their tough, wrinkled appearance and cushion or disc shape, more so than Peziza. Thought be be saprophytic, but possibly also living a double life as mycorrhizal like the morels. Found in the spring.

Rhizina undulata - a mass of convex, irregular cups with "rhizoid" projections underneath. Spring and fall.

Gyromitra ancilis (Discina perlata) - "pig's ear". Usually dark brown and the most wrinkled.

G. melaleucoides - usually dull brown.

G. olympiana - usually a bit brighter with tones of yellow.

G. leucoxantha - usually the brightest. Species determination should be tested microscopically.

Disciotis venosa grp - darker than Gyromitra, often with dots under the rim and smelling like bleach. Related to Morchella, and probably mycorrhizal. Found in spring.


Colourful cups - our largest and most beautiful cup fungi. Notice the photo of Caloscypha shows the mushroom "puffing". Ascomycota will often release their spores all at once when triggered by rain or even just blowing on it a couple of times. Try it on every cup you find, and eventually it will work.

Aleuria aurantia - "orange peel", <10cm, on the ground.

Sowerbyella rhenana - smaller, <2.5cm, with thick stalk, on the ground.

Caloscypha fulgens - <4cm, orange cup turns green where handled or in age, on the ground. Spring. Associated with firs.

Sarcoscypha coccinea - scarlet red on wood debris, <5cm. Spring.

Pseudaleuria quinaultiana - very similar on debris but no stem at all, orange-red, irregularly shaped. Spring.

Microstoma protractum - <2cm, vivid red notched cups on long stems on woody debris. Spring.

Sarcosphaera coronaria (crassa) - somewhat buried, white inside turning purple, sphere breaking into star-shaped rays. Asci turn blue in iodine. Spring. (Molecularly, probably just a Peziza).

Scutellinia umbrarum - eyelash rimmed red-orange cup/disc usually on soil, <2cm. Spring and fall.

S. scutellata - usually on rotten wood, longer eyelashes.

Geopyxis deceptiva/rehmii ('carbonaria'/'vulcanalis') - sometimes brightly coloured. Sulphur odor? <2cm. Spring and fall.


Black cups - blackish exterior and interiors, usually found in the spring. (Plicaria on burned ground can be very dark too, but is more fragile).

Plectania/Pseudoplectania - mostly black cups on wood or the ground, firmer flesh.

Urnula/Pseudosarcosoma - black cups with thick bases filled with jelly, rubbery flesh.

Plectania milleri - recognized by stellate margin (notched), <4cm. Spring and fall.

Plectania melastoma - orange granules when young, else black, <2.5cm across. Bulgaria iniquinans is similar, but gelatinous.

Donadinia nigrella (Plectania nannfeldtii) - perfect black cup on long thin stem. Compare Helvella. <3cm.

Pseudoplectania vogesiaca (melaena) - olive brown on top, <4cm, often a tiny stem.

Pseudoplectania nigrella - plain black cups, small, felty exterior, <2.5cm, usually no stem.

Urnula padeniana (Sarcosoma mexicanum) - base filled with black jelly, <10cm, spring and fall.

Pseudosarcosoma (Sarcosoma) latahense - smaller, <5cm, young top surface somewhat purplish-black, thickened base somewhat gelatinous.

Neournula pouchetii - <3cm, related to Pseudosarcosoma. Deep cup, stem, pinkish outside, stellate margin.


Humaria/Trichophaea - very beautiful little hairy rimmed deep cups, on regular or burned ground. Year round. Trichophaea hemisphaerioides is more closely related to Humaria than it is to other T. spp.

Humaria hemisphaerica - white interior, brown fuzzy exterior on the ground, <3cm.

Trichophaea hemisphaerioides - smaller, on burned ground, <1.5cm.


Geopyxis/Tarzetta - small, usually perfect little deep cups with small mouths on regular or burned ground. Occasionally they open up into discs, and may be smaller than 1cm and confused with small cup fungi and the more irregular Peziza. This group can often be recognized by a finely scalloped cup edge, which in Geopyxis is often paler. Year round.

G. deceptiva/rehmii ('carbonaria'/'vulcanalis') - on regular or burned ground, terra cotta. Pale rim. May smell of sulphur. <2cm.

Tarzetta catinus - not as colourful, regular ground, bigger, <4cm.

T. cupularis - regular or burned ground, smaller, <2cm.


Peziza - fragile, brown cups on the ground, wood, dung or burnt ground. Practically speaking, they can be very difficult to tell apart. They may be found almost any time of year, with different species sometimes showing a preference, but that is not always well documented. Almost everything in the Pezizaceae family can be told by asci tips that turn a beautiful blue in iodine under the microscope - a great way to recognize Peziza, Plicaria, Iodophanus or Sarcosphaera.

First, the larger Pezizas, that will grow to be between 5 and 10cm wide.

P. badia - usually dark, on the ground, resembling Plicaria from burned ground.

P. howsei - purple tones, on soil or rotting wood.

P. echinospora - pale to dark on burnt ground.

P. arvernensis (sylvestris) - medium brown on the ground or rotting wood, external surface perhaps smoother than similar species.

P. varia (repanda/cerea) - light to medium brown on wood or woody debris, or even indoors. Flesh may have 5 layers under a hand lens.

P. domiciliana - light to medium brown, also found indoors.

P. vesiculosa - light brown, on rotting vegetation and dung, larger than P. fimeti. Often inrolled margin and only a small opening.

The following are found on burnt ground, <5cm across.

Plicaria endocarpoides - dark brown on burnt ground, fragile like a Peziza (which it actually is), unlike the black cups.

Plicaria trachycarpa/carbonaria - smaller, <2.5cm

Peziza echinospora (above) - may be >5cm.

Peziza nivalis - high elevations on burnt ground near snow, sometimes on soil or decaying grasses. Hard to ID. <2.5cm

P. sepiatra - dark brown on burn sites, <2.5cm, much like Plicaria. Northern species.

P. ostracoderma - similar, also on sterilized soil in gardens and greenhouses.

P. petersii - brown, <5cm. All are hard to ID.

P. proteana (forma sparassoides) - large convoluted clusters on burnt ground. Sometimes does not cluster, forming individual bodies <5cm, hard to ID.

P. praetervisa - purple when young, on burnt ground, <5cm.

P. sublilacina (violacea) - almost identical to P. praetervisa.

Other Pezizas...

P. fimeti - small on dung, <2cm. (P. vesiculosa, above, is larger).

P. ammophila - buried in sand, southern species, <5cm

Geopora arenosa - similar, in sand and burns, white interior, <2cm (unrelated).

P. brunneoatra - small and dark on the ground, <2.5cm

P. badioconfusa (phyllogena) - well rotted hardwood, northern sp., <5cm.

P. succosa - bleeds yellow juice when cut! (Soil).

P. michelii - bleeds a watery juice that turns yellowish

P. limnaea - olive colours

P. nivalis - high elevations, usually in burned areas near snow. <2.5cm.

Everything in the Pezizaceae family has asci tips that turn blue in iodine.


Otidea - lopsided cup fungi with one side split lengthwise. Possibly confused with otherwise misshapen cups. Usually <4cm wide. Usually found in fall.

O. alutacea grp - dull colours, sometimes clustered.

O. oregonensis ('concinna' grp) - brighter colours.

O. onotica - "donkey ear", one side much higher than the other, pink-orange interior.

O. pseudoleporina/leporina - "rabbit ear", also tall, pale/medium duller brown.

O. smithii - dark purplish brown, larger, tall and up to 8cm high.

O. rainierensis - paler purplish brown.

The following species look for all the world like O. smithii, but are not related, neither are they related to each other!

Helvella (Wynnella) silvicola - also large but dark reddish brown, hard to distinguish from O. smithii yet unrelated - it's more closely related to Helvella.

Ionomidotis (Midotis) irregularis - resembles Otidea smithii and Wynnella, more irregularly shaped, but is actually related to the earth tongues. Southern species.

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