What You Should Know
Scutellinia scutellata is an inedible small saprophytic fungus of the genus Scutellinia. It is the type species of Scutellinia, as well as being the most widespread. The fruiting bodies are small red cups with distinct long, dark hairs or "eyelashes". The youngest specimens are almost entirely spherical. These eyelashes are the most distinctive feature and are easily visible with a magnifying glass. The species is common in North America and Europe.
Other names: Eyelash Fungus, Eyelash Cup, Scarlet Elf Cap, Molly Eye-Winker.
Scutellinia scutellata Mushroom Identification
Saprobic on wet, rotted wood, or damp soil nearby; growing gregariously or in clusters; spring through fall; widely distributed in North America.
Cup-shaped to broadly cup-shaped, minute to 1.5 cm across; fertile surface ("top" or "inner" surface) scarlet red to bright orange, smooth; sterile surface ("under" or "outer" surface) brownish or pale orangish, covered with tiny dark hairs; the margin with longer, eyelash-like, dark hairs; without a stem; flesh thin and insubstantial.
Spores (best viewed in lactophenol and cotton blue) 17-23 x 10.5-14 µ elliptical; smooth when immature, and remaining so for a long time--but in maturity prominently sculpted with warts and ribs extending to about 1 µ high; with several oil droplets. Paraphyses with swollen tips 6-10 µ across. Marginal hairs (the "eyelashes") 360-1600 x 20-50 µ; brownish in KOH; thick-walled; multi-septate; with branched bases.
Scutellinia scutellata Look-Alikes
The Scarlet Elf Cup, is much larger and deeper, bright red, and grows on dead twigs and branches in mossy woods and sometimes under damp hedgerows; its rim is not fringed with hairs.
Has a larger fruiting body and larger spores, as well as having shorter, less obvious hairs.
Slightly smaller and orange to yellow, with smooth spores.
Much smaller, with short, pale hairs and spores lacking oil droplets.
Has a bright orange color with small brown hairs.
Very similar as well, and can only be reliably distinguished by its roughly spherical ascospores that are typically 17–23 µm in diameter.
Scutellinia scutellata Taxonomy and Etymology
Common Eyelash Scutellinia scutellata was described by Carl Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum of 1753, when he named it Peziza scutellata. This tiny but spectacular cup fungus was given its present name in 1887 by the Belgian mycologist Jean Baptiste Emil Lambotte (1832 - 1905).
The specific epitet scutellata is Latin and means 'like a small shield'. The common name needs no explanation, but in some English-speaking countries alternatives such as Eyelash Cup, Molly Eye-winker, and Eyelash Pixie Cup are used instead.
The key to identifying to species level the various species of Scutellinia and Cheilymenia (the other main group of eyelash-fringed disc fungi) of which there are close to 50 known in Britain and Ireland, is by microscopic examination of asci, spores, and any hairs or 'lashes' that cover the infertile surface.
Scutellinia scutellata Carotenoids
The carotenoids are pigmented molecules found naturally in plants, and some types of fungi, including S. scutellata. A 1965 study reported the carotenoid composition of this fungus, found to contain a high proportion of monocyclic carotenes—carotenes with only one cyclohexene ring, such as beta-carotene. Also present were minor amounts of xanthophyll, a molecule structurally related to the carotenes.
Photo 1 - Author: Katja Schulz from Washington, D. C., USA (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)
Photo 2 - Author: Fluff Berger (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)
Photo 3 - Author: Fluff Berger (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)
Photo 4 - Author: Katja Schulz from Washington, D. C., USA (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)
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