The European and North-American species of Sarcoscypha
H.O. Baral, Tübingen, 2004
general remarks, vital taxonomy
Sarcoscypha, the type genus of the family Sarcoscyphaceae (Pezizales,
operculate discomycetes, Ascomycotina), is well known in
Unlike most Pezizales, the members of the Sarcoscyphaceae grow as saprophytes on dead woody plant material (rarely woody fruits), in the case of Sarcoscypha on mostly damp, mossy branches of broad-leaved, very rarely coniferous trees, that were fallen to the ground. Most species of Sarcoscypha fruit in winter and early spring, and are often already mature when still covered by snow.
Although microscopical differences observed in living specimens has indicated since about 1900 the existence of several, macroscopically indistinguishable taxa within the temperate to alpine-boreal zone of the northern hemisphere (Europe and North America), only one large-cupped species of Sarcoscypha, S. coccinea, has currently been recognized in this large area during many later decades. The diagnostic microscopical characters supporting existence of different taxa mainly concern (1) striking differences in the guttule (lipid) pattern of living ascospores, first observed by Boudier (1903), (2) a very different germination behaviour of the ascospores among collections (with or without forming conidia), first observed by Rosinski (1953, corresponding case reported by Paden 1974 in Phillipsia), and (3) differently shaped spore ends. Strong differences in conidial size were later observed in pure culture, and DNA sequences supported existence of different taxa.
Baral (1984, Central
Europe), Harrington (1990, USA), Butterfill & Spooner (1995, Great
Britain), Pidlich-Aigner (1999, Austria), Öpik et al. (2000, Estland), G. &
Y. van Duuren (2003, 2004, Netherlands), Matočec & Kušan (2007,
Croatia) and B. & O. Perić
(2007) confirmed the observations of
Boudier and Rosinski, and showed that totally four different large-cupped
species exist in Europe and N-America (S. austriaca, S. coccinea,
S. dudleyi, S. jurana,
apothecial diameter 20-90 mm), three of them in
Both lipid pattern and germination behaviour are vital characters, which means that they are difficult or impossible to observe in dead herbarium material: (1) ascospore guttulation severely alters in dead spores by fusion of the oil drops, and (2) presence of germinated ascospores in fruit-bodies strongly depends on the development stage of the preserved collection. Fresh samples can be kept moist until spores germinate abundantly. If dried samples show fused oil drops and do not contain germinated spores, the differences between the species bescome quite obscure. As a consequence, herbarium taxonomists like Le Gal (1941) were unable to confirm the differences as reported by Boudier and Rosinski.
Harrington (1990: 436)
wrote: “The importance of fresh material
for species diagnosis, especially for noting ascospore guttulation, cannot be
overstated. Although I had examined material (dried herbarium specimens) from