Ecology III


Geographical distribution

The Central European sites where Sarcoscypha fruits concentrate on areas with rather high precipitation and altitude, plenty of melting water available in early spring, and a predominantly more basic soil (but Pidlich-Aigner 1999: 15 found Sacroscypha also on silicous soils). Especially in the large area of, e.g., the alps or the scands the genus Sarcoscypha appears to occur widespread. Nevertheless the inhabited single biotops are often rather small, since the ecological prerequisites are only fulfilled in the so-called extrazonal (`island´) vegetation, usually narrow biotops along small rivulets or large streams, but also shady valleys and north-exposed slopes without running surface water. Rich Sarcoscypha sites may occupy many hundreds of apothecia while poor sites only a few. In the more north European lowlands Sarcoscypha is restricted to often small forest islands not used by agriculture. That Sarcoscypha originally had a much denser occurrence in the northern lowlands is suggested by the rapid invasion of S. austriaca and S. coccinea into the recently drained and forested Netherlands polders as reported by van Duuren & van Duuren (2003, 2004). The extraordinary frequent occurrence in the monoculture forests on these polders is probably due to the highly calcareous soil which constitutes the previous seabed of that area.


Distribution of Sarcoscypha in Central Europe. Red = S. austriaca, blue = S. jurana, green = S. coccinea. (Many presently available data are not included yet.)


Differences among the three (or four) European species

Species of Sarcoscypha clearly differ in in their ecological amplitude. S. coccinea prefers more thermophilous habitats favouring planar to colline areas, while S. jurana and especially S. austriaca prefer montaneous to subalpine-boreal habitats.

S. austriaca: montaneous to subalpine-boreal, very abundant on basic soils of higher mountains (Alps, Pyrenees, Carpathian Mts., Dinarian alps, Great Britain-Ireland, Scandinavia), scattered to abundant in northern atlantic and baltic lowlands (depending on the presence of natural or even recently planted woodland as, e.g., on the polders of the Netherlands).

S. jurana: montaneous areas with very calcareous or basic soils: Jura Mts. (malm, French, Swiss & German), small isolated volcanic spots like Hegau (SW of Baden-Württemberg) and Vogelsberg (Hessen), Muschelkalk (Luxembourg), scattered sites in E- and SE- (Dinarian alps) and SW-Europe (Spanish Pyrenees).

S. coccinea: planar to colline, prefering basic soils, atlantic and subatlantic, sub- and eumediterranean, and pannonic areas, becoming very rare in Great Britain-Ireland, Scandinavia, and NE-Europe.

S. macaronesica: with certainty only found in the laural forests of the Macaronesian islands: Tenerife (Anaga, Teno), Gomera, La Palma (Los Tilos), and Madeira. Collections from the eumediterranean belt and the atlantic coast identified as S. macaronesica are perhaps not sufficiently different in their micromorphology from southern populations of S. coccinea, but published detailed, also molecular studies are wanting.



A recent study (Butterfill & Spooner, 1995) showed that the relative abundance of the two recognized British species, S. austriaca and S. coccinea, has significantly changed in recent years. The once common S. coccinea appears in the past 25 years to have become much rarer, while S. austriaca became distinctly more common when comparing recent with earlier collections. Likewise, in Norway S. austriaca is very abundant while S. coccinea very rare or perhaps even absent. On the contrary, in France and southern areas of Europe, S. coccinea is the common species while S. austriaca is restricted to montaneous regions like the Pyrenees.

In areas remote from the alps the sites are often rather disjunct. At such places the fungus is possibly threatened especially through human influence that injures or alters the natural vegetation, but perhaps also through an extract of fruit-bodies. All species of Sarcoscypha are classified as red list fungi and should be protected.

Large areas appear to be free of fructifications, or perhaps Sarcoscypha appears there only in very favourable years. For example, within the areas of Oesling (Luxembourg, acid devonian soil, G. Marson pers. comm.) and Rhön (L. Krieglsteiner pers. comm.) no single site came to our notice. Also in my area around Stuttgart and Tübingen nearly no sites are known.


Sympatric growth

                Usually a given site is only inhabited by one species of Sarcoscypha (allopatric growth). However, quite many places are known where the areas of two or even three of the species touch and overlap. Here, sometimes two species could be detected growing at the same site. In such cases the inhabited branches of the two belonged to different tree genera. Only once S. coccinea and S. austriaca was found to grow at one site on the same host genus (Corylus), but on different branches (Pidlich-Aigner 1999: 15).


Mapping, collaboration

The project tries to collect data from whole Europe in order to gradually improve knowledge about the three species so far known to occur in this continent. These data concern distribution and altitude as well as preferences of hosts, plant communities, and soil type. The results will continuously be updated.

All kinds of data are welcome, but essentially the following:


- GPS coordinates (l/w degree, minutes, seconds), or alternatively for Germany and adjacent areas MTB/quadrants/subquadrants

- Altitude above sea level

- Substrate if recognized, trees and plants growing around

- Date of collection, name collector

- Site name and village, next town, preferably with indicating the direction (e.g., 12 km NW of …)


Collectors who have made more than a few collections may send their data also in a data matrix, preferably in Excel.

If you wish you may add to your collection data drawings or micrographs of the ascospores or other characters, e.g., as attach to your mail, especially if you are uncertain about their identity. I am also happy about fresh material, preferably concerning S. macaronesica and mediterranean or extraeuropean collections, but also to clarify uncertain European finds. Please add a small piece of the branch (including wood) for anatomical identification of the host genus. Since Sarcoscypha is only a rather small of my many projects, and because of the difficulty to identify herbarium material, please contact me before sending fungal specimens!