What is Cup Fungus?

Cup fungus refers to a wide group of fungi in the Pezizales order (phylum Ascomycota). These are typically identified by a disk- or cup-shaped structure (apothecium) with spore sacs (asci) on its surface. A few of the cup fungi are essential to plant pathogens, such as Monilinia (Sclerotinia), by causing the brown rot in peaches, including other stone fruits. Saprobes, for example, have small (2–5 mm) bright orange or red discs that can be found on old cow dung, rotting branches and twigs. Each ascus usually contains eight ascospores.


Apothecia are normally open to the outside; however, in subterranean truffles, the apothecia are fully enclosed and only revealed when the truffle is opened. Several cup fungi produce ascospores, ballistospores, that are forcibly shot out. They are often discharged in such large quantities, as in Peziza and Helvella, that they form a cloud over the fruiting body, and countless small explosions can be heard as a hissing sound.

The representation of cup fungus is given in the below figure.

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Cup Mushroom Edible

The word morel is used for the 15 species of the edible Morchella mushrooms. They contain a pitted or convoluted head or a cap. Morels are different in shape and take place in diverse habitats. The edible M. esculenta can be found during early summer in the woods. Early in the spring, the bell morel (or Verpa), an edible mushroom with a bell-shaped tip, can be found in woods and old orchards. Gyromitra species, a genus of false morels, are poisonous in the majority of cases. However, G. brunnea is edible, and it is found in woods or sandy soils.

Peziza, which contains up to 50 widespread species, produces in summer a mushroom-like or cup-shaped fruiting body structure on manure or rotting wood. Fire fungus is the most common term for two genera (Anthracobia and Pyronema) of the order, which grows on steamed soil or burned wood.


The Pezizaceae (commonly known as cup fungi) is an Ascomycota fungi family that produces mushrooms that grow in a "cup" shape. Spores are formed on the fruit body's inner surface (mushroom). Typically, the cup shape serves to focus the raindrops into splashing spores out of the cup. In addition, the curvature enables wind currents to blow the spores out in a varied manner than in most boletes and agarics.

Cup fungi grow in a peculiar shape, frequently resembling saucers or cups. For example, the orange peel fungus (named Aleuria aurantia) resembles a discarded orange rind. They can be vividly colored, such as the scarlet cup (called Sarcoscypha coccinea), which is often the first sign of spring where it grows. According to a 2008 estimate, the family has 230 species and 31 genera.

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About Cup Fungi

"Cup fungi" is not a scientific term, but it holds together several mushrooms, which are shaped either less or more like cups, goblets, or saucers. In fact, the mushrooms in the shape of a cup are most diverse, comprising many different genera and families in the Ascomycota.

A few cups are simple to identify, but others are exceedingly difficult and necessitate microscopic examination; stemless, brownish cups are particularly frustrating. Fortunately, most cup fungi have a fairly simple structure, so there aren't many features to evaluate - even under the microscope.

We need to observe Macroscopic features in order to attempt the identifying cup fungi include the cup's upper surface (in Mycology, the spore-producing "hymenium"), the undersurface (the sterile "excipular surface"), the margin (use a hand lens; we are looking for pustules or tiny hairs), the pseudo-stem or the stem (if present), and the flesh.

Usually, the microscopic features involve the hymenium, so a scalp section from the upper surface of the cup, crushed under the coverslip, will suffice generally. Morphology of the spores, paraphyses and the asci should be studied. (One frustrating hurdle in the study and identification of the cup fungi involves that immature specimens are often collected, making the study of spores impossible). Ideally, we should mount our sections in 2% KOH and coloureds reagent since the reaction of the ascus tips to Melzer's (not bluing or bluing) can greatly help in figuring out which genus our cup fungus belongs to.

Recent research (including Tedersoo and collaborators, 2006) has indicated that some cup fungi previously thought to be saprobic decomposers of forest litter are, in fact, mycorrhizal symbionts with trees. Further research is needed to determine whether cup fungi are always mycorrhizal or, like morels, "facultatively" mycorrhizal.

Relatives of the Cup Fungi

If we examine a cross-section of an apothecium with a microscope, we will find the asci arranged vertically and making up much of the upper surface of the apothecium. These colours have no significance, and they are simply used to differentiate the multiple features.

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FAQs on Cup Fungus

1. What are Discomycetes?

Answer: The most commonly noticed larger ascomycete fruiting bodies are the ones called discomycetes, often known as "cup fungi." In appearance, they look like shallow cups or fairly flattish disks. Jafneadelphus ferruginous is given as flat, with only the margins raised slightly. Such a disk or cup-shaped fruiting body is known as an apothecium.

2. What are Geoglossum and Trichoglossum?

Answer: Trichoglossum and Geoglossum are ascomycetes. A cross-section of one of these fruiting bodies can be seen in the diagrammatic representation. The black band represents the area having paraphyses and asci. In essence, still, the structure is that of an apothecium - though removed much further from the basic disk shape compared to even Leotia is.

3. What are Fruiting Bodies?

Answer: The fruiting bodies of the Leotia lubrica are some centimetres tall and, at first glance could be mistaken for the small-capped mushrooms. However, there are no gills available under the Leotia lubrica, and the cap is, in fact, an ascomycete. The asci (including paraphyses) are present on the top of the cap, of a cross-section. At the same time, the interior of the fruiting body is in a hollow shape.

4. What are Morchella Elata and Cyttaria Gunnii?

Answer: Both Cyttaria gunnii and Morchella elata hold more complicated fruiting bodies, which are composed of a number of ridges and depressions. In effect, every depression is like an individual apothecium so that it superficially looks as if a number of separate apothecia have been glued together into a ball (Cyttaria) or onto a stalk (Morchella).

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