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Small Inoperculate Cups

I am assuming that most cup fungi are saprophytic, but I don't know if that has been well studied. Many of the species can be found year round, or at least in spring and fall. Notable exceptions will be given.

Inoperculate means that the asci (the microscopic structures inside which the spores grow after which the Ascomycota get their name) do not have a lid that opens up to release the spores. This is very difficult to see under a microscope, but it is a good indicator of which mushrooms are related to each other. This indicates that the morels, large cups and operculate small cups are unrelated, but the earth tongues are related.

Make sure your "cup" doesn't contain additional plant-like growths. It may be a lichen, a symbiosis between a fungus and green algae or cyanobacteria, found on wood, bare ground or even bare rocks, unrelated to the fungi on this page. Lichens are not covered in this key.

Exceptions - the following species are often found on wood but are actually operculate cup fungi and found on that page as well.

Scutellinia - yellow to orange to red cups or discs with eyelash hairs on the margin. <2cm. 

Pachyella babingtonii - red- to yellow-brown translucent disc on wet wood. <1cm.

Miladina lecithina - brighter yellow-orange, <5mm.

Pithya vulgaris - orange short stemmed discs on fir twigs. <1cm.

P. cupressina - on cedar and juniper twigs. <5mm.

Chloroscypha (Kriegeria) alutipes - cups that turn black (this species is inoperculate, see below).

Pseudopithyella minuscula - scarlet, <3mm, southern species.


Sometimes Peziza can be <1cm, brown, in various habitats, including wood.

Plectania nannfeldtii - sometimes <1cm on woody debris.


Basidiomycota - there are just a few cup-shaped fungi that are not Ascomycota at all, but Basidiomycota. You would never know this unless you examine them under a microscope or recognize them from these pictures. Not only are they Basidiomycota, but most are closely related to the gilled mushrooms! Over the years they have lost their gills kind of like you stopped using your appendix. All except Aleurodiscus may be distantly related to Marasmius. Most are rarely found, possibly because of their minuscule size and confusion with the small cup-like Ascomycota found on the rest of this page. They are found on wood and are saprophytic. Most fruit year round.

Calyptella capula - tiny white trumpets on deciduous sticks, a few mm wide.

Henningsomyces candidus - flaring white straws, less than 1/2mm wide!

Merismodes - minuscule ochre hairy rimmed cups 1/2mm wide, tightly clustered, deciduous twigs.

Aleurodiscus grantii/amorphus - salmon pink, discs with a furry rim. Sometimes irregular shaped and not disc-like, but a crust. <5mm. Russulales.

Lachnella alboviolascens - purple cups with a white hairy fringe, 1cm or so, on deciduous stems. Resembles the Ascomycota Lachnum.

Lachnella villosa - much smaller, <1mm, mostly white and even more easily confused with the inoperculate cup Lachnum.


Key to Small Inoperculate Cups:



Colourful (rarely brown), smooth rimmed cups or discs (without hairs) on wood, stemless or with a short stem (belonging to various families). Also consider the white and salmon-pink Basidiomycota .

Chlorociboria aeruginascens - blue cups, <5mm, short off-centre stem, somewhat irregular shape, blue flesh.

C. aeruginosa - more perfect cup shape with central stem, orange flesh?

Chlorociboria mycelium actually turns wood blue! (See Phanerochaete for one that stains wood red!)

Ascocoryne sarcoides/cylichnium - purple disks, somewhat gelatinous, <1cm.

Bisporella citrina - yellow discs, <3mm on barkless wood.

Mollisia cinerea/Tapesia fusca  - bluish translucent discs with pale rim, <2mm, hardwood.

Belonopsis graminea - dark brown with pale rim, on grasses.

Orbilia - orange translucent discs, sometimes pallid, <1mm. They may belong in their own class!

Claussenomyces atrovirens - greenish discs on conifers.

Hymenoscyphus calyculus (virgultorum)/(Phaeohelotium) epiphyllus - yellow-orange with stem, <5mm.

Tatraea macrospora - greyish discs, short stem, <1.5cm.

Chloroscypha (Kriegeria) alutipes - yellow cups with variable length stem on Incense-cedar that turn black. Southern species.

Orbilia and Mollisia with microscope slide to show scale. Both genera have many species.

Vibrissea decolorans/filisporia - stemless on wet, barkless hardwood in the water, pale yellow with a darker rim and underside.


Sclerotiniaceae - Brownish (rarely more colourful) smooth rimmed cups or discs with long stems on woody debris (cones, needles, leaves or twigs). The species are separated by the substrate they are growing on. These are different enough from the other group that they will be separated from the Helotiales into a new order. One species grows out of the ground and may be >1cm, and therefore may not be looked for on this page. It may be of interest that Botrytis cinerea, the noble rot fungus that is cultured to make some expensive desert wines, is an anamorph (asexual stage) fungus related to this group.

Ciboria rufofusca - on conifer cones. Spring.

C. amentacea/caucus - on hardwood catkins. Spring.

Rutstroemia petiolorum - similar to Cibora spp, this species usually on oak leaves. Fall.

Monolinia species usually arise from plant fruits.

Lanzia luteovirescens - more colourful greenish-brown on hardwood debris. Fall. 

Sclerotinia veratri - on Veratrum corn-lily. This genus has a sclerotium (ball of nutrients) at its base (often inside the substrate).  Spring.

Sclerotinia (Dumontinia) tuberosa - on Anemone plants, with sclerotia, appearing from the ground and >1cm! Spring.


Hyaloscyphaceae - colourful HAIRY rimmed cups or discs on wood and woody debris, stemless or with a short stem. Also consider Lachnella and Merismodes, Basidiomycota.

Lachnum (Dasyscyphus/Capitotricha) bicolor - orange discs surrounded by white hairs, ~1mm, on salmonberry and other hardwoods. Shoelace shown for size comparison.

Lachnum gaultheriae - similar, <1mm, on salal leaves.

Psilachnum/Albotricha spp are similar. See Lachnellula spp for those found on conifers.

Lachnum virgineum - all white hairy cups, short stem on blackberry and other hardwoods. <2mm.

Dasyscyphella spp. are similar.

Hyaloscypha spp - similar white hairy discs, but stemless.

Hyaloscypha vitreola - brownish discs with paler hairs, hardwood, <1mm.

Lasiobelonium corticale - similar pinkish-orange discs with paler hairs, hardwood.

Velutarina rufo-olivacea - olive tones on disc, rusty brown powder underneath, hardwood.

Polydesmia pruinosa - white cushions with subtle hairs easily overlooked, <0.5mm, parasitic on Hypoxylon and other flasks.

Lachnellula agassizii - similar to Lachnum, orange discs with white hairs on conifers, 1-4mm.

L. occidentalis/willkommii/suecica/ciliata - very similar species.

L. arida - orange discs with dark brown marginal hairs, <5mm, also on conifers.

L. flavovirens - orange with yellow-brown hairs on conifers.

Lachnellula spp can revive in water after drying out.


Other species in habitats where operculate cup fungi are normally found, so therefore also mentioned on that page:

Thelebolus stercoreus - found on dung, minute, <0.25mm, yellow-brown with a single protruding ascus with over 1,000 spores.

Discinella boudieri - brown  disc <1cm, on bare soil, less colourful than most operculates found on the ground, except for the usually larger Peziza.


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