Scarlet Elf Cups in Holden Clough

A large part of my childhood was spent walking many miles to a small steeply wooded valley, known in the north as a clough, called Holden Clough. Here it is:

Holden Clough - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The fields and woodlands there were studied extensively by the amateur members of the Oldham Microscopical and Natural History Society. I was the Society’s youngest member at 10 or so years old. The next oldest member was 26 and the rest were retired gentlemen in their 60s and 70s, all dressed in tweed and smoking pungent pipes. We met every Monday night at the Local Studies centre for winter slide shows and exhibitions and in summer we went on evening walks. The Society was founded in 1864.

Holden Clough was one of our favourite places. I’m back there again for a brief walk this afternoon and there’s a Scarlet Elf Cup, Sarcoscypha coccinea, on a broken twig:

Scarlet Elf Cup Sarcoscypha cocinea - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Here it is from Coloured figures of English fungi or mushrooms, thanks to the genius of James Sowerby, published in 4 volumes between 1789 and 1791:

Scarlet Elf Cup - James Sowerby - The Hall of Einar

What a fabulous fungus. It was used in traditional medicine by Oneida Indians, who placed it on the bellybuttons of newborn babies, and used it to stop bleeding.

I didn’t try it.

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