Aleuria aurantia (Pers.) Fuckel - Orange Peel Fungus

Phylum: Ascomycota - Class: Pezizomycetes - Order: Pezizales - Family: Pyronemataceae

Aleuria aurantia - Orange Peel Fungus

Aleuria aurantia, the Orange Peel Fungus, is initially cup shaped but develops into a contorted bowl, often splitting. It is most frequently found on disturbed soil beside woodland paths.

Distribution

A fairly common find in Britain and Ireland, Orange Peel Fungus occurs also throughout mainland Europe, from Scandinavia right down to the southern shores of the Iberian Peninsula. This species is also found in North America.

Aleuria aurantia, Orange Peel Fungus, unusual convex specimens

Taxonomic history

In 1799 when Christiaan Hendrik Persoon described this species he named it Peziza aurantia.

It was the German mycologist Karl Wilhelm Gottlieb Leopold Fuckel (1821 - 1876) who transferred Orange Peel Fungus to the genus Aleuria and gave it its present scentific name Aleuria aurantia in 1870.

Synonyms of Aleuria aurantia include Peziza aurantia Fr., Scodellina aurantia (Pers.) Gray, Peziza coccinea Huds., Helvella coccinea Bolton, and Peziza aurantia Pers.

Aleuria aurantia, Orange Peel Fungus, Pembrokeshire, Wales UK

Etymology

The specific epithet aurantia means 'golden' is a reference to the colour of the fertile surface of these cup fungi.

Although usually starting out as concave cup-like fruitbodies, sometimes the Orange Peel Fungus turns convex, as in the example above, and then it looks even more like orange peel. Recently cleared stony forestry tracks are particularly good places for pezizoid fungi, and Aleuria aurantia in particular seems to favour such exposed locations.

Identification guide

Aleuria aurantia - fertile surface

Fertile (inner) surface

These striking fungi vary in colour from pale orange through to a very deep orange-red inside the cup, while the lower (outer, in cup-shaped fruitbodies) surface is paler and covered in a very fine whitish down.

The cups are initially round but soon develop wavy margins and have a tendency to split.

Up to 10cm across, but more commonly 3 to 6cm, they are shiny on the inside (hymenial or spore-bearing) surface and downy on the outside.

Aleuria aurantia - infertile surface and stem

Infertile (outer) surface and stem

The cup is typically  2 to 4cm tall and is attached to the soil by mycelial threads and without a visible stipe.

The pale outer surface of the cup is infertile; the spores are produced on the shiny inner surface of the cup.

Asci and spores of Aleuria aurantia

Asci

185-200 x 10-13µm, with eight spores per ascus.

Paraphyses

Narrow, clavate.

Paraphyses are structures of sterile tissue between the asci on the hymenial surface.

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Spores

Ellipsoidal, with a coarsely reticulate surface, 17-24 x 9-11µm (including ornamentation); spores usually containing two small oil drops, sometimes with thorn-like projections at each end.

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Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Not distinctive.

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, on and beside disturbed paths, particularly on gravelly soil.

Season

August to early November in Britain and Ireland; later in southern parts of mainland Europe.

Similar species

Sarcoscypha austriaca, the Scarlet Elf Cup, is bright red and grows on dead twigs and branches, in mossy woods and sometimes under damp hedgerows.

Aleuria aurantia, Orange Peel Fungus, a large group

Culinary Notes

This is one of the very few common cup fungi that are edible; most of the others are in varying degrees poisonous, although some become edible if thoroughly cooked. Unfortunately, despite its attractive appearance, the Orange Peel Fungus is not particularly tasty, and so it is rarely used in cooking except perhaps to add colour to salads.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly provided by David Kelly.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

Dennis, R.W.G. (1981). British Ascomycetes; Lubrecht & Cramer; ISBN: 3768205525.

Breitenbach, J. & Kränzlin, F. (1984). Fungi of Switzerland. Volume 1: Ascomycetes. Verlag Mykologia: Luzern, Switzerland.

Medardi, G. (2006). Ascomiceti d'Italia. Centro Studi Micologici: Trento.

Dictionary of the Fungi; Paul M. Kirk, Paul F. Cannon, David W. Minter and J. A. Stalpers; CABI, 2008

BMS List of English Names for Fungi

Taxonomic history and synonym information on these pages is drawn from many sources but in particular from the British Mycological Society's GB Checklist of Fungi and (for basidiomycetes) on Kew's Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota.

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