Scutellinia scutellata (L.) Lambotte - Common Eyelash

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

Scutellinia scutellata - Common Eyelash Fungus

This remarkable ascomycetous fungus is quite tiny, and so despite being quite common it often goes unnoticed. The largest 'cup' pictured here is a mere 4mm across, and many barely reach half that size when fully developed. Perhaps 'barely' is an inappropriate word in the context of this fungal species and its close relatives, because what makes all of the Scutellinia fungi species (and there are severa within this genus in various parts of the world) so special is the fringe of hairs around the edge of each cap.

Scutellinia scutellata - Eyelash Fungus on rotting plant stems

Distribution

Scutellinia scutellata likes damp places: as long as there is plenty of moisture and some well-rotted timber to eat - even Eucalyptus is acceptable, as is the case in the pictures above and on the left - this fungus can thrive. Because of this it is one of the most widespread of the world's fungi, truly deserving the description ubiquitous. While common in Britain and Ireland, the Eyelash Fungus is also found not only throughout mainland Europe and North America but also in many parts of South America, Asia and Australasia.

Scutellinia scutellata - Common Eyelash Fungus, New Forest

Taxonomic history

Common Eyelash Scutellinia scutellata was described by Carl Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum of 1753, when he named it Peziza scutellata. This tiny but spectacular cup fungus was given its present name in 1887 by the Belgian mycologist Jean Baptiste Emil Lambotte (1832 - 1905).

Scutellinia scutellata is the type species of its genus.

Etymology

The specific epitet scutellata is Latin and means 'like a small shield', which seems quite accurate except for the fringe of eyelashes, which I have never yet seen on any shield other than one intended for covering the eyes... The common name needs no explanation, but in some English-speaking countries alternatives such as Eyelash Cup, Molly Eye-winker, and Eyelash Pixie Cup are used instead.

The key to identifying to species level the various species of Scutellinia and Cheilymenia (the other main group of eyelash-fringed disc fungi) of which there are close on 50 known in Britain and Ireland, is by microscopic examination of asci, spores and any hairs or 'lashes' that cover the infertile surface.

Identification Guide

Closeup photograph of Scutellinia scutellata

Fertile (inner) surface

Up to 10mm across, but more commonly 3 to 5mm, the cups of Common Eyelash are shiny on the upper (hymenial or spore-bearing) surface and vary in colour from orange through to a very deep red inside the cup. A fringe of dark brown eyelash-like hairs surround the rim of the cup.

The shallow cups, which become almost flat when fully mature, are initially round but often develop irregular margins as they push up against their neighbours.

Side view of Scutellinia scutellata showing part of the infertile surface

Infertile (outer) surface and stem

The pale orange downy outer surface is infertile; the ascospores are produced on the shiny inner surface of the cup, which is typically  2 to 4mm tall and is attached to the substrate by mycelial threads and without a visible stipe.

Marginal hairs of Scutellinia scutellata

Marginal hairs

350-1800 x 20-50µm, septate, dark brown, pointed.

Show larger image

A mature ascus of Scutellinia scutellata with its eight spores

Asci

Hyaline, 250-300 x 18-25um; uniseriate, each ascus having eight spores. Asci tips do not turn blue in Melzer's reagent.

Show larger image

Paraphyses

Septate; pale orange, cylindrical with clavate tips 10-12µm across.

Spores of the Eyelash Fungus, Scutellinia scutellata

Spores

Ellipsoidal, smooth initially, eventually developing tiny warts and some connecting ridges to 1µm in height, typically 10-12 x 18-19µm; hyaline.

Show larger image

Spore print

White.

Odour/taste

Not distinctive (although often the substrate is very smelly!)

Habitat & Ecological role

Saprobic, on humous-rich damp soil, damp long-dead wood and other well-rotted vegetation; also occasionally on the dung of horses, cows and other ruminants.

Season

June to late November in Britain and Ireland.

Similar species

Sarcoscypha austriaca, the Scarlet Elf Cup, is much larger and deeper, bright red and grows on dead twigs and branches in mossy woods and sometimes under damp hedgerows; its rim is not fringed with hairs.

Reference Sources

Fascinated by Fungi, Pat O'Reilly 2016.

René Dogoud. Vincent Ruiz-Badanelli (2010). Sur deux espèces du genre Scutellinia, sous-genre Legalia T. Schumach., Scutellinia minor et S. mirabilis : Ascomycete.org, 2 (1) : 25-31.

Schumacher T. (1990). The genus Scutellinia (Pyronemataceae).Opera Botanica 101: 107 pp.

Dissing H. & Sivertsen S. 1983. Operculate Discomycetes from Rana (Norway) 4. Octospora hygrohypnophila, Peziza prosthetica and Scutellinia mirabilis spp. nov. Nordic Journal of Botany, 3 (3) : 415-421.

Schumacher, T. (1988). The Scutellinia battle: the lost, missing and dead. Mycotaxon 33: 149-189.

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

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.

Scutellinia scutellata - Eyelash Fungus, closeup of fruitbody

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by David Kelly.

Top of page...


Pat O'Reilly

If you have found this information helpful, we are sure you would also find our book Fascinated by Fungi by Pat O'Reilly very useful. Author-signed hardback copies at a special discount price are available here...

Other nature books from First Nature...