Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Scarlet elf cap

My mother’s childhood was spent in Dorset. My childhood was spent in Yeovil, just over the border into Somerset. I could see Dorset from my bedroom window and we spent a lot of time there. Around Christmas time we used to to towards Sherborne on the bus, get off at Half Way House and then walk into the deep fern-lined lanes around Nether Compton. We were always keen to find scarlet elf cap fungi, Sarcoscypha coccinea, which my mother called Jerusalem stars. Tucked amongst the green moss they positively glowed. I remember well the pleasure I got from putting my fingers into the damp moss, smelling the fresh mossy smell and carefully extracting the fungi, which always grow on twigs and small pieces of wood. As the climate in the West Country is relatively mild it was usually possible to find a few early primrose buds or snowdrops. My mother then created a little garden in a red glass dish filled with moss, the Jerusalem stars and any small flowers, which she placed in our window for Christmas. (I still have the dish!) [Orpington, Kent, November 2011].

Images:  main, South West Coast Path between Clovelly and Hartland Quay, north Devon; March 2014; inset, beside the Ely Trail, near St Fagans, Cardiff, March 2017.