The Orange Cup (Melastiza cornubiensis) an ascomycete of the order discomycetes (disc-fungi). The upper surface bears microscopic hairs, some sterile paraphyses and some spore-bearing cylinders or flasks called asci, each ascus containing 8 spores when ripe. The ripe spores are discharged under pressure.
There are a number of orange disc and cup-fungi are determination can clearly be tricky (at least without resorting to microscopy and/or chemical tests). One factor to consider is habitat and preferred substrate. Melastiza cornubensis grows in clusters on sandy and gravelly soils. the fungus pictured here was growing around the base of an urban tree, on the edge of a small town, where the tarmac had been broken up by the tree's roots and was beginning to form a sandy and gravelly soil. Morphologically similar forms occur on other substrates: Scutellinia umbrorum forms dense clusters but on rotten wood or bare soil and whereas M. cornubensis has minute downy hairs at the margins of the discs, the lower surface of the discs of S. umbrorum are covered with more obvious, short and stiff dark brown hairs. Octospora rutilans forms more yellowish orange discs that are clustered among Polytrichum-type mosses on sandy soil.
Scutellinia scutellata forms dense clusters of small orange-scarlet discs on rotten wood / woody debris that is often moss-covered and the lower surface of the discs is brownish and covered with long pointed and dark-brain hairs, hence its common name of Eyelash Fungus. The undersurface of the discs in M. cornubensis is smooth and the same color as the upper surface.
The beautiful Orange Peel Fungus (Aleuria aurantia) forms orange cups that are often irregular in contour (like pieces of orange peel) and forms clusters in woods on bare soil, especially gravelly soil. These discs are generally larger than what we have here: A. aurantia discs reach 1 to 10 cm in diameter.
All of the ornage-disc fungi mentioned are members of the Pezizales, an order of discomycete. The discomycetes are all ascomycetes, fungi characterised by producing spores in flask-like asci.
Looking at lots of specimens or photographs can certainly help, as each form has its own characteristic appearance, though form and color can be variable and many photographs on the internet have clearly been misidentified. On the grounds of morphology, color and substrate i am fairly confident that we are indeed looking at Melastiza cornubiensis here.
Schizophyllum commune (Split Gill Fungus)
Split-gill fungi possess pseudogills (false gills) which are folds of tissue that increase the surface area of spore-generating tissue but which are not developed into true gills.
Auricularia auricula-judae (Jew's Ear Fungus)
This fungus is a basiodiomycete, meaning its spores are produced on microscopic structures called basidia, of the heterobasidiomycete group, also known as the Jelly Fungi. The gelatinous body is capable of drying up and then reviving when re-moistened.The sporing bodies are 3 to 8 cm in diameter.
This fungus isbrown-purple and gelatinous, but quite tough, rubbery and cartilaginous in texture when moist, hard and brittle when dry. It's sporing bodies are found on broad-leaved trees: living and dying branches and trunks. It prefers Elder (Sambucus nigra) but occurs on other trees, including elm and oak. Here it is growing on a fallen Elder tree.
The Latin name for the fungus refers to the mythical/legendary Judas Iscariot and 'Jew's Ear' is thought to be a corruption of 'Judas' Ear'. In Medieval mythology Judas hung himself from an Elder tree. It is said that his ears still hear the wind whisper his betrayal! (I do think poor Judas has been ill treated, after all his betrayal in the story was part of the plan, and he was the only disciple who would handle money and so took care of purchasing the group's provisions. The recently discovered 'Gospel of Judas' certainly shows that at least some early Christians held him in high regard for suffering persecution for doing what needed to be done). However, in his book 'Mushrooms and Toadstools' (Collins new naturalist series), Ramsbottom points out the original association of the 'stinking Elder' with Jews possibly reflects the religious prejudice of the era. The Elder was often depicted in a negative light by ancient superstitions. Indeed, in many fables witches could transform into Elder trees. Thus, the Elder Tree has a long history of being associated with those subject to religious persecution.
The convex upper surface is covered with fine greyish hairs and velvety in texture and may develop vein-like wrinkles (like and ear) on its under-surface with age.
The Jew's Ear fungus is edible and has been cultivated for food in parts of China. Personally, I prefer to leave them so that their beauty can be appreciated by other passers-by.
Phellinus tuberculosus forms short stubby brackets or cushions. It occurs on the trunks and undersides of branches of Prunus (as here - growing on a cherry tree). The brackets are up to 10 cm in diameter but only 1 to 2 cm thick.