Cap 2.5-5.0 cm broad, conic, becoming obtuse conic, with or without an umbo, occasionally expanding to convex or nearly plane; margin at first incurved, decurved to plane at maturity, sometimes faintly striate; surface glabrous, moist to lubricous, scarlet-red, fainter towards the margin; context up to 5.0 mm thick, soft, colored like the cap surface; odor not distinctive; taste mild.
Gills adnexed to notched with a descending tooth, subdistant, relatively broad and thick with a waxy aspect, intervenose, yellowish-orange, to reddish-orange, edges lighter than the faces, lamellulae up to four-seried.
Stipe 2.5-5.5 cm long, 0.5-1.0 cm thick, equal, straight to wavy, fragile, hollow, round or flattened with a groove; surface typically glabrous, only occasionally striate, moist, not viscid, colored like the cap, i.e. reddish-orange to yellowish-orange, yellowish at the base; partial veil absent.
Spores 7.0-9.5 x 4.0-5.0 µm, ellipsoid, smooth, inamyloid; spores white in deposit.
Scattered or in small groups in mixed hardwood-conifer forests; fruiting from mid-winter to early spring.
Edible according to the literature, but local experience is lacking.
Hygrocybe coccinea is a beautiful, scarlet mushroom with a moist to lubricous cap, reddish-orange gills and usually glabrous, reddish to orange stipe. It fruits late in the mushroom season, often with other colorful waxy caps like Hygrocybe psitticina, Hygrocybe miniata, H. flavescens, members of the H. conica group, and H. punicea. Of these, it is most likely to be confused with Hygrocybe puniceus. The latter can be distinguished by its usually darker red cap and yellowish fibrillose stipe. Hygrocybe coccinea is a widely distributed, variable species, found both in Europe and the U.S. Mycologists differ in their "species concept" for this mushroom. The above description fits material commonly collected in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.