Cap 4-12 cm broad, conical to convex when young, broadly convex to plane in age; margin incurved to decurved; surface glabrous, shiny, viscid to lubricous; color bright red to deep red, fading, usually in splotches to reddish-orange to orange; flesh thin, waxy; taste and odor indistinctive.
Gills adnexed to narrowly sinuate, subdistant to distant, waxy; color dark reddish orange to orangish yellow to peachy to yellow; margin smooth to eroded.
Stipe 3-14 cm long, 0.5-2 cm thick, equal or narrowed at base; surface dry, typically strongly longitudinally striate; color yellow or red fading to orange or yellow, base white or occasionally yellow.
Spores 8-11 x 5-6 µm, smooth, nonamyloid, elliptical to narrowly elliptical. Spore print white.
Solitary to scattered to gregarious in humus beneath coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and hardwoods during winter.
Possibly edible, but least some people are adversely affected by it.
Hygrocybe punicea is one of our most beautiful and conspicuous waxy caps. It is most likely to be confused with Hygrocybe coccinea, which is smaller, has a dry to subviscid cap, and a red stipe with yellow base that lacks the longitudinal striations.