A SIMPLE GUIDE TO IDENTIFYING COMMON MAGIC MUSHROOMS
“Magic mushrooms” containing psilocybin fall into the category of classic natural psychedelics. These mushrooms have a rich history in ancient cultures and are still used by modern psychonauts to help them connect more deeply with themselves, the earth, and other people. Many consumers choose to grow their own stock of mushrooms at home, with several species and many varieties to choose from. But for some people, this is simply not an option. If you can’t or don’t want to grow mushrooms but still want to get them, you can always try to find your own. There are more than 200 known species of mushrooms that produce psilocybin.
CRITICAL FACTOR TO IDENTIFYING MAGIC MUSHROOM
Once you have found a mushroom, you need to study its characteristics carefully and compare them with a high-quality identification book. What is the size and shape of the stem? Is it protruding from a volva (sheath), a twig, or directly from the ground? What is the color of the rods, and are they lose, pinned, protruding or rotten? Is the cap conical, humped, spherical, or hump-shaped? What color is the spore print? Did you find it in the forest or in the meadow?
This series of questions is not intended to intimidate or scare you: it is simply intended to help you understand the many details that go into careful mushroom picking. Always take a good identification book and, if possible, an experienced mycologist.
THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF MAGIC MUSHROOMS
More than 200 species of psilocybin mushrooms can be found in many regions of the world, from idyllic floodplain meadows in England to rainforests in South America. But there are a few species that are much more commonly sought after by collectors. The following is a list of mushrooms that are relatively easy to identify. If a mushroom turns blue when squeezed, this is a classic sign that you have found a psilocybin mushroom, but this characteristic is also found in other mushroom species.
- THE POINTED-HEADED PILEUS (PSILOCYBE SEMILANCEATA)
Psilocybe semilanceata, also known as the conical bald-head, is one of the more potent species of psilocybin fungi found in parts of Europe and North America. Semilanceata is derived from the words “semi” (half) and “-lanceata,” which means spear-shaped mushroom. Mushroom pickers look at the cap to identify this mushroom. This has a small spike or nipple at the top. The tapering, conical, bald heads are found in meadows, especially those on slopes.
The cap of this mushroom is 0,5-2 cm in diameter, looks cream-colored, and has a prominent nipple at the top. The bottom of the cap has 15-27 lamellae. The stalk is usually 2-3 mm thick and 4-10 cm long, often with a blue tinge on the lower part. You can make an impression of the spores by taking the cap and placing it on a piece of foil. The spores of this species should be dark brown in color. These fungi appear in early autumn.
- BLUE PIGEON MUSHROOM (PSILOCYBE CYANESCENS)
Psilocybe cyanescens, also known as the blue dove, has earned the name ‘strong dove’ because of its high psilocybin content. This fungus is found in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, Western and Central Europe, parts of Western Asia, and New Zealand. If you are looking for this fungus, it is worth investigating wood waste and mulch from garden beds in urban areas. It is not clear whether the natural habitat of Psilocybe cyanescens is true, although it may be found in coniferous forests in the Pacific Northwest. The fungus appears between October and February when temperatures are around 10-18 °C.
It has a white stalk, purple-black spore prints, and, in younger specimens, a cortina (a thin, spider-web-like veil). On the underside of the cap, you should notice that the lamellae are enlarged, which means that they are attached to the stem. The outer edges of the cap have a wavy texture, and the top is often flat.
- CUBAN BALD-FACED CRAB (PSILOCYBE CUBENSIS)
Psilocybe cubensis is the epitome of the magic mushroom when it comes to breeding, and many different strains have been bred with different characteristics such as appearance and strength. The species is found in the south-eastern USA, Central America, the northern regions of South America and south-east Asia. These fungi have lamellae, a convex or flat cap, the hymenium (the layer of tissue at the bottom of the cap) is either adult (a large part of the lamellae is attached to the cap) or attached (part of the lamellae is tightly attached to the stalk), the imprint of the spores is purple, and the stalk bears a ring, which is the remains of the face.
- PSILOCYBE BAEOCYSTIS
In addition to psilocybin and psilocin, many magic mushrooms also contain the alkaloid baeocystin, which is the equivalent of psilocybin. This is certainly the case for this species found in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. There are also specimens found in Maine and Connecticut. Psilocybe baeocystis grows mainly on soil bark, wood waste, peat, and occasionally on lawns and grassland. This fungus appears in August and September.
- BLUE-TURNING WHITISH HEAD (PSILOCYBE AZURESCENS)
Psilocybe azurescens, containing up to 1,8 % psilocin, 0,5 % psilocin, and 0,4 % baeocystin in dried form, is the most potent of all known psilocybin mushrooms. This mushroom is cultivated in many parts of the world and occurs naturally on the west coast of the United States. Characteristic features of Psilocybe azurescens are a convex or humped cap (prominent in the center), plates at the base of the cap, attached or convex plates (slightly bent down the stem before attachment), and a blackish-brown or purple spore imprint. The stem is 90-200 mm long and 3-6 mm thick.
The importance of correct detection of fungi cannot be stressed enough. It could literally save your life. Take your time and take the time to learn about the fascinating science of mycology. Always have a comprehensive and reliable identification book handy, and consider joining a local mycology club to learn the basics of fungi identification.