Identifying Magic Mushrooms
The psilocybin mushroom, which is more commonly referred to as the “magic mushroom,” is a collection of species that are quite common to North America and other areas of the world. However, the fact that they can be easily found in the wild doesn’t necessarily mean that gathering and consuming wild magic mushrooms is a good idea, especially for the novice. Although the majority of psilocybin mushrooms are safe to consume, there are few species that are poisonous. If a person were to consume a poisonous mushroom, they would be subjected to extreme cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, or possibly even death.
For this reason, it’s extremely important for a person to be able to positively identify the safe species of the magic mushroom before gathering and consuming them. For the beginner, this means careful comparison of gathered mushrooms against photographs and descriptions of the various species, in order to make sure they are safe to consume. It’s also important to understand that some of the safe magic mushroom varieties have dangerously poisonous “look-alikes,” so care must be taken when mushroom gathering in the wild. This is one of the reasons why many people prefer to grow their own mushrooms instead of gathering them from their natural habitat.
Mushroom Gathering Tips
Understanding the growing habits and preferred environment for a particular mushroom can also be a great way to make sure you are gathering the right ones. Just as is the case with most growing things, specific varieties of magic mushrooms only grow in certain areas in their preferred environment, and only form mushrooms during certain times of the year. These identifying factors can be quite helpful when gathering magic mushrooms, especially when combined with a good identification guide that has plenty of details and photographs.
Common Psilocybin Mushrooms
There are roughly 190 species of mushrooms that are commonly referred to as “magic mushrooms.” Although most of these species are classified in the Psilocybe genus, there are also other mushroom families that also have some psilocybin members. However, although there are a wide variety of species from which to choose, some magic mushrooms are more widely used as compared to others.
The stropharia cubensis mushroom is probably one of the most common magic mushrooms to be grown and consumed. In fact, this mushroom has earned the nickname of “commercial psilocybe,” due to it’s popularity and ease of cultivation. This mushroom commonly grows in tropical and subtropical regions, but also grows along the Gulf Coast of the United States. Many people often refer to the stropharia cubensis mushroom as a “gold cap” or a “boomer.”
These mushrooms have a reddish cinnamon brown coloration when they are young, which changes to a more golden brown color as they mature. The mushroom flesh is white, which bruises to a bluish shade when damaged or as the mushroom ages. It has a characteristically rounded cap, atop a sturdy stem.
The psilocybe cyanescens mushroom is another popular and common magic mushroom variety. This variety is commonly found in North America’s Pacific Northwest region. However, this mushroom can also be found growing in Western Europe in areas that have a climate similar to the Pacific Northwest region. The psilocybe cyanescens mushroom is commonly referred to as the “wavy-cap” mushroom, or as “wavies,” due to the characteristically wavy appearance of their caps.
The wavy cap sits atop a white stem, which bruises easily. The mushroom cap ranges from chestnut brown to a slightly yellow-tinged buff color. These mushrooms bruise easily, forming a bluish or blue-green color where they have been damaged. The mushroom cap usually measures approximately 2 to 5 cm across, and is wavy in shape when the mushroom is mature.
You’ll frequently find this mushroom species growing in areas that have a lot of wood chips. In urban areas, you can sometimes even find these mushrooms growing along the edge of mulched planting beds. However, in its native habitat along the coast, it is often found growing among the dune grasses. It requires a temperature drop in order to fruit, and as such is a mushroom that is hunted and gathered during the autumn. It’s often found in large clusters.
The psilocybe semilanceata mushroom is found in areas that have a northern temperate climate. This popular mushroom is often referred to as simply a “liberty cap.” This magic mushroom is one of the easiest ones to find growing in nature. It’s also a very potent mushroom, due to its high concentration of psychoactive compounds.
These mushrooms have a distinctively bell-shaped to conically-shaped cap, measuring approximately 2.5 cm in diameter at maturity. The cap has a distinctive small nipple-shaped protrusion on top. When they are young, they have yellowish to brown coloration, which then fades as they mature to a lighter shade. Stems are long and slender, with coloration that is similar to the mushroom cap.
Psilocybe semilanceata mushrooms are commonly found in grassy meadows and fields. They particular like wet fields that are rich in cattle or sheep feces. However, the mushrooms do not grow directly on the feces. Instead, this mushroom species draws its nutrients from grass roots as they decay. It usually grows in temperate regions that have cooler temperatures, and even in some sub-arctic regions. However, it is also occasionally found growing in warmer locations.
It’s important to note that there are a number of different “look-alike” species that are often mistaken for the “liberty cap” mushroom. Beginners who are looking to gather this mushroom species must be careful to properly identify them, since some of the “look-alike” species are toxic.