Magic mushrooms are not easy to identify. With so many different species of fungi, how can you know for sure? Is there a proper checklist for how to identify psychedelic mushrooms? And how do you tell one from another? With a growing focus and community centered around the medical application of psychedelic mushrooms (also known as psilocybin mushrooms or magic mushrooms), we think it is important to help our Magical Mushroom community get started with some basic advice on identifying magic mushrooms.
Introduction of Magic Mushrooms
Bright colors and patterns are used to identify Psilocybin mushrooms, which stand out against other plants around them. They come in many shapes and sizes too but typically range between 6 inches tall to 3 feet tall with caps about 2-4 inches wide. The coloration of psychedelic mushrooms can be extremely varied and range from green, brown, purple or red.
Where do they grow?
Psilocybin mushrooms tend to grow can be found in all parts of the world, but tend to grow in warmer climates. In terms of the U.S., they grow all around in many diverse environments and climates. They can be found growing on mulch or in a garden, on bark of trees, wood chips, fallen logs, on lawns after a rainstorm, on compost piles and on old buried wood.
When do Magic Mushrooms Produce Spores?
Magic mushrooms tend to produce spores between June and September which means that this is when they will appear on the ground. However, they can appear for a few weeks during other times of the year too! It all depends on climate and conditions in the surrounding area.
What is the purpose of Magic Mushrooms?
Psilocybin mushrooms are a type of fungus that people use to experience altered states of consciousness. They may also be called psychotropic, hallucinogenic or mind-expanding because they expand the brain’s ability to perceive and interpret stimuli from how it normally would. They also is a growing use case (studies still being processed, discussed, vetted and introduced) for medical use with regards to mental health, specifically depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Helpful Tips on How to identify psychedelic mushrooms
Many people think that there is one magic mushroom but in reality there are over 100 varieties and it takes years to learn how to tell them apart. The main reason why this occurs is because many psychedelic mushrooms can look very similar to each other. However, there are some identifying characteristics that will help you distinguish what is safe from what isn’t.
The caps of psilocybin mushrooms tend to be different colors than the stems and can range in coloration which make them easier to spot. Another thing to look for is how it smells: if your mushrooms smell like fresh hay or grass, then you probably don’t want to try them as they are likely not psychedelic. Psychedelic mushrooms will typically emit a faint smell of chlorine or bleach. Lastly, you can also tell if a mushroom contains psilocybin by looking at its gills: they should be thick and closely spaced together. If you see a mushroom with exposed gills, this means that the spores have been released and they cannot be eaten.
A quick magic mushroom identification check list:
- Cap Coloring (red, yellow/orange with black spots)
- Smell (becomes easier to tell as you grow with experience)
- Gills thick and closely spaced together
- Feel (after the first couple of times)
If you are unable to look at the mushrooms yourself or are nervous about your identification skills (it is all a bit nervy the first time and identifying psilocybin mushrooms isn’t easy), try asking someone who has experience how to identify them or talk to an expert on mushroom identification from your local mycological society. It might take a few tries to get right, but once you get it right your efforts will be well worth it.
Common species of psilocybin mushrooms
The most common species of mushrooms are the Amanita muscaria and psilocybe cubensis varieties, but there are many others as well (e.g., panther cap, liberty cap, wavy cap and mexican mushrooms). Let’s review some of the basic characteristics of each of these magic mushroom species and common types so that you know how to identify psilocybin mushrooms in the future.
Amanita muscaria is the most common psilocybin mushroom found in North America, specifically the United States. It is also known as fly agaric, mushroom, red cap. They are often found in the woods on the ground near pine trees where they grow with pine needles surrounding them or nearby. Amanita muscaria can be identified by its bright red cap that has white dots and free gills underneath it. The stem under this type of mushroom is white. The gills on the under side of this mushroom will stain yellow and they have a ring around their stem as well as an attached cup at the base of it.
Psilocybe cubensis is a type of psilocybin mushroom that contains the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin and is considered a potent psilcocybin mushroom. It has a white to light brown cap and stem, and the gills under the cap come out in spacing and number. They can be found typically growing on humid logs and stumps of deciduous trees like oak. These mushrooms grow in North America and Central Europe.
Psilocybe cyanescens, known as wavy caps, is another type of psilocybin mushroom that contain psilocybin and other psychoactive chemicals and are potent magic mushrooms. They have a dark brown cap with deep blue bruising if it is handled roughly or broken up for consumption. It also has lighter colored gills than Psilocybe cubensis. These mushrooms grow in the ground across North America and Europe, but are more common on dung.
Psilocybe mexicana is a species of hallucinogenic mushrooms that can be found in Central and South America. The mushrooms are native to the wet and humid areas, such as the grasslands. They can also be found on cow dung. This type of mushroom has a golden brown color with thin stems that emit a strong odor.
Psilocybe azurescens, also known as the flying saucer mushroom is a psilocybin mushroom that is commonly found in Asia, southern Europe, and North America. It grows best in wood mulch, grassy areas, and beside decomposing wood. The cap of a Psilocybe azurescens can range in size from 2 to 7 centimeters wide and the stem is typically between 0.3 and 1 centimeter long. The color of the cap ranges from a dark blue-grey to a light grey or brownish-grey. The mushrooms have a sticky white cap and their gills are dark chocolate brown.
Lastly, psilocybe semilanceata is a species of psychedelic mushroom and it’s also known as Liberty Caps. This magic mushroom, is found throughout the temperate areas of Europe and North America, where it grows in grassy meadows or on rich soil. Psilocybe semilanceata widely distributed across Canada and can be even found as far north as Alaska and prefers to grow solitarily or gregariously under conifer trees, mainly under pines and sometimes under spruce. It’s also common at higher elevations in mountainous regions of Europe, where it grows on grassy slopes during summer and autumn. These potent psilocybin mushrooms are quite unique looking as the cap has a conical shape that points upward with an irregular margin. The gills are closely spaced together along the stem, which has a ring on the upper half of it. The cap color is very dark brown or black, while the gills are grayish-brown to purplish when fresh and they fade after some time. Sometimes, there may be yellow spots at the base where it’s attached to the stem; this is because spores create droplets of liquid that are yellowish in color.
It’s important to be able to identify psilocybin mushrooms if you plan on safely consuming magic mushrooms. Our article touches on the many tips and tricks on on how to identify these mushrooms by their shape, size, color, smell, geolocation, and more. We hope this is a helpful article for your beginning education of magic mushrooms.
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Fact Checked and Editorial Process
The Magical Mushroom is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by tapping into psychedelic users, experts, journalists, and growing community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Corey Riley.