Revised May 1, 2002; August 31, 2007; August 27, 2008; and April 21, 2013.
Copyright 1998-2013 by John W. Allen.






How To Identify Psilocybian Mushrooms


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John W. Allen and Psilocybe semilanceata, Astoria, Oregon, 1990. Photo Jochen Gartz.



HOW TO IDENTIFY PSILOCYBE SPECIES


 

Chocolate to Purple Colored Spores and Spore Prints

In order to properly identify and key a particular species of fungi to its genus one must first make a spore print.

A spore print will tell which family a particular species of mushroom belongs to. First cut the stem from off of the mushroom cap and then place the cap of the mushroom face down on a piece of white paper. Next place an empty jar over the cap of the mushroom. This will allow the spores of the mushroom to settle on the paper below and the glass jar will keep the spores from blowing away. After 20 minutes or more, remove the jar from the paper and lift the mushroom cap from the paper.

Psilocybian mushrooms described in this guide can be identified by an enzyme which occurs in fungi containing the alkaloids psilocybine and/or psilocine, with an indole nucleus and producing by an oxidative process, a blue pigment.

When the flesh of the stem or cap of a fresh mushroom is bruised or damaged (whether from human handling, wind, insects or falling objects), an enzyme occurs which oxidizes as it comes into contact with air. This causes the damaged area of the mushroom to turn blue or blue green. Many species of psilocybian fungi have stems ranging in color from a pallid yellow white to an off white. Bluing in psilocybian mushrooms is common after damage has occurred. The bluing reaction occurs within 10 to 20 minutes after human handling but may already be noticeable in fungi damaged from natural elements and from bluing with aging. Some species such as Psilocybe azurescens, Psilocybe baeocystis and the newly named species, Psilocybe allenii tend to blue withing a minute after harvesting them while liberty caps rarely exhibit any bluing reaction whatsoever.

The genus Psilocybe is quite large, consisting of over 246 known species. More than 140 of these Psilocybe species are entheogenic. Psilocybe species have a wide variety of habitats which include: dung, manured soil, sandy soil, pastures, meadows, lawns, woods, among decayed twigs and leaves, sphagnum moss, woodchips and bark mulch.

Psilocybe species also have certain characteristics common throughout the genus. These include: a conic to bell shaped cap, usually with a nipple or umbo or protrude at center of the tops of their caps. The margins of the caps are often incurved when young. Some caps become convex and flat with age, others become wavy. Common wavy capped species include Psilocybe cyanescens and Psilocybe stuntzii, while some cultivated growlogs of Psilocybe cubensis also can fruit with wavy caps. The caps are viscid when moist and the margin is translucent-striate (meaning that the lines of the gill plates are visible on the caps when moist). Most Psilocybe species have a viscid pellicle (a film or membrane which can easily be separated from the cap).

Colors of the caps may range from a dark olive brown or chestnut rusty color when fresh to pale yellow when dried. The caps are hygrophanous, meaning that they change color as they dry. A slight bluing may occur along the outer edges of the caps when damaged. In some species this bluing is very intense. The color of the gills may range from cinnamon brown to dark chocolate or purple brown. The color of the spores are also chocolate to purple brown. The stems are hollow with a fine pith.

Some species such as Psilocybe semilanceata (the "liberty cap") can be wrapped around the finger like a piece of string. Certain varieties (Psilocybe cubensis and/or Psilocybe subcubensis, Psilocybe fimetaria and Psilocybe stuntzii) usually have a dark chocolate-purple ring around the top of the stem where the mushroom cap has detached itself from the stem. The purple color of the ring on the stems of some Psilocybe species is due to spores falling on the stem after the cap of the mushrooms have opened. The color of the stems may range from a pallid yellow or yellow-brown to olive brown while other species have pure white stems. Some of the stems of certain species of Psilocybe also are somewhat fibrillous and may have fibrils running down the length of the stem. Bluing on the white stemmed varieties is usually very intense. In some regions, certain species occur throughout the year depending on their locations and their climatic environments. Water sprinklers are one reason to find fresh mushrooms at times of the year when they are not normally fruiting.

There are, of course, certain chemical applications used to speed up the bluing reaction which occurs in psilocybian mushrooms. One method involves "metol", a chemical used in photographic developing. "Metol" can be legally purchased from most camera and photographic supply outlets. Mix 1 part Metol with 20 parts water. Place the stem of the suspected mushroom in a "metol" solution and wait for approximately 1/2 hour. If the solution turns blue, you have actually collected a mushroom containing psilocybine. I should note that for most foragers, this latter method for identification is not really necessary. That is because the bluing is so noticible after picking a few of the right mushrooms.




Panaeolus and Copelandia Dung Inhabiting Species


 
Black Colored Spores and Spore Prints

If the spore print is jet black, then the mushroom in those two genera belong to one of the following families: Panaeolus and/or Copelandia. Other black spored mushrooms that do not contain active ingredients are Coprinus (Shaggy Mane's) and/or Anellaria. They also have jet black sporeprints but are not hallucinogenic. Both Panaeolus and Copelandia species have fungi in their families that contain the alkaloids psilocybine and/or psilocine.




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