Wild magic mushrooms, commonly called shrooms, are found in many locations across the globe. These mushrooms are different from typical fungi because of their psychedelic properties. And because of these special properties, these mushrooms have been used in religious and spiritual ceremonies for thousands of years. In fact, one of the earliest artifacts to be discovered that portrayed the use of these mushrooms were made between 4,000 to 7,000 years BC.
Wild magic mushrooms occur in at least 200 species, with each specie having hundreds of subspecies or strains. A few of the most popular species are P. cubensis, P. azurescens, P. cyanescens, and P. semilanceata. Each group possesses distinctive characteristics along with varying levels of potency, conditions required for cultivation, and even appearance.
Finding these wild magic mushrooms may not be as tricky as you’d think, but it is important to know that you’ve actually picked a psychedelic and not a toxic fungus as the latter can easily become fatal. Poisonous mushrooms come in various level of toxicity – Some can cause slight stomach problems, but others can lead to complete organ failure and death. According to the National Poison Data System (NPDS), there are over 8,000 cases of mushroom poisoning in the United States every year.
So, how do we safely identify wild magic mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms are abundant in nature. However, as mentioned, it is crucial to invest a lot of time and effort in getting to know the specific characteristics of the mushrooms you are looking for before heading out to pick and eat them. Again, there are over 200 different kinds of magic mushrooms, all containing three main chemical compounds – psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin – and many of them contain certain similar features.
While hunting for any type of edible wild magic mushrooms are generally best left to the hands of expert mushroom foragers and professionals, it pays to know how to safely identify one in case you see one. Knowing how to identify these mushrooms can make the difference between enjoying a pleasant psychedelic or spiritual experience or ending up in the emergency room due to serious poisoning.
Extensively study the common wild magic mushroom species
A large number of first-time mushroom hunters often go about picking a random mushroom and then checking if it is the psychedelic type. This approach is going about the process completely backward. Instead, a good strategy to start is to get familiar with some of the most common species of magic mushrooms by going through resources and field guides before heading out to find the mushrooms:
This is perhaps the most widely-known species of magic mushrooms. They are also known as the “Golden Teacher.” These species of mushrooms are often found in the southeastern part of the United States, northern South America, and certain parts of Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. They are classic stubby-stemmed mushrooms with predominantly light to golden-brown caps, thus the name “Golden Teacher.” The hats of the mushrooms are bulbous when young and start to flatten as the fungi mature.
This wild psychedelic mushroom is known for its potency levels. It is one of the most psychoactive mushrooms in existence, thanks to its concentration of the biochemicals, psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin. These mushrooms thrive along the northern coast of Oregon and Washington, as it favors the Beachland interface. They also grow in certain parts of Central America, Northern Europe, and Southeast Asia. They have long, slim stems with a convex caramel-colored cap and a pronounced broad umbo.
Another name for these mushrooms is “Wavy Caps.” They are easily distinguished by their chestnut-colored caps that become wavy in maturity. They can be found in many arrays of latitudes, from the western coast of the United States to Central America to Western Asia to New Zealand.
Another one of the most widely-distributed magic mushrooms specie is the P. semilanceata. These mushrooms are often found all across Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. This iconic mushroom is also called the “Liberty caps” because of their conical-shaped tops that do not typically get bigger than an inch in diameter. It also displays a prominent umbo on top of its-bell-shaped caps.
Know the distinctive features of magic mushrooms
Once you’ve armed yourself with enough knowledge, grab your field guides, camera, and pick a place that you think will have some healthy psychedelic fungi growing. Magic mushrooms are often recognized by the colors of their spores and their stem bruising reaction.
Bluish or Bluish-green bruising reaction
One popular distinguishing feature of wild magic mushrooms is that they often bruise blue or blue-green. In some species, the reaction happens in a few minutes, while in other species, it may take hours. This reaction is said to be directly related to the presence of psilocin in the mushrooms. When the mushroom is damaged or touched by a human or even grass, its psilocin compounds are degraded into presently unknown compounds, which cause the blue hue. Therefore, it is generally concluded that the stronger the bruising reaction, the higher the concentrations of these psychoactive chemicals, and conversely, the weaker the bluing, the lower the content.
Purple-brown to black spore prints
Another important identifying feature of magic mushrooms is the color of their spore prints, which generally has a purplish-brown to black color. To check the color of a mushroom’s spore print, gently remove the cap from the stem of a relatively mature mushroom and leave it gill-side down on a piece of white paper. While some prints may appear in a few hours, it is often recommended to wait overnight. Enough spores will then collect on the paper, and their color should be pretty obvious.
While these steps or characteristics may sound simple enough, it is important to remember that these rules have definite limitations. If you are seriously considering picking your own wild magic mushrooms, it is best to first learn from a professional or expert and spend as much time as possible in studying the characteristics of these magical species. Several great books and field guides will help you identify these magic mushrooms from various parts of the world.