Psilocybe semilanceata

The notorious Magic Mushroom

Well I suppose at some stage I would had to do a feature on this mushroom. A select few people I meet often presume that as a mushroom hunter, I only go looking for this particular species. Well that’s just not so – I was in the right place at the right time as I stumbled across these bad boys. Simply observed for identification reasons – honestly officer!

Psilocybe semilanceataThe Magic Mushroom or Liberty Cap (Psilocybe semilanceata) is the most notorious of all the hallucinogenic mushrooms (of which there are many), this being one of the most common and potent!

It contains a chemical cocktail of psychoactive ingredients, most notably ‘psilocybin’ (hence Psilocybe) which is a naturally produced psychedelic compound, and is the main active substance. Ingestion of several mushrooms, whether eaten fresh, dried or powdered and added to food etc, can produce a variety of ‘psychedelic’ experiences similar to those produced by LSD. Since 2005 it has been made illegal to be in possession of this mushroom (in whatever form) and is labelled as a Class A drug – so there you go.

The mycelium (the vegetative part of the fungus) feeds on the decaying matter of grass roots, so they are very at home scattered in pastures, lawns (sometimes parks), grassy roadsides and paths.

The first thing to note is that the cap of the mushroom is hygrophanous, meaning it will change colour depending on how much moisture it retains. In wet conditions the colour will be yellowish-brown / brown with a slight olive tinge. It has a glutinous viscid layer which can be delicately removed. As it drys out the colour fades to pale buff or whitish with a dark spore stained edge.

But the small conical cap remains a similar shape throughout these changes. It is elongate with striate markings (more noticeable when moist) with a distinctive small bump at the very top (umbo).

The thin white/creamy coloured stem (sometimes with darker yellowish hues) is relatively long compared to the cap size, and can grow up to 7 or 8cm high. Sometimes you may notice a blueish tinge at the very base. The gills are pale creamy-grey at first, but as the mushroom matures they become a dark purple-brown.

I’m not at liberty to say where I found these (or where to find others for that matter) as I was on a private reserve where I had permission to study. So please no questions about that on the blog or via email, thanks.

There are plenty around at the moment, but be aware that they’re just for looking at …right folks?

Before I sign off, I’ve selected a few good links on the amazingly enormous subject of Magic Mushrooms, covering their history in culture and beneficial medicinal research:

Magic Mushroom

Psilocybe semilanceata or Magic Mushroom is hygrophanous and drys to a pale buff colour.

QUICK ID TABLE: MAGIC MUSHROOM / LIBERTY CAP Psilocybe semilanceata

CAP / FLESH

0.5-1.5cm across. Elongated conical shape with pointed bump (umbo). Yellow-Brown / Brown with olive hue. Drying to pale buff.

STEM

3-8cm x 0.1-0.2cm. Pale whitish/cream often with yellowish hues. Sometimes with purple tinge at base.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Pale clay/creamy-grey maturing to dark purple-brown.
Spore Print: Dark purpleish-brown (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

Pasture, garden, grassy roadsides and paths. Common in late summer to autumn.

EDIBILITY

Hallucinogenic. Illegal to be in possession of.

22 replies
    • Danny McGovern
      Danny McGovern says:

      You always get them between September to November. I can smell them sometimes I did last week I the smell takes me back to when I first took them. The only acid that comes near their intensity is the microdots that were about in the 90’s. You get outstanding colours and mad visuals. I once saw rainbows shooting off a full moon.

      Reply
  1. Ethan burnard
    Ethan burnard says:

    Where can you find these in England/Cumbria? I hunt for mushrooms and want to know what they look like and where to find them, just in case I pick one by accident. Please send some pics and info. Thanks.

    Reply
    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      They’re widespread all over the UK in pasture land and grassy areas. November being a good time especially after rain. It’s best to do an image search of the mushroom to see more pictures, as I don’t have many examples. All the information on it’s looks are in the post or visit wikipedia for more detail.

      Thanks
      John

      Reply
        • J C Harris
          J C Harris says:

          To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think there are any dangerously poisonous look-a-likes. I had read in a mycology magazine that there were American species (accidentally brought across) that looked similar and were poisonous, but for the life of me I can’t find the info again! I doubt very much they are in abundance or widespread. Just be careful in identifying all elements of the Liberty Cap to be 100% sure.

          Reply
    • Mandell
      Mandell says:

      Lots of amateurs have their theories as to what conditions are important: altitude, SW facing, length of grass, animal pasture etc. etc. It is fundamentally just about luck.

      Reply
      • J C Harris
        J C Harris says:

        Yes, there are many theories. One report was that someone always found them on one side of this grassy hill (west side). I’m thinking that the fungus was simply staying moist (out of direct sunlight) for as long as possible. That implies some clever thinking from the mycelium! Weird? or just coincidence?

        Reply
    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hi Raymond (and all who may want to know)
      I do not have any information regarding the locations or whereabouts of where Liberty Cap’s will be. I’ve had an overload of requests, and although I appreciate you’re interest, I must have to stop replying and ask others not to request via a comment. I can not assist in this matter.
      Thanks for understanding.
      John

      Reply
    • Scott Preston
      Scott Preston says:

      Almost every cow field and there’s plenty of them in Cumbria as I’m from Kendal and that’s where I picked in my youth lots of great memories recent research suggests that the magic mushroom can help with depression and anxiety they should be more studies into this because I believe my mental health is excellent having had mushrooms

      Reply
  2. lee
    lee says:

    27 Oct – will I find any Psilocybe specials in this month? I read before first frost, please help. I don’t wish to walk for note

    Reply
    • Ajmal
      Ajmal says:

      Get out and have a walk!
      Some fresh air and a nice wander around several fields and parks will do you good, whether or not you find what you’re looking for.

      Reply
    • Larn
      Larn says:

      I always waited for the first frost and then went out picking – had areas of glorious abundance near me in Hertfordshire back in the 80s and 90s but those sites no longer produce, would love to find some more as just a few on a Friday night was such fun. I agree with the depression study – our brains can confine us in the mundane, mushrooms taken well can help us to be more free and laugh….a lot.

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] so you leave the base of the stem, the mycelium from which mushrooms grow, in the ground, UK Liberty Cap, our native UK ‘magic mushroom’ and its legal status, Magic Mushrooms consumed by man as part of religious and spiritual rites from bronze age and […]

  2. […] to ingest Amanita muscaria (in most countries), but illegal to ingest or have in your possession Magic mushrooms (Psilocybe semilanceata) in most countries too (in the UK Psilocybe semilanceata is a Class A drug). But if you do find any […]

  3. […] to ingest Amanita muscaria (in most countries), but illegal to ingest or have in your possession Magic mushrooms (Psilocybe semilanceata) in most countries as well (in the UK at least Psilocybe semilanceata is a Class A drug). But if you […]

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