DISCLAIMER - This guide is in no way meant to advocate the use of illegal drugs; it exists solely to spread an important pocket of knowledge that might have the potential to save lives, or at the very least, trips to the hospital. There is currently too high a risk for the uninformed novice to mistake a poisonous mushroom for a psychoactive one, and so it is my hope that this helps illuminate the otherwise dark and mysterious pursuit of magic mushroom identification.
DISCLAIMER #2 – I don’t have any magic mushrooms (or any other illegal substances) in my possession. I destroy all evidence of this rewarding (but sadly illegal) hobby by means of digestion.
UPDATE (2014) – I’ve written a second part to this guide, ‘Psychedelic Mushrooms and You, Part Two‘, which details the process of actually tripping on psychedelics, and how best to have a fruitful experience on them.
Every year in Victoria, Australia, between the cold months of April-July, magic happens. This magic reveals itself in the form of psychoactive mushrooms, which poke their heads out of the soil everywhere they can to say hello. They grow wildly in parks, playgrounds, beside creeks, in forests (especially pine and eucalyptus forests) and even on nature strips and garden beds (hint: especially garden beds). They thrive pretty much anywhere with wood chips, tanbark, or mulch that gets a bit of rain and shade. Of course there are a lot of poisonous doppelgängers out there, so it pays to have a bit of experience in identifying the right ones. This ‘experience’ is something I have acquired over the past five or six years of picking and eating magic mushrooms, and so this guide is written with the hope of sharing that knowledge with others. Why buy a man a fish when you can give him a fishing rod, right? This post will attempt to explain how to find magic mushrooms on your own or with friends (or how to let them find you?), and also outline some good methods of drying and storing them. I won’t be covering consumption in depth as this is not a recipe book, but I will cover it. I might also outline some pointers on how to conduct a session with psychedelic drugs (both of these will appear in a separate post), and I may even update it to include a trip report at the end, as I plan on having some on a camping trip this weekend. (Update: I brought a pen and paper with me on the trip, but I couldn’t find any words to describe it… instead I made a fire, and…. there will be no trip report!)
- Page 1 - How to identify Psilocybe subaeruginosa mushrooms (this page).
- Page 2 - Typical growing locations.
- Page 3 - List of non-active mushrooms, with pictures.
- Page 4 - The drying process.
- Page 5 - The ‘monster’ patch.
- Page 6 - Some useful links.
Psilocybe Subaeruginosa Hunting Guide
In VIC, the psychoactive species is called psilocybe subaeruginosa, also called subs for short, or gold tops - feel free to call them whatever you like. The species is characterised by a caramel brown cap, creamy brown gills, and a thick white stem that bruises blue when handled – they also taste like dirty water, but maybe that’s just me? These mushrooms are very easy to distinguish, maybe not at first, but eventually you will have no trouble spotting them from the crowd. Please understand that I cannot help you out with finding any psychedelic mushroom that isn’t psilocybe subaeruginosa, as my hunting experience is limited to that species as it’s the only one active strain that grows where I live. If you’re from somewhere else in the world then you should check out this list of psychedelic mushrooms found in various countries and their states. Once you know what species you’re looking for you will have to find it on your own.
Seeing as how important your life is it would be a shame to eat a poisonous mushroom and potentially die, so if you’re just starting out it’s best to play it safe. The initial symptoms one may experience after ingesting a poisonous mushroom include severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhoea, lasting as long as 9 hours. Toxins also severely affect the liver, which can result in gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney failure, coma, or even death. I sound like an anti-cigarette ad right about now. A lot of cases have been reported in which a person has mistakenly eaten a poisonous mushroom and felt nothing but nausea only to die a few days later. Pretty scary! To be 100% sure you have psychedelic mushrooms you will need to make a spore print (this is some CSI shit), which is where you take the cap off the stem and leave it face down on a piece of paper or foil overnight – the cap will drop tiny spores onto the paper, which will be a dark purpley brown colour if the mushrooms are psychedelic. Don’t waste these spores! Collect and pour them into a spray bottle filled with water, then spray it on your patches to see accelerated growth. It’s also worth taking a good picture of the mushroom in question, preferably with the entire mushroom in focus, along with the habitat in which you found it, so you can get it identified by professional mycologists over at the mushroom hunting/identification forum at shroomery.org. They’re good people that only want to help!
Cap: 1.5-5 cm. Conic to convex expanding to broadly convex with a slight umbo (central bump). Translucent and striate when moist. Hygrophanous and caramel or olive brown fading in drying to a pallid brown to a dingy white. Can sometimes appear wavy, with the gills around the edge of the cap sort of pointing towards the sky.
Gills: Adnate to annexed. Cream coloured when young (think milky tea), smokey-brown when matured (think chocolate Big M).
Stem: 30-125 mm long by 2-5 mm thick. A shiny white, and quite sturdy. Can be uniform and straight but usually with a slight twist. Sometimes long and thin, other times short and fat, depends on the growing conditions. Usually swollen at base. Bruises blue.
Habitat: Solitary to gregarious in complex habitats such as soils rich in woody debris, decaying piles of leaves and twigs, sandy woody soils, gardens and amongst bark chips.
Distribution: Australia and New Zealand.
Season: May through August
Potency: Dried: 8mg psilocybin per gram + 1.5mg of psilocin per gram. Fresh: 0.799mg psilocybin per gram + 0.239mg of psilocin per gram. Magic mushrooms are roughly 90% water weight, so as a general rule 10 grams fresh will equal 1 gram dried. Some of the psilocin will disappear as a result of the drying process, so fresh magic mushrooms are usually more potent than dried ones. It’s also worth noting here that subaeruginosa is considered to be one of the most potent species of magic mushroom, second only to psilocybe azurescens.
Dosage: 1 – 3.5 grams dried, 8 – 30 grams fresh. Please see the Dosage Calculator to decide on an adequate dosage for the plateau you want to reach. Note that re-dosing with magic mushrooms doesn’t have the same effect as with most drugs, such as ecstacy, as taking a second dose after the first one has already kicked in will not ‘double up’ the effects but only prolong the current effects. It’s best to have a set of pocket scales handy to weigh up your doses, but in case you don’t have a set, you can refer to the picture below to get a visual estimate of what a gram of dried mushrooms looks like. Note that the picture contains 3 individual grams – it seems that 3 medium sized mushrooms equals roughly 1 gram. Also note that the mushrooms in this picture are dried, and so they have shrunk considerably in size from what they originally looked like. When it comes to picking psychedelic mushrooms it’s helpful to remember that once you pluck them out of the ground they instantly become class A drugs – the same category as heroin, crack and cocaine. So it’s wise to have a good cover story – if you have a dog, bring it with you; it’s not illegal to walk your dog. If you don’t have a dog but have a camera instead, bring that with you (why not bring both if you have them!?) If you don’t have a dog, but have a cat… It’s always a good idea to bring a camera on your hunts, not only to help get the mushrooms identified, but so if you’re unfortunate enough to get confronted by the fuzz you can say you are testing out your new camera. This will explain why you are on your knees looking at mushrooms, as your camera has a macro function and you need to get up close to use it. Keep all of your mushrooms in a paper bag (plastic bags will trap all the moisture and make your mushrooms turn to sludge), or in a tupperware container lined with newspaper, and have it stashed in a backpack at all times, that way you never get caught with anything illegal visibly in your possession, and it is unlikely cops will ever ask to search your bag if you’re simply strolling through a park. Update: I read a humorous news article recently about a man caught with magic mushrooms in Melbourne, VIC. The article can be read here. If you ever do get caught with mushrooms just say you are doing a mycology assignment and are examining the various mushrooms growing wildly, or if that’s too lame an excuse for you, say you are simply looking for some non active edibles for tonight’s dinner – basically say anything that comes to mind but never mention that you are specifically looking for magic mushrooms. The cops will doubtfully know what the difference is between them anyway and will not waste their time to take you down to the station. At most they might just ask you to empty your bag (which you should do respectfully) and call it a day. Most people going picking end up taking home nothing but non active mushrooms anyway, so there is no point in being nervous if you actually have nothing illegal on you. I remember when I first went picking I was nervous as shit on the train ride home, thinking about how illegal my backpack was, only to find out later that night from my older brother that everything I found was an utter dud. Keep a childlike ignorance with you at all times and you will be fine – you can apply this to lots of situations, have fun with it! If you are really paranoid about getting caught you probably shouldn’t be fooling around with psychedelics anyway. They will only expand and trap you in your own paranoia, these are meant to be taken with a clear head and in a stress free environment, and with people you know and trust.
Like I said earlier, if you happen to live in Victoria, there is one mushroom you are hunting, and only one. All of the others are not important, so don’t bother picking them. Then again a particularly cautious individual might purposefully pick the wrong ones along with the right ones in case they are confronted by police, as it makes their stash appear a lot less incriminating if it’s an assortment of mushrooms rather than a bag full of class A drugs. It would be far easier to plead ignorance in this case as the appearance of many types of mushrooms is confusing and will surely make it hard for anyone to accuse you of picking a ‘particular’ mushroom. They can still suggest you were picking magic mushrooms but you can just point to the bag and say ‘I picked many mushrooms, which ones are magic?’, a question they will be unable to answer.
Police paranoia aside, It is important to develop an eye for spotting the right ones and sorting them from the wrong ones. The pictures scattered throughout this guide display both the mushroom in question and their ideal habitat. They grow on wood chips and bits of twig and are sometimes hiding under patches of grass, but more often than not they are in woody areas. Note, while subs love to grow on and around wood chips, they do not grow on trees, so don’t waste your time checking every one you see. Scan the ground, that’s where they are. You will get used to walking everywhere you go with your head pointed to the ground (so much so that your neck might start to hurt) and people will no doubt think you look suss as hell. One time I brought a packet of starbursts with me cos I was so bloody hungry and while I was scanning the floor I was also eating starbursts. No one looked at me twice; they likely just assumed I was looking in the bag trying to find the red ones.
This breed of mushroom doesn’t like the heat and will generally stick to shaded areas, but they love their rain. If the season is very wet the mushrooms will grow bigger and there will be more of them. Subs start out small, and have little button/knob like caps which connect to the stem. Don’t pick them when they’re small! Let them grow so that you not only get a bigger mushroom (later), but also so they have a chance to drop spores and spread their goodness. The texture of the cap is similar to a puppies’ nose – velvety smooth and wet. The stem is thick (not needle thin!) and doesn’t feel hollow to the touch. Sometimes it curves a bit, or a lot. Once the mushroom matures the cap blooms open and exposes the gills, which is the fleshy material under the cap, so it can drop spores onto the ground and grow more of the little guys. The colour of the gills is dependant on the spores inside them, so older specimens will appear browner, and younger ones lighter.
Sometimes the cap can be flat and symmetric or it can appear wavy and disorganised, and this is O.K; mushrooms, like people, take a variety of different shapes. You will often see psychedelic mushrooms covered with nibble holes, and may even see a caterpillar munching on one. Who knows what effect this has on the little dudes – maybe they turn into butterflies and fly away! The subaeruginosa mushroom sometimes grow in solitary, or with a few placed sporadically around them, or they can grow in huge clusters with mushrooms literally fighting for space, which can look like they’re all growing out of each other. These ones are usually harder to pick out of the ground without unearthing the whole lot, which is looked down upon by the picking community. When picking, you will often see fellow mushroom hunters; smile politely and don’t be afraid to say hello, or ask for advice. Sometimes they will even share spots with you. Don’t worry, no one is going to beat you up for your mushrooms, they grow everywhere and so your big bag is not going to make anyone burn with jealousy. But then again who knows? Maybe they will beat you up. Stranger things have happened. In the above picture you can see the tan coloured gills of a subaeruginosa mushroom, this is what colour the gills will be in early to mid development. (Notice the slight blueing around the edge) Now for a comparison picture, here is a mature subaeruginosa mushroom, you can see its much darker brown colour. This has to do with spores; older mushrooms tend to drop more spores and so these collect inside the gills which makes them appear darker than the younger ones. Above is the stem of the tan gilled mushroom, and below is the stem of the brown gilled mushroom. Notice how the younger mushroom has a whiter, cleaner looking stem, while the older one has a more greyish white stem – it looks like it’s seen a lot of things in its time. You can also see how the stalk is fairly thick. If you squeeze it gently with your thumb and index finger you should feel that it is packing a lot of water weight and will be firm, but spongy. It should also bruise blue, as this indicates the presence of the psychoactive ingredient psyilocybin, which is the chemical that converts itself into psilocin upon digestion, attaches itself to the serotonin receptors of your brain and eventually makes you trip ballz. The more potent the mushroom, the more aggressive the blueing will be, at least that’s what I like to think – I don’t have a crazy science lab going on in my basement to test this theory out. The psilocybe subaeruginosa mushrooms also have a glossy sheen to the stalk that almost looks like it has a wood grain, sort of like what you see on an electric guitar with a gloss finish. You can notice that on the above two pictures no doubt. In this picture you can see the caramel coloured cap, which often fades into a paler colour around the ring. It is for this reason that I personally nickname them Jersey Caramels, a name which hasn’t and probably never will catch on. Jersey caramels (pictured right) are the best. So that pretty much covers what they look like. They are pretty unique looking mushrooms, and shouldn’t be hard to spot. There is a toxic mushroom that looks slightly similar, but it is usually much thicker, has a more orange coloured cap and the white stem often has orange on it too. These are bad. The stem should be a silvery white, with bits of grey and blue. No orange. I will cover inactive mushrooms later on in this post. Stick around, kick your feet up. In the above picture, sadly not taken by me (I envy this photographer’s skills!), you can see the stem bruising a mysterious blue – this is the colour of magic. Click on the next page to see some examples of typical growing environments, along with pictures of active and non-active mushrooms for you to compare.