Disclaimer: The information posted on this site is not meant to serve as a field guide and/or replace expert knowledge as many mushrooms are poisonous some are deadly poisonous and is purely informational. The responsibility for eating any mushroom or fungus must rest with the individual. If you plan to collect fungi to be eaten, misidentified mushrooms can make you sick or kill you. Do not eat mushrooms you are not 100% certain of. Frshminds takes no responsibility for damage caused by wrong identifications. If you continue, you agree to view this website under these terms.
Frshminds’ Psilocybin Mushroom Species Guide is designed to educate you on:
- The classification of mushrooms.
- What defines a psilocybin mushroom species.
- The psychoactive compounds in psilocybin mushrooms.
- The history, appearance, habitat and subjective effects of the common psilocybin mushroom species.
Classifying Psilocybin Mushrooms
Magic mushrooms, or more formally known as psilocybin mushrooms, are an informal class of fungi containing psychoactive compounds such as psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin. There are various genera (group of species encompassing similar characteristics) of psilocybin-containing mushrooms such as Copelandia, Gymnopilus, Inocybe, Panaeolus, Pholiotina, and Pluteus, but the most commonly cultivated and consumed genus of psilocybin mushrooms is Psilocybe.
Over 200 species fall within this genus, as well as hundreds of “strains” or “subspecies”, each with unique variables of psychoactive compound ratio, and thus effects, duration, and onset. However, despite the differences, species within the Psilocybe genus possess key similarities:
- They all bruise an azure-bluish color when handled or damaged, due to oxidation of the compound psilocin at the site of impact.
- They all have a thin gelatinous veil, known in mycological terms as a “pellicle,” that separates the cap (or pileus) from the stem (or stipe). In maturity, this veil often disintegrates, leaving a darkened section (annular zone) on the stem.
- They all have dense gills on the underside of the cap (or pileus) and a shiny or silky film on the outside of the cap.
- They all have a hygrophanous nature (meaning coloration changes with the state of hydration).
Psychoactive Compounds of Psilocybin Mushrooms
Psilocybin and Psilocin
Psilocybin (O-phosphoryl-4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, 4-PO-Psilocin, or 4-PO-HO-DMT) is a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug (a compound that, after ingestion, is converted within the body into a pharmacologically active drug) found in magic mushrooms. Upon ingesting psilocybin mushrooms, the psilocybin undergoes the process of dephosphorylation due to the acidic conditions of the stomach and is converted into psilocin (4-OH-dimethyltryptamine), a non-selective serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR) agonist.
Both compounds occur naturally in the Psilocybe genus of mushrooms and are structurally related to the endogenous neurotransmitter serotonin (5-OH-tryptamine, 5-HT). Psilocin interacts with serotonin receptors using a “lock-and-key” mechanism via the similar indole ring structure and stimulates them. This results in subjective effects including but not limited to euphoria, visual hallucinations, changes in perception, a distorted sense of time, and even perceived spiritual experiences.
An analog (possessing a similar chemical structure) of psilocybin, this lesser-known, and researched compound is found in varying ratios in Psilocybe mushrooms. Though little research has been done into the human pharmacology of baeocystin, author Jochen Gartz in his book Magic Mushrooms Around the World, reports being aware of a study in which “10 mg of baeocystin were found to be about as psychoactive as a similar amount of psilocybin.”
Despite these reports, this could not be replicated in a mouse model in a 2019 study. Researchers compared psilocybin to baeocystin by using the mouse head-twitch response. Upon comparison, baeocystin was indistinguishable from saline solution, indicating baeocystin does not produce any hallucinogenic effects. Because of the mixed reports on the effects, further research into this molecule is needed to determine its significance in psilocybin mushrooms.
Common Species of the Psilocybe Genus
History: If you’ve taken shrooms and were unaware of the specific species, it was likely P. cubensis due to the fact they were popularized in Terence and Dennis McKenna’s, Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide as one of the easiest species to cultivate indoors. The species was first described in 1906 as Stropharia cubensis by American mycologist Franklin Sumner Earle in Cuba. German-born mycologist Rolf Singer moved the species into the genus Psilocybe in 1949, giving it the binomial name Psilocybe cubensis. Cubensis means “coming from Cuba”, referring to the work published by Earle.
Appearance: Described bymycologist Paul Stamets as “the most majestic of the Psilocybes”, this species is generally larger than other Psilocybe species, though this may be due to generations of genetic isolation. They possess thick stems and large, broad caps that are brown, becoming paler to almost white at the margin, and fading to more golden-brown or yellowish with maturity.
Habitat: The native environment for P. cubensis is considered pan-tropical, located in countries across the Southern Hemisphere as well as tropical climates in the Northern Hemisphere. Commonly found on ungulate dung, sugar cane mulch, or rich pasture soil, these mushrooms will appear from February to December in the northern hemisphere, and November to April in the southern hemisphere.
Subjective effects: P. cubensis, though the most popular of psilocybin mushrooms, is not one of the most potent. With perhaps less vivid visual effects than other species that contain higher psilocybin concentrations, the classical psychedelic effects of euphoria, feelings of love and unity, introspection, philosophical ideation, synesthesia, visual augmentation, and a less ego-influenced perspective are still present.
Strains: Due to the ease and mass of cultivation of P. Cubensis, the majority of mushroom strains derive from this species.
Psilocybe semilanceata aka “Liberty Caps”
History: The first reliably documented case of psilocybe intoxication occurred from Psilocybe semilanceata in 1799, when a father and his 4 children gathered some in London’s Green Park and prepared them for a meal. The father and his 4 children experienced pupil dilation, spontaneous laughter, and delirium, resulting in the classification as Agaricus semilanceatus in 1838 and moved to the Psilocybe genus in 1871.
Appearance: Liberty Caps get their name from the conical, bell-shaped cap which is unique from other psilocybe mushroom caps which flatten as they mature. For Psilocybe semilanceata, the papilla (nipple-shaped structure) unrolls upon maturity. They are also smaller than most Psilocybe species, possessing a thin, yellowish-brown, and delicate-looking stem. When moist, these mushrooms will range from pale brown to dark chestnut brown, but darker in the center, often with a greenish-blue tinge. When the cap is dry, it becomes much paler, a light yellow-brown color.
Habitat: P. semilanceata is one of the most widespread species of Psilocybe mushrooms, growing alone or in groups on rich and acidic soil, typically in meadows, pastures, or lawns. It is often found in pastures that have been fertilized with sheep or cow dung, although it does not typically grow directly on the dung. Since this is a common environment, P. semilanceata is found across the Northern Hemisphere, and some varieties are known to grow in the Southern Hemisphere, as well, such as in Chile and New Zealand.
Subjective effects: Testing done by Stamets and Gartz place P. semilanceata as the third most potent of the Psilocybe species, with high levels of psilocybin, low levels of psilocin, and moderate amounts of baeocystin. The high concentration of psilocybin often results in a longer trip and a highly visual experience due to the body having to convert the psilocybin into psilocin.
Psilocybe cyanescens aka “Wavy Caps”
History: Though thought to have originated in North America, Elise Wakefield, English mycologist and plant pathologist began collecting species as early as 1910 in London and published the first formal description in 1946 in the journal Transactions of the British Mycological Society
Appearance: As their colloquial name suggests, P. cyanescens possess a cap that becomes noticeably wavy upon maturity, and that is caramel to chestnut-brown when moist, and pale buff or slightly yellowish when dried. Stems are pale and thick, with these mushrooms looking similar to P. cubensis overall.
Habitat: P. cyanescens grow primarily on wood chips, especially in and along the perimeter of mulched plant beds in urban areas. This has spurred the idea of this species symbiotic relationship with urbanization, as they are now commonly found on piles of ligneous debris or in mulched garden beds, sometimes in enormous quantities exceeding 100,000 mushrooms. Though their native habitat is speculated to be the coniferous woodlands of the north-western United States, these mushrooms have now spread to every habitable continent.
Subjective effects: Despite appearing similar to Psilocybe cubensis, P. cyanescens are significantly more potent in their psilocybin content, on average containing up to 30 to 60 percent more. Though the trips between Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe cyanescens are similar, the increased psilocybin content in wavy caps makes for a more visual experience.
Psilocybe Azurescens aka “Flying Saucer Mushrooms”
History: Psilocybe Azurescens are the most rare, potent, and recently discovered species in the Psilocybe genus. Found by a group of Boy Scouts in Oregon, near the mouth of the Columbia river in 1979, this species was officially classified in 1996 by Paul Stamets in his book “Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World”. The name Azurescens is derived from the blue, or “azure”, bruising that occurs from psilocin oxidation.
Appearance: The chestnut to caramel coloured cap of Psilocybe Azurescens starts out conical, similar in shape to liberty caps but slowly flattens with maturity, resembling flying saucers (hence the colloquial name). The stem is thin, being dark brown at the base (or with age) and a silky white as it gets closer to the cap.
Habitat: These mushrooms, unlike the other species mentioned in this list, are not naturally found across the globe. P. Azurescens prefer to live in sandy soils, such as near dunes and seagrasses, and on loose, decaying wood, and thus are only native to the West coast of the U.S. from California to Washington, and mostly cluster near the Columbia River delta in Oregon where they were originally discovered. However, they can withstand chilly temperatures compared to other psilocybin-containing mushrooms, making them easy to cultivate outside for home growers in the U.S. and Europe.
Subjective effects: As mentioned previously, these have been identified as one of, if not, the most potent of the Psilocybe species. Alongside intense visual hallucinations and profound alterations to consciousness, P. Azurescens may also, albeit rarely, induce temporary paralysis.