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 our hope that this article helps illuminate the otherwise dark and mysterious pursuit of magic mushroom identification.
DISCLAIMER #2 – PRISM do not have magic mushrooms (or any other illegal substances) in their possession. We destroy all evidence of this rewarding (but sadly illegal) hobby by means of digestion.
Every year in Victoria, Australia, between the cold months of April to August, magic happens. This magic reveals itself in the form of psychoactive mushrooms. They grow wildly in parks, playgrounds, creeks, forests, nature strips and garden beds. They thrive pretty much anywhere with wood chips, tanbark, or mulch that gets a lot of rain and shade. Of course, there are lots of poisonous doppelgängers out there, so it pays to have a bit of experience in identifying the right ones. This ‘experience’ is something we 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 exclusive PRISM feature will attempt to explain how to find magic mushrooms on your own (or with friends), and outline some good methods of drying and storing them.
- 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
The main psychoactive species in Victoria is called psilocybe subaeruginosa -subs for short, or gold tops, but 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. These mushrooms are very easy to distinguish, maybe not at first, but eventually you should have no trouble spotting them from the crowd.
Seeing as how important your life is, it would be a shame to eat a poisonous mushroom and risk death, 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 nine hours. Toxins also severely affect the liver, which can result in gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney failure, coma, or even death. While this might read like an anti-cigarette ad right about now, it’s important to know how badly a misidentified mushroom can fuck you up. Many 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 darn tragic if you ask us.
It’s worth taking a good picture of the fungi 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. However, to be 100% sure you have psychedelic mushrooms in your possession, 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 purple-brown colour if the mushrooms are psychedelic. Don’t waste these spores! Pour them into a spray bottle filled with water and then spray the solution on your patches to see accelerated growth.
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 important 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. Or bring both if you’re fortunate enough to have both. 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; this 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.
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. Any excuse will do, so long as you 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 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.
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 likely be unable to answer.
Police paranoia aside, it’s important to develop an eye for spotting both magic and poisonous mushrooms. The pictures scattered throughout this article 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 suspicious as hell.
This breed of mushroom doesn’t like the heat and will generally stick to shaded areas, and 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-like caps that 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 feel of the cap is similar to a puppies’ nose – velvety smooth and wet. The stem is thickish 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 dependent 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 ok; mushrooms, like people, take a variety of different shapes. 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 quite 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 psilocybin. The more potent the mushroom, the more aggressive the blueing will be. 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.
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.
n 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. Next Page: habitat shots