The Easy Guide on How to Identify Magic Mushrooms - Mushroom Site (2024)

If you live in a wooded area or near some fields, you know that mushrooms grow quickly and easily in the wild. There may be a wide variety along your favorite hiking trail or even in your backyard.

We generally write about edible wild mushrooms here on Mushroomsite.com, and you can find information about identifying edible wild mushrooms in this article.

But it is also important to know how to identify magic mushrooms, whether you intend to eat them or not. Otherwise, you might consume them unknowingly and be taken on an unexpected psychedelic trip.

Important Disclaimer

Below we will give some tips on how to identify magic mushrooms. But the information we provide below is only a starting point. If you don’t have experience hunting for mushrooms, then be sure to buy a detailed mushroom field guide. And be sure to go hunting with an experienced forager. NEVER consume any mushroom unless you are absolutely sure of its identity. Every year people die after consuming poisonous mushrooms. And with some species, just one mushroom is enough to kill you.

For a more detailed look at psilocybin mushrooms, we recommend Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World: An Identification Guide, by Paul Stamets. The photos and descriptions are exceptionally clear. While our article provides a good overview, please don’t rely on the internet to identify a mushroom. This isn’t a subject on which to take shortcuts.

Also, in many areas, mushrooms containing psilocybin remain illegal, and penalties for possession are severe. Make sure you are aware of the laws in your region before picking one of these mushrooms.

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The Key Identifying Features of Magic Mushrooms

Several species of mushrooms are considered hallucinogenic, but in this article, we will be focusing on psilocybin (magic) mushrooms.

Most magic mushrooms have distinguishing color characteristics. According to mycologist Paul Stamets, psilocybins are mostly gilled mushrooms with black or purplish-brown spore prints and bluish flesh. The bluish trait is more dominant in magic mushrooms with high psychedelic potency. However, if the mushroom has bluish bruises but does not have purple-brownish to black spores, it is likely not psilocybin.

In the next section, we describe ten of the most common magic mushrooms, but before going further with the specifics, here are specific steps to keep in mind when you are trying to identify mushrooms.

Steps for Identifying Magic Mushrooms

1. Study the Different Types of Magic Mushrooms

You don’t need to know all the species of magic mushrooms that exist in the world. However, if you take some time studying the major types of magic mushrooms, their characteristics, where they grow, which seasons they grow in, and what they grow on, you’ll go a long way toward becoming an expert as these are the important points for identifying magic mushrooms. You’ll also know where to start looking. We have listed the ten most common types of magic mushrooms below, along with photos and descriptions.

2. Know What Grows in Your Location

While there is a wide range of magic mushrooms that grow worldwide, some species grow in specific locations or specific climates. So take some time to learn which types of magic mushrooms grow in your area.

3. Take Photos of the Mushrooms You Come Across

Bring your phone on a mushroom excursion trip and take detailed photos of the mushroom you come across. Once you are back home, you can match the pictures against the mushroom photographs that you find online. Don’t use these photos to confirm the mushroom’s identity though. Always run your finds past an expert as a final step.

4. Join a “Magic Mushroom” Enthusiasts’ Forum and Ask

To find these experts, you can post photos of the mushrooms you come across in forums with mushroom enthusiasts and experts. They will help you identify the specific type you photographed. There are also mushroom clubs that meet in different cities. Even if they don’t focus on magic mushrooms, most members will be curious about them and will know how to identify them.

If you are in the US, Canada, or Mexico, theNorth America Mycological Association (NAMA)has clubs in many cities and towns, and it is likely that there is a club near you. Visit theirwebsiteto learn more.

So here is a brief description of the ten most common magic mushroom species:

10 Common Magic Mushrooms and Their Distinguishing Characteristics

1. Psilocybe Semilanceata

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These magic mushrooms are also popularly known as liberty caps due to their characteristic large caps. They are among the most potent magic mushrooms in the world. They mostly grow in North America and Europe. You can find them in meadows and pastures.

For more information, see our Complete Guide to Liberty Caps.

2. Psilocybe Cubensis

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Psilocybe Cubensis are popularly known as the golden teacher because of their characteristic deep (for young ones) to light brown color (for mature ones). They have a distinctive dark brown marking at the center of the mushroom. The stems have a bluish hue, while the gill cover is dark purple.

The spaced-out gills of these mushrooms are grey and become almost black as the mushroom grows. Their caps are distinctively larger compared to most types of magic mushrooms. They are the most well-known magic mushrooms, and they are mostly found in tropical areas in the world, such as Southeast Asia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and India.

These are the mushrooms that most people think of when they think of magic mushrooms. For more information, see our complete guide to psilocybe cubensis.

3. Psilocybe Mexicana

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As their name suggests, these magic mushrooms are mostly found in Mexico and South and Central America. They are also known as teonanacatl. They look a lot like the Psilocybe Semilanceata with large bell-shaped caps.

However, their caps are light brown (almost beige) compared to the darker liberty caps. Their stems are bluish, especially when bruised. Psilocybe Mexicana can grow alone or in groups. They can be found in forest meadows or roadsides. They also commonly grow among the moss.

4. Psilocybe Cyanescens

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These mushrooms are popularly known as wavy caps because they have large wavy caps. The older the mushroom, the wavier the cap.

When they are fresh, they have a caramel-like brown color, but they become pale, almost yellowish as they dry.

Like other magic mushrooms, when stained, they tend to become bluish.

Psilocybe Cyanescaens grow in western and central Europe, New Zealand, North America, and parts of the Middle East. They particularly like wood chips and mulched areas of gardens and are becoming quite common in suburban areas.

For more information, see our Complete Guide to Psilocybe Cyanescens.

5. Psilocybe Azurescens

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Psilocybe Azurescens are known as flying saucer mushrooms because of their large, saucer-like caps. Baby Psilocybe Azurescens tend to have cone-shaped caps, but as they grow older, the caps become flatter.

They start as brown, but as they age, they assume a dark blue, almost blackish color. Their edges have shallow grooves that follow the pattern of the gills underneath.

Older flying saucer mushrooms tend to have white stems and very dark gills.

These are extremely potent magic mushrooms. They are naturally found in a small part of the West coast of the United States. However, their spores have been cultivated in many other parts of the world, particularly in coastal areas. They tend to grow in groups on wood chips or sandy soils. They are seasonal and fruit in September and January.

For more information, see our Complete Guide to Psilocybe Azurescens.

6. Psilocybe Tampanesis

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Also known as the magic truffles or the philosopher’s stone. This species of magic mushrooms produce psilocybin-containing truffles; hence, they are commonly referred to as psilocybin truffles.

They have small yellowish cone-shaped caps. However, they are most preferred for their sclerotia (nodules) that grow underground. These are the mushrooms behind the magic truffle retreats that are popular in the Netherlands. They are called the philosopher’s stones because they are believed to make one profoundly thoughtful.

These mushrooms were first discovered near Tampa, Florida in 1977.

7. Copelandia Cyanescens

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These mushrooms are popularly known as Blue Meanies. While they are not part of the Psilocybe species, they are among the psychedelic mushrooms with the highest potency.

They are found in warm subtropical regions such as Louisiana, Mexico, Hawaii, Mississippi, the Caribbean, South America, Costa Rica, Thailand, Japan, and some parts of Europe and Africa. They live in dung on pastures and fields.

8. Psilocybe Caerulescenes

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The landslide mushrooms, also known as “derrumbes,” are small mushrooms with a silvery luster. They have low-moderate psilocybin potency and are preferred by people who are looking for a gentle and short psychedelic trip.

These mushrooms are mostly found in Mexico, Alabama, the Carolinas, and Georgia, They thrive in low-temperature, high-altitude areas where there were landslides in the past.

9. Psilocybe Caerulipes

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These mushrooms are also known as blue foot mushrooms, as they are bluish at the base of their stems. They are a very rare type of magic mushroom found in the US and parts of Canada. They grow near rivers on hardwood logs in the summer and fall. For more information on blue foot mushrooms, please see our guide to Blue-Foot Psilocybe — Psilocybe Caerulipes Guide.

10. Psilocybe Baeocystis

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Also known as knobby tops, bottle caps or olive caps, these mushrooms have thin, cone-shaped medium-sized caps rippled on the edges. They have long, chalk-white stems, straight or curved. The cones are olive-brown.

These mushrooms grow on lawns with high lignin content, mulch, and wood chips. They also like to grow under other trees. They mostly grow during the fall and at the beginning of winter, and mostly in North America.

Wrapping It Up

If you are a mushroom forager, it is important to know about magic mushrooms, if only to avoid picking one by mistake. While still illegal in many places, the trend seems to be toward legalization.

Regardless, magic mushrooms are becoming more common, and every forager should be aware of where they grow and what they look like. Knowing how to identify magic mushrooms in your area will help you to protect yourself and others.

Wanna know more about the effects of magic mushrooms on the mind? Check out our articleUnlocking the Mysteries: Magic Mushroom Effects for the Curious Mind.

To learn more about growing magic mushrooms, check out our articleCultivating the Magic: A Guide to Growing Magic Mushrooms.

Are you interested in foraging for other wild mushrooms? Check out our article Mushroom Foraging — The Ultimate Guide.

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And lastly, sign up for our weekly newsletter for more great mushroom information.

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