How to Identify Psilocybin Mushrooms

As part of your journey in the world of amateur microscopy or mycological research, you may find yourself interested in learning more about psilocybin mushrooms themselves, rather than just their spores alone. Just like the spores they produce, psilocybin mushrooms are beautiful organisms which grow naturally in the wild all over the world.

Do note that while their spores are legal in most states, mature psilocybin mushrooms are illegal in the United States. Having a very firm understanding of your local laws before interacting with mature psilocybin mushrooms in any way is highly recommended. Do not consume, touch, or otherwise physically interact with any wild mushroom unless you are a trained expert and obeying your local laws.

To learn more about the laws concerning psilocybin mushrooms, their spores, and the compound psilocybin itself, we suggest reading the following two resources we’ve prepared for you:

As long as you make sure that you’re not breaking any laws when studying them, psilocybin mushrooms are a fascinating topic to explore—fascinating fungi, as we’ve taken to calling them!

If you’d like to study psilocybin spores and you live in one of the 47 states where it’s legal for at-home scientists to do so, please read our resource all about how to become an amateur microscopist. However, in this article, we’ll be discussing the mature mushrooms.

One of the first things any amateur mycologist is sure to be interested in is how to identify psilocybin mushrooms. So let’s talk about exactly that—read on to learn about the unique characteristics of the following mushrooms:

  • Psilocybe cubensis
  • Popular strains and hybrids of Psilocybe cubensis
  • Psilocybe azurescens
  • Psilocybe semilanceata
  • Psilocybe mexicana
  • Psilocybe cyanescens
  • Psilocybe baeocystis
The gills of a wild mushroom, where psilocybin spores are produced

Psilocybin mushrooms tend to share some of the same traits. Generally, though not always, observers will want to look out for mushrooms with a golden brown color. Their stems will often have a blue mottling, particularly when the stem is bruised—interestingly, this is caused by a chemical reaction that occurs when psilocybin and oxygen meet. Finally, psilocybin mushrooms tend to have a purple veil protecting the gills, or, if broken, it will appear as a small dark purple ring on the stem.

With that basic knowledge in mind, let’s continue by learning how to further identify one of the most popular and well known magic mushrooms in the world:

How to Identify Psilocybe Cubensis, The Most Well-Known Magic Mushroom in the World

The popularity of Psilocybe cubensis may perhaps be attributed in part because of its wide availability; it grows quite commonly in not only the United States and Central America, but all over the rest of the world too, including South America, Cuba, Australia, and many parts of Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Two mushrooms in a humid grassland, the natural habitat of many psychoactive mushrooms

This psilocybin mushroom’s natural habitat is usually that of a humid grassland—it commonly grows from the waste of grazing mammals like cows, horses, or goats. Because of this, mycologists sometimes refer to Psilocybe cubensis as a coprophilic fungus, meaning that it’s a dung-loving species of mushroom. It may sound unappealing, but the reason for this is actually pretty interesting: the dung of grass-eating mammals tends to have very low acidity (as do their stomachs, which is important for reasons we’ll discover in a moment).

If you’ve been paying attention in some of our other resources where we describe the mushroom life cycle, you might be wondering how spores can so reliably find their way to so-called “cow patties.” While it’s true that mushrooms can be pretty clever with how they distribute their spores, in this case the spores are almost always on whatever the grazing mammals are eating beforehand.

The process looks a bit like this: a cow or a goat eats some feed, usually just some grass outside. If that feed had spores on it, the animal will eat those too. Since the stomach of the animal has such low acidity levels, the spores may gain the opportunity to germinate inside the animal itself. When the animal relieves itself, the mushrooms can use the nutrients in its waste to continue to mature. Contrary to popular belief, cubensis mushrooms do not usually grow underneath the manure.

In appearance, Psilocybe cubensis changes color somewhat depending on age. While young, its coloration is reddish-brown, almost cinnamon. At maturity, it takes on a golden brown coloration, and can grow to be a pale yellow or almost completely white when old. The cap is conical or bell-shaped when young and may expand to a more convex appearance as time passes. When bruised, a blueish tint can be observed.

Thanks to its popularity, there are nearly countless different strains of Psilocybe cubensis, many of which are available as spores in our shop. Before we move on to discussing some of the other species of magic mushroom, let’s take a moment to talk about some of the more popular strains of cubensis:

Psilocybe Cubensis Strains: What to Know & Good Starters for Beginner Microscopists

Psilocybe cubensis has so many different strains that it would be impossible to discuss them all here, but we do have time to cover a few of the most popular varieties appreciated by home scientists the world over.

Perhaps the most well known strain of cubensis is Golden Teacher, which many mycologists believe is among the best for beginners—yet remains beloved even by advanced researchers. This mildly potent strain looks like its namesake and features beautifully wide, golden-colored caps and thick, winding stems.

Four Syringes of Psilocybin Spores for Microscopy Research

Like Golden Teacher, another popular psilocybin mushroom strain for beginners is the B+ cubensis strain. At parity with Golden Teacher insofar as how beloved it is by mycologists, this strain grows in the wild in humid areas of the United States like Florida. A hybrid of Psilocybe azurescens and Psilocybe cubensis, this strain is quick to germinate in the wild and at maturity features a large, caramel-colored cap and a thick stem.

Another strain, noted for its humorous name—and often abbreviated likely because of it—is the Penis Envy (or PE) strain of psilocybin mushrooms. This mushroom is shaped like what you might imagine, and has a golden brown cap and a pale yellow stem. A strain for advanced researchers only as it is known for its propensity for contamination and short shelf life, though it is very potent. A popular hybrid combining the PE strain with PF Albino is the ghostly white Albino Penis Envy strain, which features a small, blue cap and a wide, “stunted” stem.

Now that you have an understanding of several of the more popular strains of Psilocybe cubensis, let’s talk about some of the other varieties of magic mushroom, starting with one we’ve already mentioned: Psilocybe azurescens.

How to Identify Wild Psilocybe Azurescens Magic Mushrooms

As part of the B+ hybrid strain, Psilocybe azurescens is more colloquially known as the “flying saucer” mushroom, thanks to the saucer-like appearance of its mature, flattened caps. Its coloration is a rich caramel brown, possibly darker and chestnut while moist after a strong rain. Notable about Psilocybe azurescens is that when bruised, a deep, dark blue coloration appears very quickly. Its gills are a dark brown, which contrast quite strongly with its pale white stem.

Psilocybe azurescens tends to grow in the wild along the western coast of the United States, preferring coastal areas and sandy grasslands for its home. This species can be spotted during the late months of the year beginning in September and, weather permitting, extending into January.

How to Identify Psilocybe Semilanceata Psilocybin Mushrooms in the World

Psilocybe semilanceata habitat
Psilocybe semilanceata habitat

Otherwise known as “liberty caps,” the potent Psilocybe semilanceata psilocybin mushroom grows naturally in both the United States and Canada as well as parts of Europe. It prefers meadows, pastures, and grasslands, though unlike Psilocybe cubensis, this mushroom is not a coprophilic fungi, meaning that it doesn’t grow out of the waste of animals. Instead, liberty caps tend to pop up amid the grass, particularly after wet weather.

The cap of the mushroom is the color of leather, a light brown with few deviations, though grooves may be seen which correspond to the gills. The stem is a pale white, which is usually long and curvaceous. When bruised, Psilocybe semilanceata will quickly display a blue coloration.

How to Identify Psilocybe Mexicana, the Magic Mushroom Native to Central and South America

The species Psilocybe mexicana has a long history, with human interactions going back thousands of years—if you’re interested in the history and anthropological importance of psilocybin mushrooms, please feel encouraged to read our article Mushrooms and Humanity.

Used in religious rituals, spiritual practices, and indigenous medicines, Psilocybe mexicana could, to the untrained eye, be at first mistaken for Psilocybe semilanceata—though in practice on isn’t likely to make this mistake, since the two species grow naturally in such different parts of the world.

Like semilanceata, Psilocybe mexicana has a conical or bell-shaped cap, leathery-brown in appearance, and usually grooved in correspondence with the underlying gills. Their stems aren’t usually as curved however, and take on a pale yellow coloration, rather than purely white. Like most psilocybin mushrooms, when bruised, Psilocybe mexicana takes on a deep blue coloration in affected areas.

These mushrooms grow at elevations below 1,000 feet, usually amid moss or grass, and they love humid meadows and forest trails. While usually spotted in groups, Psilocybe mexicana can be solitary. It is usually found during the warm months of between May and October.

Recognizing Psilocybe Cyanescens, Commonly Known As “Wavy Caps” Psilocybin Mushrooms

So-called “Wavy Caps” Psilocybe cyanescens is a prolific mushroom species, growing in the United States and Canada, Western and Central Europe, New Zealand, and even Iran in the Middle East.

It is often found growing in urban areas, though naturally rather than as part of cultivation, since it thrives on wood chips. When homeowners mulch their plant beds and other conditions are right, Psilocybe cyanescens can crop up.

A row of landscaped flowers, a place where Psilocybe cyanescens might be found

Mycologists even believe that the widespread use of mulch is largely responsible for this mushroom’s rapid propagation around the world, since it grows in areas where it likely never existed previously. Spores would have found their way onto mulch, which was then transported elsewhere.

The name “Wavy Caps” comes from, as you would suspect, the distinctly wavy appearance of this mushroom’s cap. The more mature the mushroom is, the more likely it is that the cap takes on a wavy, curving appearance. The gills of this species are thick and may cause grooves to appear on the cap, especially if the mushroom is well hydrated. The cap and gills have caramel coloration, whereas the stem is a chalky off-white. When bruised, a deep blue coloration will appear, as with similar psilocybin mushrooms.

What Wild Psilocybe Baeocystis Looks Like

Sometimes called “bottle caps” or “blue bells,” Psilocybe Baeocystis grows naturally in the Northwestern United States, thanks to the regions frequent rainfall and high humidity. Like Psilocybe cyanescens, this species loves mulch and wood chips and is occasionally found in landscaped areas, though it has not proliferated globally like cyanescens. It also grows in the wild, often below Douglas fir trees.

Psilocybe baeocystis has a unique coloration, usually appearing in dark green, olive colors, making it difficult to spot in terrain which shares those colors. It sometimes has blue tinges even without bruising, and when it is bruised, this coloration becomes even more pronounced. It has a conical cap and a white stem.

Now That You Know About Mushrooms, Why Not Study Their Spores?

Identifying mature mushrooms is one thing—but did you know that microscopists can identify mushrooms based on the characteristics of their spores alone? If you’d like to test your taxonomy skills, you’ll want to learn about spores just as much as mature mushrooms. It’s the only way to truly round out your skills!

We invite you to browse our shop where you can buy psilocybin mushroom spores online to take your amateur microscopy skills to the next level.


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