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A Beginner’s Guide to Identifying Psychedelic Mushroom Species For Therapy

Who needs a trip to Vegas when you can have a wild and adventurous time foraging for magic mushrooms? While discovering potentially psychoactive fungi may be exciting, being certain in your identification is crucial.

Prehistoric artifacts from South America and Spain have indicated that psychedelic mushrooms were being harvested in indigenous communities for cultural and spiritual rituals dating as far back as 7000 BCE (Samorini, 1992).

Needless to say, these cultures somehow knew how to distinguish between toxic mushroom varieties and edible or entheogenic ones, but during colonization, many of these practices were lost in psychedelic history

In more recent records, the first acknowledgements of these types of mushrooms in medical literature occurred in the early 1800s, and, since then, have been studied for their therapeutic effects on mental health.

If you are curious about identifying psychedelic mushroom genera, this article will cover some important considerations, beneficial tips, and resources for identifying desirable varieties. Most importantly, the intricate and complex art of identifying fungi requires more than reading an article, so be sure to check out the resources shared here to optimize identification safety.

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For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

The Chemical Constituants in Magic Mushrooms

During altered states of consciousness and perception, psychedelics influence the brain in a variety of ways, but the most notable modes of effect are psilocybin and psilocin.

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in around 200 species of mushrooms, and is converted into psilocin in the body. These compounds mimic endogenous serotonin, triggering serotonin neuroreceptors.

They are known to interact with the 5-HT2A receptor in particular, which is involved in mood regulation and sensory perception, and this interaction leads to changes in our physiology and brain activity. 

In addition to psilocybin and psilocin, other chemical compounds found in psychedelic mushrooms may also contribute to their effects, such as baeocystin and aeruginascin.

Because of their metamorphic and evolutionary capabilities to transform the human psyche, magic mushrooms are being studied for their lasting effects on conditions like depression, PTSD, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Each individual species possesses a unique potency and set of effects, so dosing safely and knowing how often to take psychedelic mushrooms for therapeutic purposes somewhat depends on the species. 

Safer Options Than Foraging For Psychedelic Mushrooms

For those interested in embarking on a journey of psychedelic exploration, there are potentially safer options available than foraging. One safer option is to use grow kits, which provide reliable spores, instructions, and substrate for safe and easy cultivation, which can be more predictable for magic mushroom harvesting. 

While we have talked about reagent test kits in the past, which are used to test the purity of other drugs like MDMA and LSD, reliable and comprehensive at-home toxicology kits for magic mushrooms aren’t currently available on the market.

While you can find psychedelic mushroom products for therapeutic purposes online, the best way to ensure utmost safety when consuming hallucinogenic fungi is by speaking to an expert identifier.

Here at Psychedelic Passage, we offer harm-reduction and safety protocols for clients ready for a psychedelic journey. If you are in need of support during this process, we encourage you to book a consultation today.

Where Do Psychedelic Mushrooms Grow?

Mind-altering mushrooms are found in nearly every part of the world, but particularly favor cool to warm and damp climates ranging from 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity.

They typically grow in moist, shaded areas such as mossy forests, overgrown grasslands, and prairie fields, and can also grow in a variety of substrates including decaying trees, soil or compost, animal dung, and decaying plants.

Associated with many myths and lore, mushrooms often propagate in clusters or circular patterns, known as “fairy rings,” which can range in size from a few centimeters to several meters in diameter. 

Some species are known to form symbiotic mycorrhizal associations with the roots of certain trees and plants, both feeding and being fed by their plant host.

The best time to find psychedelic mushrooms is typically during the rainy season or after heavy rainfall, as the increased moisture levels provide ideal conditions for their growth. Fall and spring are the best time for harvesting.

Different climates, substrates, and environments specifically associated with particular genera and mushroom varieties will be outlined briefly in the next section of this article.

Identifying The 7 Most Common Psilocybe Mushrooms

The Psilocybe genus of mushrooms is easily the most important to include here, because they make up the bulk of psychedelic mushrooms on the market. In a past article, we covered the best mushroom strains for psychedelic therapy, however, in this piece we wanted to highlight some of the best-known varieties.

Besides Psilocybe, there are other psychoactive mushrooms in other genera—including the well-known Panaeolus—but also Gymnopilus, Inocybe, and Conocybe. The genera Inocybe and Conocybe both contain poisonous species, so it’s best to avoid these groups until you are familiar and comfortable identifying minute differences between species.

However, Panaeolus—the most well-known being Panaeolus cinctulus and Panaeolus cyanescensare dung loving mushrooms and don’t include any edible varieties, just psychedelic and toxic ones. Inocybe are extremely difficult to identify but often have a symbiotic, mycorrhizal relationship with plant hosts. 

When it comes to magic mushrooms, there is something called a “little brown mushroom,” which refers to the vast majority of mushrooms closely resembling each other in spite of some being toxic and safe. 

For this reason, beware that many little brown mushrooms are psychedelic or edible, while others are extremely toxic. Just be sure to do your spore tests, consult a field guide, consider the tips later in this article, and maybe get a second opinion before ingesting.

Psilocybe cubensis: ‘Golden Teachers’

This variety is the most commonly available and frequently used psychedelic mushroom species on the planet because of its easy cultivation and reliable potency.

Golden Teacher Mushrooms

Photo Credits: InoculateTheWorld

  • Distinctive Features — a golden, smooth, and sticky cap ranging from 1 to 8 centimeters with a white stem and grayish gills
  • Preferred Climate — warm and humid; native to subtropical and tropical regions of Central and South America but is now widely cultivated and found throughout the world
  • Natural Substrate — animal dung and decomposing plant matter; most commonly found in cow pastures, fields, and lawns; home cultivation usually uses brown rice flour or vermiculite

Psilocybe semilanceata: ‘Liberty Caps’

Liberty Cap Mushroom

Photo Credits: InoculateTheWorld

  • Distinctive Features — yellow to brown cap; the stipe is either pale cream or yellow; grayish brown gills; stipe is skinny and cap is conical with a nipple-like protrusion on top
  • Preferred Climate — damp and cool; believed to be native to Europe but is now widely cultivated and found throughout the world; summer and autumn seasons
  • Natural Substrate — most commonly found in grasses of pastures, meadow slopes, and occasionally lawns

Psilocybe mexicana: ‘Teonanácatl’

This interesting species gets its name from its long history of use by indigenous cultures near modern-day Mexico. Mexicana mushrooms grow sclerotia, which are basically reserves for the mushrooms’ survival. 

Psilocybe Mexicana Mushrooms

Photo Credits: InoculateTheWorld

  • Distinctive Features — the cap is typically a deep yellow with a brown ring just at the bottom; the stipe is skinny and yellow as well; grayish brown gills; the cap is conical with a similar nipple-like protrusion on top, resembling Liberty Caps
  • Preferred Climate — damp and warm; native to Central and North America; summer and autumn seasons
  • Natural Substrate — prefers grasslands and forms symbiotic mycorrhizal relationships with neighboring trees

Psilocybe cyanescens: ‘Wavy Caps’

Psilocybin Cyanescens Mushrooms

Photo Credits: InoculateTheWorld

  • Distinctive Features — the cap is round when young but wavy as it matures, in a caramel brown color with lighter yellows and creams toward the edges; the stipe is light gray and thicker than Liberty Caps, appearing less delicate; gills are often visible as the cap curls upwards
  • Preferred Climate — damp and cold; native to Europe and North America; mostly found during the autumn
  • Natural Substrate — grows in wood chips and rotting forest debris primarily 

Psilocybe azurescens: ‘Flying Saucer’

One of nature’s most potent magic mushroom varieties, it gets its name from the UFO-like shape of its smooth cap. 

Psilocybe Azurescens Mushrooms

Photo Credits: InoculateTheWorld

  • Distinctive Features — a wider, flatter cap than those previously in this list, with gold and orange tones; cap is smooth and gills are light in color; the stipe is whitish gray and slightly thicker than Liberty Caps
  • Preferred Climate — found in the United States along the West coast; tolerant to multiple temperatures and seasons
  • Natural Substrate — prefer sandy substrate such as sea grasses, dunes, and decomposing wood 

Psilocybe baeocystis

  • Distinctive Features — arguably less appetizing than the rest on this list; caps are a dark grayish brown with an uneven shape and gooey appearance; stems are thicker in proportion with the cap and are light in color with light brown texture; if you could imagine what a rotten mushroom looks like, you would be picturing this species
  • Preferred Climate — found in the United States along the West coast; tolerant to multiple temperatures and seasons
  • Natural Substrate — feeds on rotting organic materials and wood

Psilocybe tampanensis: ‘Magic Truffles’ 

Not the only truffle forming species but one of the most commonly searched, tampanensis forms these spherical spores underground.  

Psilocybe Tampanensis Mushrooms

Photo Credits: InoculateTheWorld

  • Distinctive Features — dryer than the others on this list; a less sticky appearance; light tan with a slight gradient to a caramel brown on top of the cap; conical shape and thin, tan stipes; truffles appear as light brown, uneven and nodular shapes
  • Preferred Climate — first found in Florida; native to Southeastern United States
  • Natural Substrate — feeds on rotting wood chips and forest debris

Psilocybe cubensis and ‘Magic’ Mushroom Look Alikes

The most common magic mushroom look alike is the toxic Galerina marginata, also known as the ‘Deadly Galerina,’ which contains amatoxins which can cause liver and kidney failure. This mushroom can easily be mistaken for a psilocybin mushroom due to its similar appearance of yellow brown caps with a skinny stipe, and even being mistakable when they are dried.

Amanita muscaria, on the other hand, undoubtedly has psychotropic effects, and is a beautiful and canonical mushroom which contains potentially fatal toxins. Interestingly, these toxins are water soluble, so adequate boiling and preparation can remove poisonous constituents like ibotenic acid and muscimol, making the species edible. 

It is still not recommended to dabble with Amanitas or Fly Agarics, because if technical precautions are not followed, the consequences can be serious. 

Tips For Identification of Therapuetic Magic Mushrooms

When identifying a particular mushroom species and comparing with a field guide or other identification tool, consider these key factors:

  • Location — Pay attention to where it was growing and if the substrate, location, and climate matches the presumed variety. For instance, is it growing in dung, plant materials, or wood? Is it growing in a meadow, field, or forest?
  • Growing Pattern — Take note of whether the mushroom was growing in a group, in a cluster, or all alone. 
  • Bruising — Notice if it bruises blue, because blue-bruising mushrooms are most reliably of the psilocybe variety, even though many of them bruise at different rates.
  • Spore Print — Psychedelic mushroom spores typically show as dark purple in spore prints; beware if the spore print shows in orange or rusty brown colors.
  • Lamellae (Gills) — Does it have brown or gray gills? How are they arranged and attached to the stem? Note that young mushrooms sometimes have a veil that conceals the gills partially or entirely, but gills are typically attached to the stem in psychedelic varieties.
  • Stipe (Stem) — Consider the texture, height, shape, and color of the stem. Psilocybin mushrooms often have firm and coarse stems.
  • Pileus (Cap) — Reflect on the shape, colors, texture, and size. Many psilocybin mushrooms have slimy or sticky caps with a smooth texture. 

Tools For Identification of Therapeutic ‘Shrooms

For psychedelic mushroom enthusiasts, Paul Stamets’ Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World: An Identification Guide is simply a must. Joining an online identification community with expert foragers and mushy lovers—such as on Facebook or Reddit—could also help you crowd-source verification for any mushroom in question. 

Be sure to pay attention to whether the group provides identification for psychedelic varieties, being respectful of their guidelines. While the use of apps are a common identification tool, we do not recommend using any apps as a final or primary means of identification given that their technology is often unreliable. 

In a previous article, we created a guide titled, “How Long Do Shrooms Last? Do They Expire or Go Bad?” which may be an important consideration when preventing your mushrooms from spoiling via proper preparation and storage. Overall, the best way to identify a species is through careful consideration and speaking with an expert mycologist. 

Disclaimers & Legal Considerations For Magic Mushroom Foraging

Foraging for psychedelic mushrooms can come with risks and dangers, so we do not encourage engaging in this activity without proper knowledge, training, and legal permission. 

The risks associated with consuming toxic mushroom varieties can lead to serious health issues and even death in rare cases, with many toxic mushrooms being easily mistaken for edible and hallucinogenic ones.

It is important to note that the legality of psychedelic mushrooms varies by location, and many countries and states have laws prohibiting the cultivation and consumption of these fungi.

Furthermore, identifying psychedelic mushrooms can be a challenging task, and even experienced foragers can make mistakes. It is imperative to consult with expert identifiers before consuming any mushroom found in the wild. 

We hope that this article provided necessary information and resources to help foragers mitigate risks associated with the incorrect identification of fungi, truffles, and mushrooms.

The Best Spore Vendor & At-Home Mushroom Grow Kits

Choosing the right method for cultivating mushrooms at home can be a daunting task, given the plethora of options available. To simplify your decision-making process, we’ve narrowed down our focus to two companies: North Spore and Midwest Grow Kits. In addition, Inoculate The World takes first place as our top recommendation for premium mushroom spores.

Our selection is based on their reputation for offering straightforward, cost-effective, and efficient mushroom cultivation solutions. It’s crucial to note that our recommendation is not influenced by affiliate partnerships; rather, these companies have become affiliates due to their commitment to providing valuable and reliable information to our readers.

Explore Harm Reduction Products:

North Spore (10% Off With ‘PSYCHPASSAGE’)

Visit North Spore

Founded in 2014 by a mycologist, an organic farmer and a photojournalist, North Spore is dedicated to making mushroom cultivation accessible to all. They offer a diverse range of products, including premium sawdust, plug, and grain spawn, mushroom grow kits, fruiting blocks, sterile substrates, and medicinal mushroom supplements.

North Spore places a strong emphasis on customer service, ensuring swift order processing, multiple contact options, and a hassle-free return policy.

Boomr Bin Monotub Grow Kit – $150

North Spore Mushroom Grow Kit

Shop ‘Boomr Bin’ Monotub Grow Kit

Their ‘Boomr Bin’ Monotub Grow Kit, priced at $150, is a standout choice for manure-loving mushrooms, reusable housing, improved humidity control, and enhanced airflow.

Midwest Grow Kits (5% Off With ‘PPVIP5’)

Visit Midwest Grow Kits

In partnership with Midwest Organics, Midwest Grow Kits has been a leading supplier of bulk mushroom substrate and automated cultivation kits for over 18 years. Established in 2011, they aim to make mushroom cultivation accessible to hobbyists.

Midwest Grow Kits prioritizes customer satisfaction with fast shipping, diverse contact options, and reasonable return and refund policies.

All-In-One Mushroom Grow Bag – $19.99

Midwest Grow Kit All In One Mushroom Grow Bag

Shop All-In-One Grow Bag

Their ‘All-In-One Mushroom Grow Bag,’ priced at $19.99, is perfect for compact setups, offering a “set it and forget it” approach with easy disposal after harvest.

Mega Mushroom Growing & Incubator Kit – $124.99

Psilocybin Mushroom Grow Kit

Shop Mega Mushroom Growing & Incubator Kit

For serious growers seeking precision, Midwest Grow Kits offers the ‘Mega Mushroom Growing & Incubator Kit’ at $124.99. This advanced kit provides precise control over variables like lighting, heating, and humidity, making it ideal for high-volume production.

Inoculate The World – Your Trusted Spore Source

Visit Inoculate The World

Inoculate The World, established in 2016, is our top recommended medicinal mushroom spore vendor. Known for their legitimacy and excellent support, they offer a wide range of psilocybin mushroom strains.

Psilocybin Mushroom Spores

Shop Premium Mushroom Spores

With a commitment to open-sourcing genetics and timely shipping, they provide reliable spore syringes for both novice and experienced researchers.

Explore the world of mushroom cultivation with confidence, guided by our recommendations for the best grow kits and spore vendors. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced cultivator, these companies offer solutions tailored to your needs.

Speak With a Trusted Psychedelic Guide

Hi there! We sincerely hope that you’ve found valuable takeaways that resonate with your current intentions. To explore research-based education, stay updated with psychedelic news, and benefit from practical how-to articles, we encourage you to head over to our resources page.
If you’re seeking personalized advice and are prepared to take the first step toward a therapeutic psychedelic experience, we invite you to book a consultation with our team of experienced psychedelic concierges.
This consultation is more than just a conversation; it’s an opportunity to be matched with a trustworthy local facilitator. You’ll be seamlessly connected to our rigorously vetted network of psychedelic guides, ensuring potential matches align with your needs.
Psychedelic Passage offers confidence and peace of mind by alleviating the burden of having to guess who’s right for you. If you want to discover how Psychedelic Passage can help you, we empower you to learn more about our services and check out client testimonials from those who’ve gone before you.
Your healing path is uniquely yours, and our commitment is to serve you at every juncture. Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic assisted therapy near you in the United States.

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  1. J;, M. F. B. (n.d.). Hallucinogenic mushrooms on the German market – simple instructions for examination and identification. Forensic science international.  
  2. Patocka, J., Wu, R., Nepovimova, E., Valis, M., Wu, W., & Kuca, K. (2021, February 23). Chemistry and toxicology of major bioactive substances in inocybe mushrooms. International journal of molecular sciences.  
  3. Pellegrini M;Rotolo MC;Marchei E;Pacifici R;Saggio F;Pichini S; (n.d.). Magic truffles or philosopher’s stones: A legal way to sell psilocybin? Drug testing and analysis. 

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