How to Identify Magic Mushrooms

To date, over 200 species of magic mushrooms have been discovered around the world. A significant majority of these species (53) can be found scattered around Mexico. In the United States and Canada, there are 22 species of shrooms have been identified.

If you live in an area where magic mushroom species like psilocybin mushrooms are known to grow, it is definitely tempting to go foraging for these instead of buying or growing your own mushrooms. But before you set out to find and gather psychedelic mushrooms, there are a few important things that you need to know.

Is It Legal to Forage Magic Mushrooms?

That depends on where you live. Most areas have banned the act of picking magic mushrooms. In the United States, psilocybin mushrooms are classified as illegal substances under federal law. However, there are 13 states that have decriminalized magic mushrooms. Take note that decriminalization doesn't necessarily make shrooms legal to possess and use. It simply means that such violations have been deprioritized.

Another potential legal issue that you may face when foraging for mushrooms is trespassing. Make sure that you respect the rights of landowners. And if possible, veer away from popular foraging areas. You are more likely to get caught if you insist on hunting for magic mushrooms in known spots.

What Are The Risks Involved in Foraging for Psilocybin Mushrooms?

Magic mushroom foraging isn't as simple as finding the location where these fungi grow and picking them.

Getting lost

For one, you might end up lost in an unfamiliar area. Whether you are looking for magic mushrooms on your own or with a group, it is vital to familiarize yourself with the environment.

It also helps to come prepared by wearing the appropriate clothing for the season and bringing food, drinks, a first aid kit, and other safety essentials. Essentially, bring with you the things you would normally take with you when heading out for a hike.

Wood lover paralysis

Another potential risk that you need to be aware especially if you are keen on hunting magic mushrooms from the genus psilocybe is a condition known as wood lover paralysis (WLP) or woodchip paralysis. This condition can cause a temporary loss of muscle control and strength that can last for a day. Wood lover paralysis is not an offshoot of overdosing on magic shrooms. In fact, even low doses can trigger it.

To date, scientists have to come up with a viable explanation for this condition. Some experts suggest that compounds found in the genus psilocybe like aeruginascin can cause the condition.

Mistaking magic mushrooms for poisonous mushrooms

One of the key challenges of foraging for magic mushrooms is ensuring that you actually pick psychedelic mushrooms instead of poisonous mushrooms. Unfortunately, there are no tests available to help you check if the mushrooms you picked are safe to eat or poisonous. While foraging comes with a few benefits, it also has a few risks, including mistaking poisonous species for magic mushrooms.

Poisonous mushrooms have two main side effects. First, these mushroom species can cause gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Death cap mushrooms can cause liver failure, or worse, death. This mushroom species has been associated with the most number of deaths related to the consumption of fungi. The toxin found in death cap mushrooms can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps six to 24 hours after consumption. The toxin is also known to damage the liver and kidneys.

Where to Find Magic Mushrooms

If you are keen on finding psychoactive mushrooms, one of the first things that you need to learn is where to find them.

A cursory search on the Internet will help you identify places where magic mushrooms can be potentially found. From your initial research, you can narrow down your search to locations that are nearest to you.

When it comes to magic mushrooms, be aware that even those from the same family can grow in vastly different areas. Some mushroom species prefer grasslands while others may be found in forests.

Another important thing to consider is climate. While there are some magic mushroom species that can thrive in a diverse array of climates, there are others that like cannabis plants that can thrive under a specific set of conditions.

For example, Psilocybe cubensis, one of the more popular magic mushrooms, can be found growing in Florida and other locations with a humid subtropical climate.

Take advantage of online databases, Facebook and Reddit groups to help you identify places where you can potentially forage for shrooms.

Once you have a general idea of where you can find magic mushrooms, the next order of business is finding their exact habitat. If you are lucky enough, you can find different habitats in just one location.

Broadly speaking, magic mushrooms can be found in three types of habitats. These include species that grow on wood or other plant materials, those that grow on animal feces, and those that can be found on decaying plant matter.

If you are new to foraging for magic mushrooms, you might find a higher chance of success by finding species that prefer to grow on the feces of grass-eating animals like cows.

When Is the Best Time to Look for Hallucinogenic Mushrooms?

Now that you have a fair idea where psilocybin-containing mushrooms can be found, the next thing that you need to determine is when is the best time to forage.

Most shrooms are best harvested during the fall, with the exception of species that are found in subtropical and tropical climates. In tropical climates, mushrooms can grow and be harvested all year round, especially if their nutritional needs are adequately met. But in temperate areas, you will find greater success if you head out to forage during autumn and winter.

Key Magic Mushroom Features

While hallucinogenic mushrooms differ in appearance, they share a few key traits. These shared traits can make it easier for you to identify them and avoid poisonous species.

There are certain features that will help you identify magic mushrooms without requiring the use of special equipment like microscopes. These traits are called macroscopic features.

By learning these macroscopic features and combining information about the climate and habitat of magic mushrooms, you can avoid potentially lethal mistakes while foraging.

Physical features

Psilocybe mushrooms share a few physical characteristics. But take note that these physical traits can vary from one species to another. Generally speaking, Psilocybes have brown caps, stems, and gills.


Also known as the pileus, the cap supports the gills. The gills are the part of the mushroom that bears the spores.

In magic mushrooms, the cap is smooth and has a moist outer layer. The cap color usually changes as the moisture evaporates.


Below the cap is the stem. Essentially, the function of the stem is to prop the cap to allow more spores to disperse into the environment. The taller the stem, the easier it becomes for more spores to disperse. The stems of magic mushrooms, compared to other species, tend to be tougher.


The gills refer to the part of the mushroom that is located on the underbelly of the cap and radiates from the stem.

For mushroom foragers, looking at the color of the gills is essential for identification.


The majority of Psilocybe mushrooms have black spore prints while a handful has brown spore prints. You can use spore prints in confirming whether the mushrooms you have found are psychoactive fungi or not.


The mycelium is the part of the mushroom that is found beneath the substrate. The primary function of this part is to collect food from the environment and assist in colonization.

In a psilocybin mushroom, the mycelium is white in color and has thick strands that cling to the substrate.


The cortina, also known as the partial veil, covers that mushroom cap. As the mushroom grows, the cortina peels off until it disintegrates completely. Eventually, the partial veil leaves a structure known as an annulus when the cap grows. The annulus offers protection to the gills.

Growth pattern

Another feature that can help you determine if you are looking at a hallucinogenic species of mushroom is the growth pattern. Generally, magic mushrooms grow alone or in groups. The only exception to that general rule is a few species that grow on wood like subaeruginosa. These shrooms grow in clusters that emanate from the same mycelium.

Blue bruising

Another telltale sign that you have found magic mushrooms in the wild is blue bruising. For years, experts have been baffled about this unique feature of hallucinogenic mushrooms. The blue pigment is a mixture of different enzymes that oxidize psilocin. But until now, scientists still do not know why blue bruising happens. They suggest that this unique feature might help shrooms ward off potential predators.

How to Forage

Now that you are familiar with the potential habitats and features of the sacred mushroom, it is now to take your species identification knowledge out on the field.


Once you have found fungi that you suspect are psilocybin-containing mushrooms, take note of a few things.

Start by looking at their growth pattern and habitat. Then, look at the physical features of the mushrooms, starting with their color. Specifically, check the color of the cap and the gills.

Next, touch the stems. How do they feel? Magic mushroom stems should feel fibrous and tough. Move to the cap and check if it has a sticky texture. Find the partial veil and see if it has left an annulus. Notice any blue bruising?

Using your observations, consult with a field guide to see whether the information that you gathered matches what is written in the guide.


Your initial observations can tell you if you should proceed with mushroom picking or not. If your initial observations tell you that you might have found psilocybin mushrooms, the next step that you need to take is to pick a few pieces of the fungi.

As much as possible, you should pick the whole mushroom, keeping some part of the mycelium intact.

Again, observe how the mushroom feels to the touch. The cap should feel moist and sticky. Next, break open the cap. You should see a gelatinous layer. Move next to the gills. In most Psilocybe species, the gills should be attached to the cap from the stem. After that, check the texture and feel of the stem. Magic mushrooms have tough and fibrous stems.

Create a spore print

One final thing that you can do to confirm whether the mushrooms you found are indeed Psilocybin mushrooms or not is to make a spore print.

For this, you will need a piece of paper or foil. To create a spore print, cut the mushroom cap using a sharp knife. As much as possible, cut as close to the cap as you can. Next, place the cap onto the paper with the gills facing down. After that, cover the cap with a bowl and allow it to sit on the paper for six to 12 hours. Remove the paper and observe the color of the print. If you have found magic mushrooms, the spore print should be purplish-black. Otherwise, if the color of the print is different, you may have found a different type of mushroom.

Enlist the help of a community

Species identification is no easy feat, especially for people with little to no experience. As such, you should not be afraid to seek help from people who have more knowledge and experience compared to you.

If you are keen on foraging for magic mushrooms, you should join online communities devoted to this endeavor. You will immediately discover that there are plenty of people who are more than willing to help you in identifying the species of mushroom you have found.

If you are uncertain about the wild mushroom you found, you can post your observations, spore prints, as well as other pertinent details which will help your fellow mushroom foragers identify the species of shrooms you have found.

What to Do If You Ate a Poisonous Mushroom

Mushroom foraging should not be a game where you gamble with your life. If you follow the steps outlined above and consult experienced people, you should be able to avoid most, if not all, of the risks associated with picking magic mushrooms.

However, it is just as important to know what to do in case you consume poisonous species of shrooms.

As a rule of thumb, you should never eat mushrooms you picked from the wild without verifying if they are safe to consume. Most cases of mushroom poisoning can be attributed to people who ate fungi picked from the wild.

If you or someone you know has eaten an unknown species of mushroom, it is better to err on the side of caution and go immediately to a hospital. According to healthcare experts, you should not wait for symptoms to manifest before seeking professional medical help.

Mushroom poisoning comes in two types - short and long latency periods. In cases of mushroom poisoning with a short latency period, the symptoms usually show within a six-hour period, starting at the time of ingestion. These symptoms include vomiting and nausea, and diarrhea.

On the other hand, mushroom poisoning with a long latency period can be both deceptive and dangerous to the victims. This is because this type of mushroom poisoning can cause serious damage to the liver. Even if the poisonous mushroom was cooked, its toxicity remains.

The problem with long-latency poisoning is that the symptoms do not appear immediately. It usually takes six to eight hours after ingestion before symptoms like gastroenteritis appear. According to doctors, the longer the toxins remain in the body, the more damage they can cause.

Once you arrive at the hospital, the staff will follow a protocol. They will ask you if you know the type of mushroom consumed or if you mixed different species. This piece of information can help guide medical professionals about the best course of action to take to prevent extensive organ damage.

Forage Ethically

One final thing that you need to remember when you are foraging for mushrooms is to be mindful of the environment where you pick fungi.

As much as possible, pick magic mushrooms that are already mature. Leave the baby mushrooms and allow them to grow. Most species of magic mushrooms fruit a number of times during a season.

Take only what you need. Not only are you potentially harming the mushrooms and the environment by taking more than what you can consume. You are also being wasteful.

Be mindful of where you take your spore prints. The last thing that you want to do is to introduce a foreign species to a new location. Doing so can harm the delicate balance in the new environment.

Finally, keep the mushroom habitat as close as to the condition that you found it. Better yet, clean up the area and take the trash with you.