A brief reference guide for magic mushroom hunting

By Anne Onymous

There are quite a few psilocybin-containing shrooms around, but the most common you’ll find here is the hardy wood-loving Psilocybe subaeruginosa.  

You should know, in New Zealand, it is illegal to cultivate or prepare (meaning to collect, or to dry out in an oven on the lowest fan-forced setting with the door ajar until cracker dry, or to seal in a container with desiccant in a cool, dark place for long term storage) any mushroom containing psilocybin.  

In fact, psilocybin is a Class A controlled substance. The powers that be believe it poses “a very high risk of harm” to individuals and society in its misuse.  

The Government officially regards psilocybin to be: highly dangerous, highly addictive, and of very little or no therapeutic benefit.  

Of course, that’s all bollocks. Psilocybin is one of the safest, non-addictive psychoactive substances on the planet, with a great potential to be used therapeutically to treat PTSD, depression, cluster headaches, and death anxiety.  

But that doesn’t mean foraging for edible mushrooms is without hazard. Some mushrooms will kill you or make you sick if you consume them, or even if you handle them and then touch your mouth. Never consume anything you aren’t 100 per cent sure you’ve correctly identified. 

Anyway, mother nature’s government-subverting mycological Class A fruiting-bodies are recognisable by a few key features:

  1. golden, sombrero shaped cap.
  2. white, fibrous, moderately thick stem.
  3. distinctive blue bruising of the white stem and cap.

Other psilocybes have similar – but not identical – features to the common psilocybe subaeruginosa (which all also bruise blue), and there are shrooms that bruise blue but which look nothing like a psilocybe. 

So, while bruising is not sufficient for an ID, there are no blue-bruising shrooms that look like psilocybes. When you have an ensemble of positive features plus the blue bruising, you probably have the goods, though getting a second opinion from someone more experienced is always important.  

One thing to look out for is copper-based sprays which can look bluey, which are 1) not a good thing to consume and 2) do not indicate that a particular mushroom is actually bruising blue. If you are not 100 per cent sure what you have is safe to consume, please, for the sake of your liver, do not even try it.  

Some mushroom mantras for you… 

  • All mushrooms are edible; some are edible only once. 
  • Googling “poisonous mushrooms NZ” is not a waste of time. 
  • A positive ID leads to a positive trip. 
  • Don’t pick pins; let them open and drop spores. 
  • Don’t pull out mycelium if you can help it (use clean scissors). 
  • Shrooms are for sharing. 
  • Don’t trip alone for your first trip. 
  • Subaeruginosa are potent, so you will not need very much. 
  • Mushrooms can vary in potency, even within the same species, so dose cautiously.  
  • Plan comfort and pleasantness, but don’t be afraid to face your demons. 

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go spray some p. sub spores around the campus woodchips. For further reading on this important topic, check out Know Your Stuff’s mushroom harm reduction information here