Mushroom ID: A Beginning

Discussion in 'Magic Mushroom hunting' started by Heretic.Ape., May 2, 2007.

  1. Heretic.Ape.

    Heretic.Ape. Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    Apr 17, 2007
    from U.S.A.

    So you found some little brown mushrooms and you're wondering if they are "magic". Before trying to post a picture of your specimen in hopes that someone will be able to tell you what it is, don't bother. Mushroom identification online (especially with just a picture and brief description) is not only pretty much impossible but is very dangerous.

    I hope to make this thread a decent place to start for those who are new to mushrooms, for the many who come along asking "are these magic mushrooms?" This begins, in a very basic way, to show what is involved in identifying mushrooms from macroscopic features, so that

    a) you can see that it's not as simple as posting a picture on the net to get an identification, and

    b) you can learn how to go about gaining the more extensive knowledge necissary, that this simple thread will be unable to cover.

    Additions and comments are always welcomed.

    Stamets’ two basic rules for psilocybin identification:

    1) The gilled mushroom has purplish brown to black spores

    2) The mushroom bruises bluish

    “I know of no exceptions to this rule, but that does not mean there are none! If you have a mushroom that bruises bluish but does not have purplish brown to black spores, there is a strong possibility it is NOT psilocybin. The bluing reaction is obvious in the more potent species, especially those high in psilocin. In general, the less psilocin there is in a species, the more subtle the bluing reaction. Be VERY careful, and ALWAYS, before ingesting any mushroom, be sure of its identification. Always retain some specimens for later analysis, in case it becomes necessary [AKA you end up in the hospital--H.A.].”

    (Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World, Paul Stamets (1996). Ten Speed Press, Berkley California)

    The spore print

    Taking a spore print is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do. Just cut off the cap of the mushroom in question, place it gills down on a plain white piece of paper, and let it sit for about a day. It is usually recommended that you put a jar or glass or something over it to ward off ill winds and dehydration, as well as to avoid contaminants. Keep in mind that saying a spore print is a particular color is sort of a subjective experience.

    Here are some examples of spore prints:

    Spore prints can also be used for growing your own mushrooms. There is plenty of info elsewhere in the forum on that so do a search if you’re interested.

    Here a couple threads that have caught my eye so far:

    This shows a method for making a spore solution from a shroom

    This talks about prints and making spore syringes

    This is an overall reference to growing

    Bluing Reaction

    This is more tricky. The genral rule is that the more potent the specimen, the more bluing, or bruising, when handled. However, this is not always very noticeable, and some mushies that look like they are bruised are not psilocybes. SWIM grew some mighty fine Cubes a few years back and never noticed any such reaction.

    It is said that the bluing reaction can be tested by using "metol", a chemical used in photographic developing.

    “"Metol" can be legally purchased from any camera and photographic supply outlet. Mix 1 part Metol with 20 parts water. Place the stem of the suspected mushroom in a "metol" solution and wait for approximately 1/2 hour. If the solution turns blue, you have actually collected a mushroom containing Psilocybin. (Allen)”

    (verified by fellow d-f member here: )

    Getting Started

    Before I go on let me just say this: get a book, no get several, on mushroom ID. Stamets’ book is good and I’d recommend Arora’s Mushrooms Demystified, as well as perhaps the Audabon Societies field guide. Get as many as you can if you are going to be picking mushrooms because the mushroom you find will rarely look just like that one picture in that one book. Also, don’t just go by picture! Learn the relevant terminology so you can use a taxonomic identification key. Eating wild mushrooms is dangerous and should only be practiced by those who are willing to put in the time to learn how not to get themselves hurt or killed.

    Here are some recommended books on hunting and identification (buying through the links helps out the forum :) ).

    The best thing that you can do to gain knowledge of mushrooms and identification is to join your local mycology club, where you can meet others who know their stuff and where you can get some hands on experience with hunting and identification.

    Pick several specimens and take them home for rigorous examination until very sure of identification. Once your labrat is sure he's got a good specimen on his hands, why not use the spore print of that nice thoroughly verified specimen to grow a fresh batch (see above links on sporeprints and growing)? Not only will this reduce risk of eating a possibly infected/infested mushroom but that lucky rat will then have an ongoing source of fun fungi! This may seem a little paranoid and overkill but caution is always the best policy with these matters. As Nag is fond of saying, there are old mushroom hunters and there are brave mushroom hunters, but no old and brave mushroom hunters. Or something to that effect. We’d like to go for the two-way rather than one-way ticket to the old spirit world.

    Please take a look at this thread on poisoning before going on to get an idea of the horrible painful sickness and/or death that is possible due to ingesting the wrong mushrooms.

    Now, with that in mind, on to more identification discussion.

    Identification Key

    This key is taken from Arora’s book.

    Psilocybes, the major group containing psolocybin, is a member of the strophariaceae family. This family has brown to purple-brown, purple-black spores and has attached gills. The veil is usually present but does not necessarily form an annulus (ring) on the stalk.

    To use the key you just look at number one (there are two of them, as well as two of all numbers) and decide which one best fits your specimen. It will tell you where to go from there like a choose you own adventure book.

    Key to Strophariaceae

    1. Spore print dull brown to cinnamon-brown…………………............pholiota
    1. Spore print puple-brown to purple-gray, purple-black, or black……2

    2. Lower portion of stalk and/or other parts of fruiting body
    staining blue or green when handled (sometimes slowly).............psilocybe
    2. Not as above (but cap may be blue or blue-green to begin with)..3

    3. Growing on dung or manure…..………………..................................4
    3. Not as above (but may grow in grass)…………………………...............6

    4. Cap white to yellow, yellow-brown, or pale tan…………………………...5
    4. Cap darker (orange-brown to reddish-brown, grayish-brown,
    dark brown)…......................................................................psilocybe

    5. Spore print black; cap white to buff or very pale tan……………….panaeolus
    5. Spore print purple-brown to purple-black; cap usually yellowish or darker

    6. Veil membranous or cottony-membranous, usually forming a
    distinct ring (annulus) on stalk……………...................................stropharia
    6. Veil absent, or if present then fibrillose and disappearing or
    merely forming a fibrillose zone on stalk......................................7

    7. Cap small (usually less than 4 cm broad), viscid
    when moist, some shade of brown, gray, dull olive, buff, or if
    whitish then usually narrowly conical or bell-shaped………............psilocybe
    7. If not as above then it’s either a stropharia or

    Psilocybin mushrooms

    The Psilocybe and Paneaolus families are home to the largest number of psilocybin/psilocin containing species but many of the mushrooms in these families do not actually contain psilocybin/psilocin so you will want an in depth guide, although bluing is usually a pretty good sign.

    They usually have a separable pellicle (skin) on the cap (you can see this by peeling open the cap of a fresh specimen), they have caps nut brown in color which fade from the center to a straw color while drying, their gill edges are usually fringed whitish. Habitats are usually grasslands (common home of the popular and widespread psilocybe semilanceata, aka liberty cap), dung deposits (the popular Psilocybe cubensis are among those growing on dung, notably that of bovine animals), riparian zones, disturbed habitats, gardens (Psilocybe Cyanescens, a nice potent species, are quite fond of rhododendron bushes), moss lands, and woodlands. (Stamets).

    Before attempting to eat any mushrooms make sure to familiarize yourself with deadly look-alikes such as the galerina, et cetera (see several posts down). Make sure your analysis is thorough.

    I will add more to this as I have time, hopefully going into different psilocybin containing species (perhaps a taxonomic key) as well as looking at some of the dangerous look alikes. Please feel free to add as much info as you care to, add anything I’ve overlooked, and point out any mistakes.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2008
  2. Heretic.Ape.

    Heretic.Ape. Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    Apr 17, 2007
    from U.S.A.
    Re: psilocybe ID: A beginning

    As a continuation of my little endeavor, here is the ID key proposed by Stamets in PMOTW.

    Generic key to agarics with dark-brown to black spores

    1a Cap oysterlike, with an eccentrically attached, short stem: Melanotus
    1b Cap not oysterlike, with centrally attached stem: 2

    2a Gills deliquescing (melting) into a black fluid, or becoming paper thin
    and disappearing at maturity: Coprinus
    2b Gills not as above: 3

    3a Partial veil membranous (sometimes floccose), often leaving a membranous ring on the stem: 4
    3b Partial veil not membranous, membranous ring not present: 10

    4a Gills decurrent, thick, and waxy: 5
    4b Gills not as above: 6

    5a Cap surface extremely viscid to glutinous when moist. Pellicle aand partial veil thickly gelatinous, cap flesh whitish, not bluing in Melzer's iodine: Gomphidius
    5b Cap surface dry, sometimes viscid when moist. Partial veil not gelatinous. Cap flesh colored, bluing in Melzer's iodine: Chroogomphus

    6a Gills free. Spore deposit typically chocolate brown: Agaricus
    6b Gills attached (unless seceding). Sore deposit not as above: 7

    7a Spore deposit typically black: Psathyrella
    7b Spore deposit not black, typically brown to purplish brown to very dark purplish brown: 8

    8a Spore deposit typically dark puplish brown: Stropharia or Psilocybe
    8b Spore deposit typically dull to earth brown: 9

    9a Spre deposit typically earthy brown. Cap usually smooth, and when moist splitting randomly when torn. (cap cuticle cellular): Agrocybe
    9b Spore deposit yellowish brown. Cap often scaly or very viscid when wet and splitting radially when torn. (Cap cuticle filamentous): Pholiota

    10a Typically growing in dung, in well-manured grounds, or in rich grassy areas: 11
    10b Typically growing in decayed wood, such as logs and stumps, or in wood chips and bark mulch: 14

    11a Spore deposit blackish. Cap usually not viscid when moist and lacking a separable gelatinous pellicle: 12
    11b Spore deposit purplish brown. Cap generally viscid when moist in most species and having a separable gelatinous pellicle: 13

    12a Gills soon becoming spotted from uneven ripening of the spores when fully mature. (Spores not fading in concentrated sulfuric acid): Panaeolus
    12b Gills not becoming spotted. (Spores fading in concentrated sufuric acid): Psathyrella

    13a Cap generally brownish when moist in fresh fruiting bodies and very hygrophanous (markedly fading in coloration upon drying). (Chrysocystidia always absent): Psilocybe
    13b Cap generally yellowish when moist in fresh fruiting bodies and usually not very hygrophanous (not markedly fading in coloration upon drying). (Chrysocystidia present): Stropharia or Psilocybe

    14a Cap generally colored in yellows, oranges, or reds when moist. Typically not very hygrophanous: Hypholama
    14b Cap gerally colored in deep browns when moist. Typically hygrophanous: 15

    15a Cap usually not viscid when moist and lacking a separable gelatinous pellicle. Stem and cap never bruising bluish. Stem fragile, easily breaking. Cap brittle when squeezed, breaking randomly: Psathyrella
    15b Cap often viscid when moist from a gelatinous pellicle, seperable in many species. Stem and cap sometimes bruising bluish. Stem tough, not easily breaking apart. Cap pliant, not truly brittle when squeezed, breaking radially. Psilocybe
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2007
  3. Heretic.Ape.

    Heretic.Ape. Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    Apr 17, 2007
    from U.S.A.
    Re: psilocybe ID: A beginning

    Melzer's reagent: a solution consisting of 2.5 g iodine, 7.5 g potassium iodide, and 100 g chloral hydrate per 100 mL of water used to detect amyloid and dextrinoid reactions.
  4. Heretic.Ape.

    Heretic.Ape. Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    Apr 17, 2007
    from U.S.A.
    Re: psilocybe ID: A beginning

    Monkey would like to make this thread a fairly comprehensive starting point for psilocybe ID so if anyone has any feedback, criticism, questions, suggestions, or anything to add please feel free to do so.
  5. Heretic.Ape.

    Heretic.Ape. Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    Apr 17, 2007
    from U.S.A.
    Re: psilocybe ID: A beginning

    Ok, now that I've figured out how to post pictures we can look at some of the basic macroscopic features used in identification. These pictures are taken from this great site that has a helpful glossary of terminology you may want to check out:

    Below is a nice general overview of the main features of a mushroom.

    Above you can see that in the case of this mushroom, it has a universal veil when young which breaks open as it grows, leaving the volva and scales as remnants.

    Below we have the types of stems, or stipes:
    Edited: When hunting mushrooms bring a pair of scissors or a good sharp pocket knife to
    cut the mushroom at the stem above the ground so as not to disturb the mycelium. This will
    ensure that the organism itself (which is actually below the ground, the mushroom being the
    fruiting body or sex organ) will not be harmed and will be able to go on happily growing and
    providing more mushrooms year after year :)

    Here we have the annular rings:

    Another important feature is the gill attachment:
    The two middle ones that are covered by the d-f stamp are "attached (notched)" and "seceding", respectively.
    This can sometimes be more difficult to tell apart when dealing with real specimens and sometimes the type of attachment changes over the course of the specimens life.

    Here we have Gill Spacing:

    These are Mushroom Cap Surfaces:
    The two that are hiding behind the d-f logo are "hairy or fibrous" and "raised scales", respectively.

    Cap Shapes:
    These are probably one of the most noticable features, but the shape can change over time, such as going from convex to flat over the course of the mushrooms life. The two that are kind of covered up by the d-f logo are "conical" and "knobbed".

    Hopefully these pictures will help make the identification keys above a little more understandable :)
    Be sure to take spore prints!!! They will be paramount in identifying a mushroom.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2007
  6. Micklemouse

    Micklemouse Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    Feb 18, 2004
    from U.K.
    Re: psilocybe ID: A beginning

    Great thread. One thing A Certain Mouse would take exception to though - the digging up or otherwise removal of root balls. He's not sure about elsewhere in the World, but in Britain this is tantamount to treason. Psilocybe Semilanceata (sp? Liberty Cap by another name) is a sensitive little flower, & it's mycellium even more so. Many mycellia have been damaged by over-zealous harvesting which has involved the removal of parts of the root structure - once damaged it can take years before a mycellium is back up to strength, if it ever recovers. For Agarics, fair enough perhaps, but for psilocybes? Please remember that the harvesting & possession of these fungi in Britain is now a criminal offense, & if your marmoset is set on picking, have him only pick the fruit, pinching above the ground.

    Another note on British Liberty Caps - the cap will always be nippled, & the cap will always curve around the gills to a greater or lesser extent - when young almost (but not quite) meeting the stipe, when older & more open still curving around the edge of the cap (see attached photo). The colour of the cap will vary from a dark-ish brown when freshly fruited & still wet to a rather fetching beige when dried by the sun.

    Please remember also that nothing can take the place of a hunting expedition with an experienced hunter.


    Also, might it be worth changing the title to include Agaricus fungi too, seeing as they seem to be well discussed here?

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 7, 2007
  7. Nagognog2

    Nagognog2 Iridium Member

    Reputation Points:
    Feb 1, 2005
    Re: psilocybe ID: A beginning

    A professional shroomer always carries a nice, sharp pair of surgical-grade scissors. Leather-holster optional.

    While the above is a good start, getting some good books loaded with colour photos is mandatory. And then begin learning field-taxonomy. Not just the "little brown ones" either. Learn about every shroom you find - without killing their mycellium. Many delicious dinners await you. Not just the ones that change the wallpaper.
  8. tayo

    tayo Silver Member

    Reputation Points:
    May 14, 2007
    from U.S.A.
    Very nice identification thread. Here were some identified PNW cyaenescens found next to an alien's recycle bin while doing chores. They bruised blue and matched up with erowid's identification. Also, the area is well known for them.

    1.jpg 2.jpg 3.jpg

    they're so cuuuuute.:p
  9. Heretic.Ape.

    Heretic.Ape. Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    Apr 17, 2007
    from U.S.A.
    Alrighty, for today's little addition we are going to talk briefly about poisonous mushrooms that have been mistaken for psilocybin mushrooms by some unfortunate and foolhearty hunters in the past.

    Some mushrooms contain amatoxins that are deadly. The main one's that can be mistaken for psilocybes are galerina autumnalus and galerina marginata. These toxins are also found in various other mushrooms, mainly amanitas but these are usually not easily mistaken for psilocybin containing species if one actually takes the time to learn about different mushrooms rather than just munching down whatever they find growing. Toxins are also found in many conocybe species so it is highly recommended that one not attempt to hunt psilocybin containing conocybes unless you are VERY familiar with mushroom identification and really really know your shit!

    The main one to be cautous of in my opinion is the G. Autumnalus. This frequently grows right next to or around various psilocybin containing species and is often viewed as an indicator species, meaning that if one finds G. autumnalus psilocybin containing species may very well be nearby. These as well as the deadly amatoxin containing conocybe filaris have been known to grow literally stem to stem with species such as P. stuntzii and P. pelliculosa! So be very careful to check each and every mushroom collected!!! These are deadly at reletively low doses!!!

    Below we are going to look at some pictures. Some are deadly galerinas and some are psilocybin containing species. Note how similar they look. This is why it is so essential that anyone attempting to hunt mushrooms really take the time to do a thorough examination of any mushroom collected. Again, these look very similar and frequently grow together!

    Here we have some samples of psilocybe caerulipes. Here are some psilocybe azurescens

    Now we have a deadly galerina marginata And the deadly galerina autumnalus

    here is conocybe filaris which also contains amatoxins and could possibly be mistaken for, say, a liberty cap.

    As you can see there are definite macroscopic differences such as a slight difference in cap color, etc. but keep in mind that it is frequently much more difficult to tell these apart in the field than by such nice specimens in the pictures above.

    If you follow the steps of safe mushroom identification and take a spore print you will notice that the galerina species have a rusty brown colored spore print while the psilocybin containing mushrooms have... do you remember from the above posts? Dark puplish or chocolate brown to black spore prints.

    There is also a chemical method for identifying amatoxins known as the meixner test.

    Meixner Test For Amatoxins

    To perform this test you will need:

    concentrated HCl acid
    mortars and pestles
    rubber gloves
    a pipet
    and preferably a labratory hood under which to perform the test.

    If you are testing dried specimens you will need to rehydrate them using 70% ethanol.


    You should do this with control specimens, one that you know has amatoxins present (such as the destroying angel or other fairly easily identifiable toxic mushrooms) and one that you are certain does not contain amatoxins (perhaps an edible mushroom you have around).

    With controls you can be more certain that you do not have a false positive or false negative.

    The following is taken from
    [SIZE=-1]Put a small portion of each mushroom in a mortar, and grind it to a paste with a pestle. Be sure to use separate mortars and pestles for each mushroom, in order to avoid contamination. You will probably want to label the mortars in order to avoid confusion about which paste corresponds to which mushroom, since they will all look more or less the same after grinding. Fresh mushrooms will turn into paste easily with grinding, but if you are working with dried mushrooms you will need to add a few drops of 70-percent ethanol to rehydrate the material. Use only 70-percent ethanol for rehydrating; scientists have determined that it produces the most accurate results for dried material.
    Cut strips from the margins of newspaper pages, where no ink is present; you will need one strip for each mushroom. Clearly label each strip near one end, leaving plenty of room to perform the test without interference from ink or lead. Newspaper has high lignin content, and works much better for the Meixner test than other types of paper, which may produce bad results.

    Using the pestles, your fingers, or any tools that seem appropriate, spread paste from each mushroom sample on its corresponding strip of newspaper. If you use your fingers, or use one tool for this process, be sure to avoid contamination by washing thoroughly in between samples. Scrape away excess material, so that the newspaper strips have been soaked with the paste, but are not coated with mushroom material.

    Place the strips under the laboratory hood, turn on the fan, and wait until they are completely dry. There is some evidence that exposure to heat or wind stress (say, from a hair dryer) at this point can influence your results, so the best idea is to be patient and wait for the strips to dry.

    Put on some rubber gloves, and some goggles. Using a pipette, place a tiny drop of concentrated hydrochloric acid on each newspaper strip, where it absorbed the mushroom paste. Be careful! Hydrochloric acid is very dangerous.

    After a few minutes, color reactions should begin to appear on the strips. The positive reaction is bluish, and the negative reaction is, well, something else; it depends on what you used as your negative control. The Meixner test is known to produce reddish reactions for some mushrooms, though the significance of the reaction is apparently unclear. In the illustrations above, Russula crustosa is the negative control, and the color change with hydrochloric acid is sort of pinkish. Galerina marginata is the positive control in the illustrations. The mushroom under study is an un-named amanita I have called the Sand Dune Amanita.

    The color changes may take a while to develop, and reactions that look faint at first may become more noticeable over the course of an hour or two; be sure to wait a while before giving up on color changes. Once the hydrochloric acid has dried, you can take the strips out of the hood, and away from the lab, fairly safely. Place them in separate envelopes, and be sure not to touch the spot of the acid droplet (wash your hands thoroughly if you do so by accident).

    Here's what the meixner test results look like:


    While there are psilocybin containing species in genera that have plenty of poisonous species such as conocybe and incocybe, most are in the paneaolus and psilocybe genera and it is within these two genera that it would be prudent to stay within.

    I will flesh this out more when as I upload additional pictures of species and think of more to add :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2017
  10. radiometer

    radiometer bananadine addict Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    Apr 13, 2005
    from U.S.A.
    How could Mushrooms Demystified not be included in that book list?!
  11. Phungushead

    Phungushead Twisted Depiction Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    Jan 21, 2005
    from United States
    H.A., this is an excellent thread, and you've got most of the major points covered :D

    A couple tips to add:

    - When learning how to use taxonomy keys, it is useful to practice with mushrooms that you already are certain of the ID. This really helps with getting familiarized with the terms used.

    - When first starting out, spore print every single mushroom picked, and make sure to keep the stem and caps from each mushroom together.

    - A helpful tip for spore printing: place the cap halfway on white paper, and half on black. This way, it will be easy to see the color of light or dark spores.

    - Be wary of any mushroom with orange, white, or green gills!

    It cannot be stressed enough that bad taxonomy can kill!

    Will add to this when I have more time :p
  12. stone420

    stone420 Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    Jun 21, 2010
    from Canada
    sorry to bring up an old thread but is the colour of the gill an indicator of a toxic mushroom?
  13. chinpokomaster

    chinpokomaster Palladium Member

    Reputation Points:
    Mar 25, 2008
    from england
    A partial indicator. When combined with other features it helps one to identify a mushroom species. All Psilocybe species have dark browny purply blacky gills, but there are psychoactive species in other genera that have different coloured spores.