Tips for efficient mushroom foraging
Foraging for mushrooms, also known formally as mushroom hunting, is an age old practice, and even today, in urban areas, people are often seen searching for shroom edibles of choice. Knowing the smell in the air, or knowing the right time of year, or the number of cool, fresh mornings needed for a whiff of fresh sprouted mushrooms to occur naturally, all adds to the wisdom passed down through generations on how to forage for mushrooms. Together with it have come myths, rules of etiquette and, above all, feelings of wonder and mystery. But sometimes it is not a mystery of where or if you will find magic mushrooms, it is rather a mystery of whether they might find you.
Magic mushrooms grow in a variety of climates and habitats. In today’s article, we will cover key points such as ways to determine the best climate in your area for picking mushrooms, how to find out which magic mushrooms grow in your area, and advice on where to look. Wild mushroom hunting can be a rewarding and satisfying adventure, an opportunity to meditate alone or share a fun day with friends, plus the chance to return home with a backpack or basket of fresh magic mushrooms.
Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself: ” I am new to mushrooms and I don’t know where to start” or ” Used to pick mushrooms in my old town, now I’ ve moved and I don’t know the local species”. Then maybe you’re looking for advice on where to grow mushrooms.
Especially if you live in a big city, there is a good chance that most of the magic mushrooms you have access to have been grown indoors under artificial conditions, maybe with names like B +, Penis Envy, Golden Teacher, or even just “Cubes” (aka Psilocybe cubensis). The key to cultivating mushrooms is to know where the mushrooms grow naturally, replicate the climate they like, and replicate the substrate (their food source) on which they grow. P. cubensis, for example, can be easily cultivated because it is easy to create an artificially warm and moist environment, whereas the substrate that meets their nutrient needs can be made from ingredients that you can buy from your local grocery store. But many species are difficult to grow because they need environmental triggers that are difficult to replicate, like unusually cold weather or the availability of microbes in the soil to trigger their fruiting cycle.
Foraging culture of magic mushrooms
The culture of magic mushroom hunting is thriving. In the 1960s and 1970s, university students and mushroom researchers realized that they didn’t have to travel to Mexico to find psilocybin, instead magic mushrooms were growing in their own country. The growing science about where to find P. cubensis or P. semilanceata led to a growing number of young counterculture mushroom growers roaming the prairies and pastures of North America, United Kingdom and Australia with their heads up in the air in search of magic mushrooms.
Today’s magic mushroom pickers are armed with their smartphones and therefore have quick access to a selection of Facebook identification groups or the identification subforum Shroomery, as well as – perhaps – a copy of their local guide hidden in their backpacks.
Some general rules exist when it comes to requesting information from certain websites and Facebook groups, such as not asking for locations, in part because of the traditional secrecy of mushroom pickers (and families) having their unique locations. In fact, on some forums, people may not even be allowed to ask to see spots.
A lot of Psilocybe fungi, and especially wood-loving species, can resemble a number of other small brown mushrooms (LBMs), some of which are lethal. Therefore, it is essential to know not only the species you are looking for, it is also important to know the poisonous species (including look-alikes) in your area.
If you want to delve a little deeper into the Psilocybe genre, Psilocybine Mushrooms of the World (Paul Stamets), The Genus Psilocybe (Gaston Guzman) and Magic Mushrooms Around the World (Jochen Gartz) are good starting points. Recognition books for more general mushroom identification include the Field Guide to Mushrooms (edited by Gary Lincoff and published by the National Audubon Society), Mushrooms Demystified (David Aurora) and Mushrooms (Roger Phillips).
Growing Magic Mushrooms: Climate and Habitat
Here are some good places to start feeding: cattle pastures on hot, humid summer days; tropical cloud forests; meadows and fields on cool, rainy autumn mornings; or among woody debris at the edge of forests. How and when mushrooms grow depends on the local climate and the habitats available to you. There are two major climatic regions in the eastern half of the United States, which can still be divided into humid and humid subtropical continents. The distribution of P. cubensis in the United States fits perfectly into the humid subtropical southeastern part of the continent, as well as Florida and along the Gulf coast, where it fruits almost year-round on “cow pies”.
However, the western half of the continent consists of arid and semi-arid climates, with the west coast classified as Mediterranean and oceanic. West coast is known for the lovers of autumn woods: P. azurescens, P. cyanescens and P. allenii, which need cold nights and dewy mornings. In arid and semi-arid regions there are usually few species of Psilocybe. A large part of Europe (including the United Kingdom), south-east Australia and New Zealand are also classified as oceanic, with predominantly species tending to be autumn fruitwood-loving species.
Mushrooms grow in a variety of habitats, and mushrooms are most often found in areas such as manure dumps, meadows, woods, gardens and disturbed areas. Both P. cubensis and Panaeolus cyanescens are well-known excrement loving species. P. semilanceata grows in pastures, but is saprophytic and grows from decaying grass. Forest lovers such as P. azurescens, P. cyanescens and P. subaeruginosa, while originally from the edges of the woods, luckily have spread to gardens.
The Psilocybe: a worldwide type
Psilocybe mushrooms are found on all continents except Antarctica. In Europe and the Americas are strongly represented among them. Populations of Psilocybe species are distributed in tropical, subtropical and temperate climates, with a wide range of species in Latin America. Knowing the distribution of many species may reflect the broader social interest in each country and levels of commitment to understanding their ecology.
Certain species such as P. cubensis, Panaeolus cyanescens and, to a lesser extent, P. semilanceata, became truly global, introduced to many continents through the breeding of different varieties of livestock. While the holotype was collected in Cuba, Psilocybe cubensis is not native to the Americas, but a species introduced to India. It generally grows on cattle dung, although it is also known to grow on horse dung and elephant dung.
P. semilanceata, a.k.a. Liberty caps, grows in all Europe, bears fruit in autumn and spring, and can also be found in temperate regions of North America, Canada and Tasmania. They have a rich history in European culture (including European mythology).
Some tropical and subtropical species include P. cubensis, P. tampanensis (Magic Truffles, Philosopher’s Stone), Panaeolus cyanescens (Blue Meanies) also known as Copelandia cyanescens, P. caerulescens (Landslide fungi, Derrumbes) and P. mexicana (Teonanacatl, Pajaritos) ), that is well known from Carlos Casteneda’s fictitious “Teachings of Don Juan”.
Famous temperate species include P. semilanceata (Liberty caps), P. ovoideocystidiata, Psilocybe caerulipes (Blue Foot Mushroom) and the Australian P. alutacea (Poo Meanie). Powerful woodland enthusiasts, P. azurescens (Flying saucers), P. cyanescens (Wavy caps), P. subaeruginosa (Subs), P. allenii and P. stuntzii (Blue Ringer Mushroom, Stuntz’s Blue Legs), as well as being temperate species also favour an oceanic climate. This Shroomery list is an excellent resource for identifying the species that grow in your area.
Currently, there are a variety of citizen science projects available to the public with the intention of mapping all known fungi. Research resources such as Mushroom Observer, iNaturalist and GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility) monitor fungi for research purposes. Such sites can be a useful resource for identifying species in your area. Bear in mind that most sites are obscured and serve as clues rather than specific locations. If you are out mushroom hunting and taking pictures of your finds, consider contributing to iNaturalist.
Does magic mushroom grow in shit? Do they grow on wood?
Yes, the main body of the mushroom is the mycelium; it lives underground in the substrate. The mushroom itself is the reproductive part of the magic mushroom, ejecting sports (like seeds) into the air to disperse them. Mushrooms eat mainly upside down; excreting enzymes (they drool on everything!) into their environment to digest their surroundings. According to the species of magic mushrooms, there are enzymes that can only break down simple compounds, while other enzymes can break down more complex compounds such as the lignins found in wood.
Generally speaking, there are three types of magic mushrooms: mushrooms that grow on wood or plant-based materials (saprophytic mushrooms), poop mushrooms that grow on animal excrement (coprophilic mushrooms), and those that grow on well-decomposed plant matter that is almost earth. (hummus). In order to clarify a note about poop lovers: the excrement of herbivores, such as cow cats, contains grass and other plant matter, which has already gone through a long digestive process, resulting in a very simple cellulose substrate.
Research for P. cubensis is a relatively simple process; this is a large fungus that can be seen from a distance. The hardest part, as many experienced pickers will testify, is to find them and choose them before the others. On the other hand, P. semilanceata, may be difficult, partly because many look-alikes grow in the same area, such as inactive Panaeolus, Mycena or other LBMs. Due to the fact that they grow from rotten grass, they may be difficult to spot unless their cap is above the level of the grass.
The powerful wood enthusiasts, P. cyanescens (North America, Europe), P. subaeruginosa (Australia, New Zealand), P. azurescens, P. allenii (U.S. West Coast) can grow on a variety of different wood types. These psilocybes are best found at the edge of forests, or trails, as their spores often hitchhike on the boots and clothing of mushroom hunters. However, they also tend to be adventurous and are known to have jumped out of the wild into urban landscapes and gardens, growing on wood chip mulch in temperate climates.
Be aware of the risks you may take if you are going to feed on private land. Essentially, jumping the fence without permission is trespassing: all experienced foragers (including myself) will have a history of jumping the fence to get in front of a landowner. Consider knocking on the farmer’s door to ask permission (he will probably know what you are looking for and will appreciate the courtesy) with a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer. Your landlord may even offer helpful advice, but there’s nothing worse than jumping the fence to confront an angry bull!
Regarding etiquette, common informal rules are not to take the “pins” (baby mushrooms that are not fully developed) and choose only what you reasonably think you will use, leaving some for others. Also, there are debates about whether to cut the mushroom at the base of the stem or to pull up the whole body of the fruit. Whilst there is research to show that one is not better than the other, my feeling is to remove the whole mushroom very gently without disturbing the mycelium.
The hunt for any mushroom can be a rewarding experience, especially in the case of magic mushrooms, because it contributes to your setting and décor, as well as a sense of connection to the experience. Have fun with your mushroom hunt!