There are hundreds of different kinds of psilocybin mushrooms that grow all over the world. The Pacific Northwest is home to lots of them. Mycology is a science all its own and there is so much to learn. But you don’t have to be an expert to reap the benefits of our fertile mushroom grounds. Even amateurs can safely harvest pick psilocybin mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest.
Just memorize the species listed and their attributes, and learn how to do a spore print. This list is a good start for beginners to learn the basics of the most common varieties found here, and start from there.
Wavy-capped psilocybe cyanescens are your best bet for mushroom hunting in urban areas in the Pacific Northwest. The species like to grow in wood chips, so you can find them in places that use wood chips to cover plant beds or pathways.
Cyanescens are fairly potent in terms of psilocybin content and are a reliable and safe hallucinogen. If you’re looking to pick psilocybin mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest, cyanescens are a good species to start with. Lots of mushrooms look somewhat like cyanescens, especially to untrained eyes, so to be sure make sure to get a positive identification from someone knowledgeable, and do a spore print. Psilocybe cyanescens have a black and blue spore print. If a lookalike has a rusty orange spore print, it is NOT a cyanescens.
According to renowned, self-taught, mycology expert Paul Corbett, psilocybe azurescens are some of the most powerful, potent psilocybe mushrooms around. In my youth, I traveled to Toledo, Oregon for Thanksgiving. While there, I had the most intense hallucinogenic experience of my life eating mushrooms locals called ‘Oregon blues’. Looking back now, I think azurescens were the mushrooms responsible for that trip.
This species of fungi grows naturally and abundantly in Southwest Washington, and Northwest Oregon. They’ve been found in many other places as well. These capped mushrooms look similar to Liberty caps though the bell is a bit wider and larger, typically. Corbett advises that these fungi like to grow in dune grass, which requires getting down and dirty on your knees to see beneath the tall blades. Their spore print is dark purplish brown to dark purplish black.
If you pick enough mushrooms and know enough about them, you too may someday discover a new species of fungi. According to local legend, UW professor Daniel Elliot Stuntz found these growing on the UW campus and identified them as a new species. The name stuntzii comes from his discovery. Sometimes these fungi are referred to as blue ringers, Washington blue veil, or blue legs.
Stuntzii have a deadly look-alike, the Galerina autumnalis. So care must be taken to identify them with certainty before consumption. The spore print for stuntzii’s is purplish brown, and they bruise blue, whereas the spore print for Galerinas is more of a tawny brown and they don’t bruise blue.
Before I was born, all the adults in my life loved the Psilocybe semilanceata, more commonly known as Liberty Caps. If you’re from the Puget Sound area you’ve undoubtedly heard stories of groups of hippies trespassing on farmers’ fields to go pick bags full of Liberty Caps. By the time I came of age, much of Puget Sound’s farmland had been developed making harvesting Liberty Caps more difficult.
They’re still relatively abundant, just hard to access. If you know where to safely wander on farmland, you can find these exceptionally potent psilocybin mushrooms growing in pastures with cow manure. These mushrooms are super unique looking, with a dramatic cone and a nipple-like peak at the tip. The spore print for Liberty Caps is a dark reddish purple-brown color. They’re one of the most beloved and potent psilocybin mushrooms.
Psilocybe Pelliculosa and Psilocybe Silvatica
The Psilocybe pelliculosa and the less common psilocybe silvatica contain a relatively low dose of psilocybin, making them perfect candidates for micro-dosing, according to Corbett. Pelliculosa likes to grow around the edges of evergreen forests here in the Pacific Northwest. It prefers to grow on trails or forest roads, as opposed to in the forest. Silvatica also likes to grow in the woods.
The small, cone-shaped mushrooms both have a purplish, brown spore print. To distinguish between the two, you need a microscope. But considering they both have low doses of psilocybin and are otherwise safe, there’s no need to differentiate to safely consume them. Their spore prints are dark brown with a sometimes purple hue.
In the last decade, Psilocybe allenii were identified as a new species. You can find the moderately potent psilocybin mushroom in the Western US. They look similar to cyanescens but don’t have the wavy cap. In 2013, Psilocybe allenii were named after amateur ‘ethnomycologist’, photographer, and author John W. Allen who discovered them in 2012. The fungi like to grow on decomposing wood and wood chips in the Pacific Northwest. The orange-brown mushrooms stain blue if touched and have a brown-purple spore print. Despite being new to science, and possibly new to nature, they’re fairly common in this region.
Once this fiery hellscape burns off, the weather cools, and the majestic rain comes, these teachers will be popping out of the ground ready for the picking. You just have to know what they look like, where to find them, and how to identify them safely and definitively, and then you can be confident enough to pick psilocybin mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest.
All images courtesy CC BY-SA