A November 8 referendum legalized the possession and use of psychedelic mushrooms in Colorado, becoming the second state after Oregon to do so.
However, since there is no recreational sales component in the Natural Medicine Health Act, there are some Coloradoans who will no doubt be looking for guidance on how to identify a mushroom containing psilocybin in the wild.
Of the commonly ingested mushrooms that contain the psychoactive compound psilocybin, three are the most potent and well-researched Psilocybe cyanescens, Psilocybe allenii, and Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata.
Foraging for these species is widespread in the Pacific Northwest, in places like Oregon, where mycologists studying these fungi believe they may have even first evolved.
Why Oregon? The forests there have a lot of already rotted and decayed wood, as well as high humidity and rainfall – all conditions in which they thrive.
Above all, they have found a niche that coincides with human settlement in the urban environment: wood chips.
In an article for National Geographic, Daniel Merino writes that they can be found in wood chip piles, like mulch beds, and even in corporate landscaping. The key seems to be that the wood must have lost its nutrients.
“People do extremely unnatural things — they build big concrete jungles where we put copious amounts of wood chips,” Jordan Jacobs, a mushroom picker and chemist who runs a lab in Oregon, told Nat Geo.
“It is intriguing that a psychoactive mushroom with potentially long-lasting effects on human consciousness decided that this ecological niche was a good fit for it.”
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P. cyanescens and P. allenii never grow more than a few inches, and both have white stems and a maroon cap. Their spores are dark purple, and if you expose the inner flesh to oxygen, they turn a deep purplish-blue. P. cyanescens develops a wavy, ruffled edge on its cap, befitting its slang name – wavy caps.
P. ovoideocystidiata looks pretty much the same, only it’s slightly larger with a thicker stem and wider cap.
National Geographic has heard from experts who believe the spores of these woodchip-loving species have now invaded the commercial woodchip supply chain, based primarily on anecdotal reports of fungi growing in isolated locations that have had contact with woodchip shipments.
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Wherever woodchips are laid down, two days after a good rain (a waxing moon might be better, although that’s not proven) there’s an opportunity to seek out these psychedelic mushrooms, whose hyphae often grow from a woodchip itself – another useful one A notice.
All mushrooms should be identified with 100% certainty, meaning they should tick every box and leave no doubt in your mind. Otherwise, collectors risk being poisoned.
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