Liberty Cap Magic Mushroom

Liberty Cap Magic Mushroom

 

Liberty Cap magic mushroom

 

Psilocybe semilanceata (Fr.) P. Kumm. - Magic Mushroom or Liberty Cap
Phylum: Basidiomycota - Class: Agaricomycetes - Order: Agaricales - Family: Strophariaceae

Distribution - Etymology - Taxonomic History - Psychoactivity - Identification - Reference Sources

Psilocybe semilanceata - Magic Mushroom or Liberty Cap, Hampshire UK

Psilocybe semilanceata, commonly known in the UK as the Magic Mushroom, and in the USA as Liberty Cap, appears in grassland in autumn. It is most commonly found on pasture and parkland that has not been enriched with artificial fertiliser.

Distribution
Fairly frequent in Britain and Ireland, where it is rather localised, Psilocybe semilanceata occurs throughout Europe and is found also in North America.

Psilocybe semilanceata - Magic Mushroom or Liberty Cap, Bute, Scotland

Etymology
Psilocybe, the genus name, means 'smooth head' - a reference to the silkily mooth, scaleless surface of caps of these grassland mushrooms. The specific epitet semilanceata comes from semi- meaning 'half'and -lanceata which means 'spear-shaped'. Some of these little mushrooms do indeed look like spears, although many have wiggly stems uncharacteristic of spear shafts.

The common name Magic Mushroom is, of course, a reference to the hallucinogenic nature of this grassland species

Psychoactive alkaloid content
This species contains the compound psilocybin. Because this substance, which occurs in Magic Mushrooms and some related fungi, occasionally causes alarming symptoms including vomiting, stomach pains and anxiety attacks, Liberty Caps are probably best treated with caution (some people even decide to treat them as poisonous).

Psilocybe semilanceata - Magic Mushroom or Liberty Cap, seen in dry weather

It is our understanding that it is illegal to possess or to sell psilocybin in the UK. As of July 2005, fresh psilocybin mushrooms are now also controlled. They are treated in UK Law in the same way as dried magic mushrooms, because whether fresh or dried they have the same Class A drug status as Heroin, LSD and Cocaine.

Taxonomic history
This species was first described in 1838 by the great Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries, who named it Agaricus semilanceatus. (Most of the gilled mushrooms were included initially in the genus Agaricus!) In 1871 German mycologist Paul Kummer transferred this species to the genus Psilocybe, renaming it Psilocybe semilanceata. The etymology of this name is based on physical features: the generic name Psilocybe means 'smooth head', while semilanceata means 'half spear-shaped'.