The UK is lucky enough to still possess several species of psilocybin mushroom, with North Wales being one of the best places to see them. In this, the second of our three part series on the UK’s resident species, we concentrate on those of the Panaeolus and Pluteus genera.
When picking mushrooms of any kind, always remember to pinch and twist them from the base, so as to avoid damaging the delicate mycelial networks underneath the ground from which the mushrooms fruit. A wet Autumn is the best chance to pick in the UK, but beware – the first frost will end the season!
Panaeolus cinctulus (syn. Panaeolus subbalteatus, “Banded Mottlegill”) –
Panaeolus cinctulus resemble Psilocybe semilanceata, and are easily confused with other species of psilocybin mushroom. Often growing in dense cespitose clumps (and less commonly, in ‘fairy rings’), cinctulus is thought to be the most widely distributed psilocybin mushroom in the world. In the early-1900s, many in America referred to it as “Weed Panaeolus” because they were commonly found growing in commercial beds of the edible Agaricus bisporus. Cinctulus favours much the same habitat as Psilocybe semilanceata, thriving on well-manured, fertilised lawns, fields, mulch beds, and any other areas where dung (especially that of the horse), rotting hay, or compost can be found. The mushroom reportedly prefers newly laid lawns, and can be found hidden under neighbouring hedges.
The mature Panaeolus cinctulus mushroom is coloured cinnamon brown to orange cinnamon brown, fading to tan when dried. Growing across the UK and Ireland, it has a 4-5 cm broad cap and a reddish-coloured stem, 5-6 cm long and 2-4 mm thick.
The ‘Mottlegill is much less active relative to most Psilocybes, but should produce a mild, short-lasting, psychedelic experience when ingested. While the mushroom’s potency is best described as insubstantial, it does grow large fruits, and in larger amounts than many other species. It also has one advantage over most other psychoactive species – a longer shelf life for its psychoactivity, containing, as it does no psilocin.
Panaeolus fimicola (syn. Agaricus varius, Panaeolus ater, “Turf Mottlegill”) –
Growing on lawns, grassy verges, and dung-fertilised lowland grassland around the UK and Ireland from May to November, the Turf Mottlegill is also found throughout much of mainland Europe, North America, and Africa – particularly subsequent to rain.
Fimicola’s convex, dark red-brown-black caps are 1.5cm-4CM across, and are supported by dark brown-white stems 4 to 8cm long and 3 to 5mm diameter. Often mistaken for species including Panaeolina foenisecii and Stropharia semiglobata, the mushroom was first recorded in 1788, as Agaricus varius, by British mycologist James Bolton. In 1801, it was renamed Agaricus fimicola, finally being rechristened as Panaeolus fimicola in 1874. Panaeolus means variegated, in reference to the mottled colouring of the mushroom’s gills – Fimicola translates loosely as “inhabiting dung”.
Panaeolus fimicola is reported as “slightly toxic / inedible”, and can contain small amounts of psilocybin.
Panaeolus olivaceus (syn. Panaeolus castaneifolius) –
Panaeolus olivaceus is a small brown mushroom containing psilocybin, growing from the summer months until December. The species thrives in rich grassy areas – such as lawns and parkland – across America, Canada, and the UK.
The mushroom’s broadly conical cap is approximately 4CM wide, and is dark grey-red in colour. The stem is up to 7.5 CM tall and 0.6 CM thick, and is coloured grey- tan-purple.
Olivaceus is often confused with the species Panaeolina castaneifolia, Panaeolina foenisecii, Panaeolus cinctulus, and Panaeolus fimicola.
Pluteus salicinus (syn. Agaricus salicinus, Rhodosporus salicinus, “Knackers Crumpet”) –
Pluteus salicinus is a wood-rotting species of mushroom, widely distributed across the UK and Ireland, Western Europe and Siberia. It is partial to growing on dead hardwood stumps and large buried logs, in damp flood-plain forests of Alnus, Eucalyptus, Fagus, Populus, Quercus, and Salix, from early summer to the end of autumn.
Initially described in 1798, as Agaricus salicinus, the species was transferred to the genus Pluteus in 1871. Pluteus comes from the Latin for a protective fence or screen, with salicinus meaning of or pertaining to willow trees.
Possessing a fibrous grey-brown-white, flat to convex cap of 2-5 CM diameter, salicinus has a 4-7 CM long stem, 0.2-0.7 CM thick, and of a white to grey-blue hue. The smell and taste of salicinus is generally agreed to be slightly unpleasant, “like radish”.
Dried salicinus is considered weakly to moderately psychoactive, and has been reported to contain in the range of 0.05-0.35 psilocybin, 0-0.05% psilocin, and 0-0.008 baeocystin.
Pluteus salicinus is visually almost identical to Pluteus cervinus, but bruises blue. Other easily confused species include Pluteus umbrosus, Pluteus cyanopus, Tricholomopsis platyphylla, and several highly toxic species of Entoloma.