A Guide to Hunting and Identifying Panaeolus cinctulus
A Guide to Hunting and Identifying Panaeolus cinctulus
A little history: Panaeolus cinctulus is a hallucinogenic mushroom that is common in all 50 US states and every country in the world. The psilocybin potency ranges from weak to moderate, but might be the only active mushroom you will ever be able to find. It is sometimes known as the common names "Subbs" or "Weed Panaeolus". The latter nickname was given to it because it was often found growing unexpectedly in edible button mushroom farms and thus had to be "weeded out".
Cap:(1/4 to 3 inches) The cap color, shape, and size varies greatly with this mushroom. The cap is zonate at some stages of maturity, meaning there is a darker band around the edge of the cap. Zones may not be present if the caps have been in the sun for too long, and they disappear after being picked. Most caps will be slightly deformed or funky in shape, and not perfectly round. The caps will become dry and cracked with age if they under hot or dry conditions. The cap rarely bruises blue (1 in 100). Here is an example of the many different cap variations: May/21/07 Notice the variations... Sept/15/06 Notice the zones on the cap and the variations in appearance
May/20/07 Notice the zones and the cap size variations
Gills:The gills of this mushroom start out brown, and turn charcoal black when the spores mature. May/21/07 P. cinctulus gills on a fully mature specimen.
February/14/07 A younger specimen.
Stems: The stems of this mushroom in my opinion are the easiest way to identify this species. The stem has "lines" that run up and down it. These lines DON'T go straight, but twist and turn up the stem. Stem color is also important. It ranges from an off white in fresh and younger specimens to a light tan, to a dark red, to brown. The stem is usually very thick and long (1-4 inches Long, 1/8-1/2 inches thick) (Notice the huge variation). Bluing on the base of the stem is sometimes visible, giving away that it is an active specimen. here are some pictures to clarify: September/15/06 This stem shows all the color variations at once.
September/15/06 Bluing at the bases
September/15/06 Notice the "whitish stems" from these fresh ones.
Notes: When young, it can be especially hard to identify them and take a spore print. Here is a picture of Panaeolus cinctulus in pinning stages: February/14/07
Spore Print: The print MUST be Black (Absent of light). If it's not, and it's a little ambiguous or just very dark, you may not have Panaeolus cinctulus. Here is a sheet of spore prints I've taken.
Now that you know what it looks like, lets get to the other stuff.
When to find them and Where:
When: P. cinctulus can be found in varying temperatures and multiple seasons. P. cinctulus can be found from early spring (February) to the early fall(September). It fruits near 100 humidity and temperature ranges from 80-86 degrees Fahrenheit. If the weather in your area is temperate enough (California) they may grow all year round.
Where: The most common places P. cinctulus can be found is in compost piles, Well fertilized/sodded lawns, horse dung, mulch beds and gardens. I have found almost all of my finding off of lawns and garden beds. (There should be no reason for anyone to be trespassing on farmlands when you can just walk up to someones front door and ask em to get rid of those pesky lawn mushrooms as a part of your "botany project".) I will be focusing on the grass habitat since they've seemed the easiest to pick and find there.
Hint: Look in the newest and richest neighborhoods. (Big lawns, lots of water and fertilizer.) Panaeolus cinctulus grows abundantly on newly laid lawns. The newer the lawn, the better the chances of them being there. Looking in and under hedges next to producing lawns also usually reveals others hiding nearby. Old lawns can have them, but not as frequently.
Growth Patterns: P. cinctulus have been known to cluster together (cespitose) , be gregarious, or spread out over an area. They can also make fairy rings.
Here are habitat pictures of Panaeolus cinctulus: June/12/08 Cluster growth on a new lawn.
May/20/07 A lone Panaeolus cinctulus on a lawn that was installed 2 weeks prior.
February/14/07 A fairy ring growth pattern on a freshly sodded lawn.
February/14/07 Some younger specimens on a lawn grouping together
September/17/07 A scattered patch of P. cinctulus on a sodded lawn.
Look-alikes and Indicator Mushrooms:
There are many mushrooms that grow next to and with Panaeolus cinctulus. Some species of mushrooms will commonly grow in the same habitat and conditions as P. cinctulus so you can use them as good indicators that you are in the right area. Many of them are also black spored mushrooms so don't get them confused. The look-alike and indicator species vary from habitat to habitat so you wont have the same look-alikes or indicator mushrooms on a lawn as you will on a compost pile.
Panaeolus fimicola (also active, can be distinguished by the presence of microscopic sulphidia on the gill faces) Panaeolus foenisecii Panaeolopsis species (actually secotoid active Panaeolus species) Panaeolus olivaceus (also active) Other Panaeolus species...
Look-alikes: Panaeolus foenisecii Panaeolopsis species Panaeolus papilionaceus Panaeolus fimicola
Also note, the closest look-alikes on lawns are the Panaeolus foenisecii. They have a brownish-purple spore print and grown almost all year round (but fruit prolifically in the spring time). their stems are thinner and white/tan, the caps are smaller, gills are brown, and they never will bruise blue. Here is a picture of them to show how close they are.
If you need more information on Look-alike differentiation I recommend you take a look at Gumby's ID guide to cinctulus also.
Thank you for reading this. I hope it will help. Please comment if you desire. and now for....