A little history:
This mushroom's psilocybin potency ranges from weak to moderate, but might be the only active mushroom you will ever be able to find. The Panaeolus subbalteatus (aka Panaeolus cinctulus) is likely the most widespread hallucinogenic mushroom in the world as it has been found in Asia, S. America, N. America, and Europe. It has been given many nicknames in the past including "Subbs, Red caps, Subtle tea tits (shroomery members), and "Weed Panaeolus". The last nickname was given to it because it was always found growing unexpectedly in edible mushroom farms and thus, it had to be "weeded out". It is also the third most commonly grown psilocybin mushroom in Amsterdam.
Cap:(1/4 to 4 inches) The cap color, shape, and size varies greatly with this mushroom. Zonates (bands on the cap) are usually found and have 2-3 of them. Zonates may not be present if the caps have been in the sun for too long/disappear after being picked. Most caps will be slightly deformed or funky in shape. The caps may become dry and cracked with age if under hot or dry conditions. Here is an example of the many different cap variations:
May/21/07 Notice the variations...
Sept/15/06 Notice the zonates and the variations within this cluster
May/20/07 Notice the zonates and the size of cap variations
Gills:The gills of this mushroom are tightly packed and rarely fall below their margin (lowest part of the cap). They are usually lightly lined gray/brown on the gill fringes and jet black in between. They are completely black with age. They are attached to the stem.
May/21/07 P. -subbalteatus 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 also 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
May/23/06 More blue based stems
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 subbs in pinning stages:
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 a subbalteatus. 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. subbalteatus can be found in varying temperatures and multiple seasons. P. subbalteatus can be found from early spring (February) to the early fall(September). It fruits near 100?umidity 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. subbalteatus can be found is in compost piles, Well fertilized/sodded lawns, horse dung, and gardens.
I have found almost all of my finding off of front lawns and grassways. (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.) Subbs grow abundantly on newly laid lawns. The newer the lawn, the better the chances of them being there. But be advised, after a few months or a year, the patch will absorb all of the nutrients from the lawn and they will never appear there again.
P. subbalteatus have been known to cluster together, be gregarious, or spread out over an area. They can also make fairy rings.
Here are habitat pictures of Pan. subbs:
May/21/07 Cluster growth on a new lawn.
May/20/07 A lone subb 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. subbalteatus on a sodded lawn.
Look-alikes and Indicator Mushrooms:
There are many mushrooms that grow next to and with subbalteatus. Some species of mushrooms will commonly grow in the same habitat and conditions as subbalteatus 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.
Compost pile/Dung Indicator species:
Panaeolus campanulatusCoprinus micaeus
Grass Species Indicators:
Panaeolopsis nirimbii (my experiences)
Panaeolus castanefiolus (also active)
other grass Panaeolus species
Panaeolus papilionaceus (= Panaeolus sphinctrinus = Panaeolus campanulatus = Panaeolus retirugis)
Asa note, the closest look-alikes on lawns are the Panaeolina foenisecci. 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, 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 subbalteatus also.
Thank you for reading this. I hope it will help. Please comment if you desire. and now for....
Have a shroomy day.