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Psilocybe semilanceata

(Fries) Kummer

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Common Names: Liberty Cap, Lib, Semi, Witch's Hat

Cap: 0.5-2.5 cm broad. Conic to obtusely conic to conic-campanulate with an acute umbo. Margin translucent-striate, incurved and sometimes undulated in young fruiting bodies, often darkened by spores. Surface smooth, color variable, extremely hygrophanous. Usually dark chestnut brown when moist, soon drying to a light tan or yellow, occasionally with an olive tint, margin sometimes with bluish or olive stains. Surface viscid when moist from a separable gelatinous pellicle.

Gills: Attachment mostly adnexed, sometimes adnate or seceding. Close to crowded, narrow. Color pallid at first, rapidly becoming grey, then brownish and finally purplish brown with the edges remaining pallid.

Stem: 30-100 mm long by 0.75-3 mm thick. Slender, equal, flexuous (curved or sinuous), and pliant. Pallid to more brownish towards the base, where the attached mycelium may become bluish tinged, especially during drying. Surface smooth overall. Context stuffed with a fibrious pith. Partial veil thinly cortinate, rapidly deteriorating, leaving an obscure evanescent annular zone of fibrils, usually darkened by spores. Often this zone is entirely absent.

Spores: Dark purplish brown in deposit, ellipsoid, 11-14 by 7-9 microns.

Microscopic features: Basidia 4-spored. Pleurocystidia few to absent. Cheilocystidia 18-35 by 4.5-8 microns, lageniform with an extended and flexuous neck, often forked.

Habitat: Scattered to gregarious in the fall in pastures, fields, lawns, or other grassy areas, especially rich grasslands grazed by sheep and cows. Does not grow directly in manure. This mushroom is especially abundant in or about clumps of sedge grass in the damper parts of fields.

Photos by JPD, Anno and kaal-kopje respectively.

Psilocybe semilanceata or Liberty Cap is probably the most common psychoactive Psilocybe mushroom in the world. The name Liberty Cap comes from the shape of the French revolution Bonnet Phrygian (Fool's Cap) - a symbol of liberty for former slave in the Roman Empire, and Masonic Liberty cap on the US ten cent coin.

Psilocybe semilanceata grows in north temperate areas but it has been found in Peru, Pune, India, Australia, New Zealand and also at altitudes of 4000 meters in Italy. It also has a historical significance of being the first European mushroom species in which in 1963 presence of psilocybin was confirmed by a research team that included A. Hofmann and R. Heim in collaboration with C. Furrer, a mycologist who examined fruiting bodies collected in Switzerland and France.

Paper chromatography testing confirmed the presence of 0.25 psilocybin in dried samples of the mushroom. Liberty caps are about two to four times more potent than Psilocybe cubensis. (In one sample from Finland a psilocybin content as high as 2.37 of the dried mass was detected.)

Required amount for a trip is 20-50 fresh mushrooms or one to three grams dried. Effects are claimed to be very visual in high dosages and very tranquil in their effect on the body. Psilocybe semilanceata grows in tall rank grasses (sedge etc.) in pasturelands, lawns, parks, fields, golf courses, alongside roads etc. attached to the roots of grass and never directly in manure (best places to look would be any wet pastures that have had cows, sheep etc. in the past 10 years or so).

Liberty caps like cool temperatures (night temperatures <10°C, day temperatures <15°C) and a lot of moisture (rain). The mushrooms fruit in the fall - from when the fall rains begin until the first freezes.


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