Psilocybe cyanescens — Wavy caps

Wavy caps

Wavy caps2 most common on woodchips but seen here in a lawn, photograph by Ludovic Le Renard.

Wavy caps

Wavy caps2 gills and thread-like veil, photograph by Ludovic Le Renard.

Odour: Like the smell of freshly cut green beans and of flour.
Cap: 1.5–6 cm in diameter, starting out rounded and closed around the stem. When opening first convex with a distinct central bump (an umbo) that remains as the cap opens out and the cap margin becomes wavy. That waviness is the hallmark for this species. The colour is orange-brown at first, but when drying out it becomes tan-brown or ochre-brown. It readily bruises a greenish blue at the margin and centre of the cap. The whole cap can become a dark blue-brown with age. The gills show through as lines on the outer part of the cap. Shiny and slimy (viscid) when wet. The margin is thick and hangs over the gills.
Gills: Moderately crowded, broadly attached to the stem or notched. Starting out pale tan, they soon develop dark spots and in the end turn completely dark purple brown. Readily turning blue when touched and damaged.
Stems: 4–9 cm long x 0.25–0.8 cm wide, cylindrical or slightly wider at top than in the middle, covered by silvery fibres. The stem turns blue-green when touched and damaged.
Ring or veil: Threads from the veil are visible on the cap margin and the stem when the cap is opening up.
Cup: None.
Spores: 10–14 x 5.5–7 µm, smooth, with a germ pore.
Habitat: In troops and flushes, often on wood chips, on woody debris, rarely in lawns, common especially in urban environments. Saprotrophic
Geographical range: In BC, mainly in the Vancouver area. In coastal western North America from southern BC to southern California, rarely reported from eastern parts of the USA, widespread in Europe.

Small brown mushroom are difficult to identify and some are highly toxic. Spore prints help to distinguish Psilocybe species from small, brown mushrooms that contain deadly toxins. If the spores are dark purplish brown, the mushroom may be a Psilocybe. If the spore print is rusty brown or cinnamon brown, the mushroom is not a Psilocybe and may be a Galerina or Conocybe species that contains potent, liver-destroying amatoxins. The deadly toxic Galerina marginata can also grow on wood chips, like Ps. cyanescens. The stem of Galerina marginata turns black(ish) with age, but never blue. It also has a much more distinct fibrous ring on the stem than Ps. cyanescens. The cap of G. marginata does not usually become wavy as it expands. Be in particular aware of the colour difference: blue stem in Ps. cyanescens, black stem in Galerina marginata. Don’t talk yourself into believing that black is blue!

Galerina marginata

NOT Psilocybe species! Toxic Galerina marginata, photograph by Adolf Ceska.

Psilocybe semilanceata is common and similar to Ps. cyanescens in its concentrations of hallucinogens. However, it more regularly grows in grass, has a pointed-conical cap and is much more slender than Ps. cyanescens. Psilocybe pelliculosa is a bit smaller than Ps. cyanescens. It contains less psilocybin than Ps. cyanescens; the cap stays bell-shaped and unlike the cap of Ps. cyanescens, it does not become wavy. Psilocybe allenii is very similar to Ps. cyanescens, but its cap margin does not become wavy and instead, it keeps it convex shape with a central bump8. It also grows on wood chips and such in the urban environment. Among and even within wild Psilocybe species, concentrations of hallucinogens vary greatly.

Bad reactions to 'Psilocybe' can have multiple causes. Individual reactions to hallucinogens vary. Psilocin is a mood enhancer and can enhance pre-existing feelings of relaxation and happiness or increase anxiety in a person who is already anxious. Reassuring an individual and encouraging him or her to sit in a dark, quiet room may help reduce anxiety11. Note that in many parts of the world, possession and sales of mushrooms containing psilocybin is illegal12.

If Galerina mushrooms are mistaken for wavy caps and eaten, serious liver and kidney damage may result. Psilocybe mushrooms are commonly cultured and sold. On the plus side, cultured mushrooms are unlikely to be misidentified and confused with other highly toxic small brown mushrooms. On the minus side, purchased mushrooms have in the past been adulterated with other hallucinogens such as LSD or phencyclidine (PCP)10. Whether adulteration is an ongoing problem is unclear.

Toxins: Psilocybin, which is metabolized to psilocin, a serotonin imitator.

Symptoms: Time of onset, 20–30 min after ingestion, usually lasting 6–8 (15) hours. Symptoms include visual and auditory hallucinations, dilation of pupils, confusion, loss of control of body movements, psychosis, nausea and vomiting. Severe reactions can include elevated levels of methaemoglobin, fever and seizures9. Children (and dogs) may be more likely to experience severe reactions.

Treatment: contact your regional Poison Control Centre if you realize you or someone you know may be having a bad reaction to wavy caps. Poison centres provide free, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If possible, save the mushrooms or some of the leftover food containing the mushrooms to help confirm identification.

Poison Control:
British Columbia: 604-682-5050 or 1-800-567-8911.
United States (WA, OR, ID): 1-800-222-1222.

MyCoPortal. Mycology Collections Portal, <> accessed March 2018.

Specimen Psilocybe cyanescens UBC F33017, GenBank #MH718230.

Noordeloos, M. E. Psilocybe (Fr.) Kumm. Pp. 28-79 in Flora Agaricina Neerlandica Vol. 4 (eds Kuyper, T. W., Noordeloos, M. E., & Vellinga, E. C.) A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam (1999).

Singer, R. & Smith, A. H. Mycological investigations on Teonanácatl, the Mexican hallucinogenic mushroom. Part II. A taxonomic monograph of Psilocybe, section Caerulescentes. Mycologia 50, 262-303, doi:10.2307/3756197 (1958).

Guzmán, G., Kroeger, P., Ramirez-Guillen, F. & Castillo-Del-Moral, R. Psilocybe (Basidiomycotina, Agaricales, Strophariaceae) in Canada, with a special review of species from British Columbia. Mycotaxon 106, 179-193 (2008).

Siegel, N. & Schwarz, C. Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast. A Comprehensive Guide to the Fungi of Coastal Northern California. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California (2016).

Specimen Galerina marginata UBC F26281 MO 153552, GenBank #MF954807

Borovička, J., Rockefeller, A. & Werner, P. G. Psilocybe allenii – a new bluing species from the Pacific Coast, USA. Czech Mycology 64, 181-195 (2012).

Leikin, J. B. & Paloucek, F. P. Poisoning and Toxicology Handbook, 4th ed., CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida. (2008).

Berger, K. J. & Guss, D. A. Mycotoxins revisited: Part I. J. Emerg. Med. 28, 53-62, doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2004.08.013 (2005).

Berger, K. J. & Guss, D. A. Mycotoxins revisited: Part II. J. Emerg. Med. 28, 175-183, doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2004.08.019 (2005).

Legal status of psilocybin mushrooms. Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. <> accessed March 25, 2018.