Revised February 22, 2007; September 2, 2010; and April 11, 2013.
Copyright 1998-2013 by John W. Allen.

Psilocybe semilanceata (Fries) Kummer


Psilocybe semilanceata (Fries) Kummer. Photo: Jochen Gartz, Astoria, Oregon, 1990.


Psilocybe semilanceata (Fries) Kummer

Cap:75-2.5 cm broad. Twice as tall, conic with a profused nipple, color is variable from rusty brown to a pale yellow when dry. Margin striate and translucent when moist with a sticky gelatinous pellicle.

Gills: Adnate to adnexed, crowded and purple brown. Much darker than Psilocybe pelliculosa and ascending into the cap.

Stem: 40-100 mm long. Pale to rusty brown. Tough pith which is usually crooked and can be wrapped around ones finger. Sometimes staining blue after human handling.

Spores: 12-14 x 7-8.

Spore Print: Dark purple brown.

Habitat: Scattered to gregarious in pasture lands but not growing directly in manure. Also in some European countries and in Pacific Northwest of the United States, this species along with a similar macroscopic species, Psilocybe strictipes (formerly known as Psilocybe callosa, can be found in new well fertilized and manicured lawns, fields, or other grassy areas, especially where cattle and sheep graze. Both species have also been collected from golf courses along the Oregon Coast and in the Seattle Arboretum. Psilocybe semilanceata is very common around the base of sedge grass clumps and other tall rank grasses in pasture lands and in open meadows.

Distribution: Northern California to British Columbia, Canada, west of the Cascades and along the coastal areas of Oregon and northern California. Also can be found on new condo lawns in residential housing projects and golf courses along the coastal regions of the PNW and in northern New York State, Quebec, parts of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and British Colombia on the West Coast of Canada. This species has a cosmopolitan distribution and is known of in the UK, throughout Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia, India (Pune), Australia along the Gold Coast and New Zealand. Has also been reported from Peru but not verified.

Season: August through November-December.

Dosage: 20 to 40 fresh mushrooms or from 1-2 grams dried. 30 to 40 doses to a fresh pound and about 30 doses in a dried ounce. For those who wish to experience a first voyage with liberty cap mushrooms then I would suggest a dosage of 20 to 25 medium sized mushrooms and to take 15-25 minutes to digest the dosage and to do so with a pint of Darigold or Nestles chocolate milk.

Comment: In Latin, Psilocybe semilanceata translates as bald head - half speared. I translate the word psilo as naked rather than bald. So Psilo is bald or naked and cybe is head. Semilanceata translates to semi for half and lanceata is spear or speared, which is easy to translate because the syllable of lance is easy to approach from a linguistic point of view.

The generic name, "liberty cap' is derived from its association with the French cap of liberty, a symbol of the French Revolution that appears on the coins of the period. It was known to users in the British Isles during the mid to late 1970s who called them both liberty caps and pixie caps. According to Andrew Weil in "The Marriage of the Sun and the Moon," that symbol in turn derives from the Phrygian bonnet of Roman times, given to slaves upon emancipation. The Oxford English Language Dictionary describes the Phrygian bonnet as "a conical cap with the peak bent or turned over in the front, worn by the ancient Phrygians and in modern times identified with the cap of liberty." Especially upon drying, Psilocybe semilanceata takes on the appearance of the ancient symbol. In the early 1970s, some users of the liberty cap mushrooms in Oregon around Eugene and as far west as along the coastal region of central Oregon to the Washington Coast, claimed that the mushrooms were called Liberty Caps because they resembled the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, a resemblance which was not real to those who looked at the mushrooms. The late Peter Stafford, author of the Psychedelic Encyclopedia and the re-issue of his chapter on Psilocybes and Amanitas in a new book titled, "Magic Mushrooms" also noted the name of the liberty cap as being a symbol of the French caps worn by patriots.

While I discovered my first small collection of liberty caps on the properties of Bartels Meat Packing Plant near the Fern Ridge Reservoir on West 11th street on the outskirts of Eugene, Oregon, I later collected large amounts by the pounds on farms belonging to Lester Hale of Noti, Oregon. Farm lands which had been in his family for more than a hundred and twenty years. At that time I had no idea of their cosmopolitan distribution, nor that they also occurred in other grassy areas rich in fertilizers from pasture lands.

I once found this species fruiting on Boeing lawns at South Center Shopping Mall in Tukwilla, Washington during a two-year period in the late 1970s (one time on May 28th, I found about 32 specimens in a lawn at this location). They appeared on lawns which normally had blue ringers, Psilocybe stuntzii) growing on them and sometimes a lawn of Psilocybe baeocystis was also common and sometimes, many lawn patches of Psilocybe stuntzii would have specimens of the Psilocybe baeocystis. Blue ringers often appeared daily in a majority of all of the lawns in the area at both the commercial region of the Mall and then every lawn in the Industrial area of the mall. Unlike the Psilocybe stuntzii that appeared to fruit almost daily with warm weather and water sprinkler systems going and a constant perpetual lawn service, then such lawns were known to some to have been growing magic mushrooms daily for more than twenty years. Especially at this site in Tukwilla. However, those Tukwilla, Washington liberty caps grew only for two fall seasons on the two long lawns before disappearing from a specific lawn.

In the nearby pasture lands and fields that were occupied by dairy cattle and steers, the liberty caps would grow for a few years, then disappeared and then reappear a few years later after cattle or crop rotation has completed its full cycle. The lawns at South Center were fertilized two to three times a week by the Evergreen Tree Maintenance Service and their fertilizers came from the manure from the many pastures south of Tukwilla between Kent and Auburn and north to Tukwilla. Today, many of those enriched soiled pastures have now been turned into ecologically sound and pollution free, one story office buildings and warehouses, Walmarts and Kosco type businesses to fit the needs of suburban migration into the region. Many belonging to Boeing Corp. and taking away a good portion of the Rainier Valley fertile land which was so rich in antediluvian soils and now lost to progress forever.

Psilocybe semilanceata has also been collected in the Seattle, Washington arboretum and from lawns on golf courses along the Oregon coast. It is macroscopically similar to Psilocybe strictipes, but has a taller stipe. Sometimes found on lawns in the PNW. Very common also on public lawns in parks in the UK. For more information about the liberty cap mushroom, be sure to read Dr. Steven H. Pollock's paper, Liberty Caps: Recreational Hallucinogenic Mushrooms which has been posted in the new forum on Scholarly Articles on this site.

I might also mention that these are my favorite species and I have not had any since 2002. Too long of a period of time has past since I last bio-assayed the species I first tasted in the early 1970s; The species I came to love so well.

Psilocybe semilanceata (Liberty caps) habitat and automatic shroom Sprinkler System

Psilocybe semilanceata.
A photo gallery of "liberty caps."

Beautiful Liberty Caps from Europe, Washington and Oregon State, USA.
Bluing in Psilocybe semilanceata
Grassland Varieties of the Liberty Cap Mushroom

Return to Species Index
Return to Main Index