How to identify liberty cap mushrooms

Written by jonathan reich
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How to identify liberty cap mushrooms
Mushroom identification is challenging (mushroom image by Deborah Benbrook from

Liberty Cap (Psilocybe semilanceata) mushrooms are small mushrooms common in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., especially in the coastal regions of Oregon. They are widely distributed, however, and may be found elsewhere during their season, which is from August to November. Liberty Caps have several identifying characteristics, but it is very dangerous for the novice to consume wild mushrooms based on their own identification. Many mushrooms look alike, and some are extremely poisonous. Misidentification can have dire consequences.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Paper for taking spore prints

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  1. 1

    Consider the geographic location where the mushrooms were found. Liberty Caps are common on the west coast of the U.S. They do grow elsewhere, but away from the west coast they are a much rarer find. Specimens from the Pacific Coast have the best chance of being Liberty Caps.

  2. 2

    Consider the terrain where they were found. Liberty Caps grow in grasslands that are grazed by cows and sheep, according the, and they are often found in wetter parts of fields.

  3. 3

    Look at the cap of the mushroom. The Liberty Cap has a distinctive shape, with a point at the top and a conical shape. It is usually dark brown and somewhat slimy.

  4. 4

    Examine the stem of the mushroom. It should be thin, white and 2 to 4 inches long. It may be curved or straight, without a prominent veil.

  5. 5

    Look at the gills on the underside of the cap. They should be attached to the cap, close together and greyish in colour, becoming darker and finally ending in a very dark brown, states

  6. 6

    Take a spore print by placing a cap on a piece of white paper for 2 to 6 hours. The spores should be a dark purplish brown.

Tips and warnings

  • It cannot be repeated too much that identifying mushrooms is difficult and that misidentification can result in death. Do not eat any mushroom that you have not thoroughly and completely checked out, preferably with an expert.

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