Magic mushrooms are becoming famous for their potential benefits. As well as causing a psychedelic high, they could help treat various conditions, from depression, anxiety, and addiction to migraines and cluster headaches.
Therefore, more people than ever are wondering how to get their hands on some shrooms. But since they are illegal in most places, it is not easy.
There is plenty of information available online about how to grow magic mushrooms, but not everyone is up for this challenge. Finding them in the wild is another option, but it is essential to be cautious and avoid poisonous look-alikes.
One way to tell magic mushrooms apart from their imposters is that they tend to turn blue when picked. But what is the science behind this strange phenomenon, and is it a reliable method? Let’s take a look.
Why Do Magic Mushrooms Turn Blue?
Magic mushrooms contain the psychoactive compound psilocybin. When psilocybin comes into contact with air, an enzymatic reaction breaks it down, resulting in blue “bruising.” Therefore, shrooms can take on blue coloration when picked, cut, or otherwise damaged. Some species can also turn blue naturally as they age.
The bluing reaction is considered an indicator of psilocybin presence, and the more potent the mushroom, the darker blue it may become. Some magic mushroom species are even named after shades of blue, such as Psilocybe cyanescens (wavy caps) and Psilocybe azurescens (flying saucers).
While this bluing reaction is very satisfying to watch, it is best not to force it to occur. As psilocybin reacts with oxygen, the mushrooms’ potency reduces. Therefore, it is necessary to handle shrooms with care and avoid bruising them as much as possible.
Blue Bruising and Magic Mushroom Identification
Many experts consider blue bruising an excellent way to identify magic mushrooms and tell them apart from their look-alikes. However, it is not a foolproof strategy. Several other mushroom species can bruise blue when picked and do not contain psilocybin. Another chemical reaction is responsible for the phenomenon.
Moreover, one of the deadliest mushroom families, the Galerina genus, can bruise black when damaged. Overenthusiastic foragers might mistake this reaction for the bluing that appears on shrooms. This is especially dangerous as Galerina mushrooms share several other features with certain magic mushrooms and grow in similar habitats.
Therefore, it is essential to consider all of a mushroom’s features when trying to make a positive ID. First, learn about which species grow in your region and what habitat they prefer. Then familiarize yourself with the mushrooms’ appearance, including their size and the color and shape of their cap, stem, and gills.
Spore color is another critical way to tell magic mushrooms apart from look-alikes. For example, both wavy caps and Galerina mushrooms grow in wood debris and have caramel-brown caps, pale stems, and light brown gills. However, wavy caps will produce a dark purple-brown spore print, whereas Galerina spores are rusty brown.
How to Forage Magic Mushrooms Safely
Anyone considering foraging magic mushrooms should ensure they are confident about correctly identifying them. There are numerous articles online explaining what to look for and where. These guides should also describe which mushrooms to avoid and how to recognize them.
If you are researching online, use reputable websites and compare images from several sources, as some references are inaccurate. It is better to invest in a good field guide with lots of color photos showing the mushrooms at various stages of development. Ideally, take a course with a professional mycologist, as that will give you the best chance of learning the details of mushrooms in your area.
If you are ever unsure about the identity of a mushroom, do not take the risk. It simply isn’t worth it. Individuals living in places where psilocybin is legal or decriminalized should consider growing their own shrooms instead. It is far safer and is also a great way to learn about the mushroom life cycle firsthand.
Summary: Why Magic Mushrooms Turn Dark Blue When Picked
Shrooms turn blue due to a “magic” reaction between psilocybin and oxygen. It is a satisfying thing to watch and can help foragers to identify magic mushrooms. However, mushroom identification is highly nuanced, and bluing alone should not be relied upon to make an ID. All of the mushrooms’ features should be considered to avoid poisonous look-alikes and stay safe.
Growing mushrooms at home is an excellent alternative for those who can legally do so.