Mushroom Hunter's Guide to the South

topic posted Sat, June 25, 2011 - 9:12 AM by  Nezahualcoyotl
[u][i][b]~~~The Mushroom Hunter's Guide to the South-Eastern U.S.A. - From the Appalachian Mountains to the Outer Banks~~~[/b][/i][/u]
Mushroom hunting can be a very rewarding hobby! It may seem daunting to the amateur, but mushroom hunting isn't as hard as you may believe, however many deadly types of fungi exist, so you must be extremely careful! The best way for beginner to learn is to do some research and go on a few practice hunts and collect mushroom (but do NOT ingest them), or ideally met up with a seasoned mushroom hunter for guidance. Don't forget the old saying- “There are bold mushroom hunters and there are old mushroom hunters, but you will never find one that is both"! This guide focuses on psychoactive fungi which are endemic to the region of the United States of America known as "The South" (South-Eastern North America), specifically, but not limited to the following states- Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, etc.

[u]***Mushroom Hunting Basic Steps***[/u]

1) Research & Study- Learn as much as you possibly can about mycology and fungi before entering the field and attempting to hunt them yourself. Read books, browse the internet, join local mycology clubs, speak to experts and go on a hunt with a guide before setting out on your own. You will likely have to study mycology for years or even decades before being able to correctly identify most the fungi you find in your hunts.
2) Scout, Find a Location- When you feel knowledgeable enough to safely pick your own fungi then your next step is scouting out a suitable environment in which to hunt. Think specifically which species you will be looking for and find what you think is the correct habitat. Be sure to write it down when you find a good location and keep a list of your favorite hunting grounds.
3) Team up, Gear up - Find a few other people interested in mycology to partner up with before departing for the field. Compile a hunting party (preferably with at least one expert) and gather your gear and supplies. Your team should always be ready at a moments notice during hunting season! I have complied a list of mushroom hunting gear below.
4) Act when the Time is Right - Research at what times, during which season and under what kind weather conditions your target species grows, you must act accordingly and set out on hunting expeditions only when conditions are suitable. Weather predication is a great tool for the mushroom hunter, view the weather forecast for you area as often as possible to stay updated on changing conditions. Normally the best time to go mushroom hunting is 12-72 hours after it rains, ideally during the heat of Spring or Summer after a few days of sporadic but soaking thunderstorms. Heat, high humidity and moisture are key to the growth of fungi. Mushrooms can be found at all times of the year except in the dead of winter, as long as it’s not excessively dry or cold. Low humidity and cold temperatures usually mean fewer fungi. When the weather conditions are correct and the time comes, get out into the field as quickly as possible, the mushrooms are ephemeral and don't last long!
5) The Hunt - Once your team is in the field and on the hunt spread out and comb the area. Give each team member a few paper bags for collecting any suspected species they may come across. If you can't find any fungi then it's time to change the habitat, location or come back when conditions are different (and maybe do a bit more research).
6) Record Keeping - Should you find any suspected mushrooms take detailed notes on the time, location, habitat, general description of features, etc. Take notes both before and after harvesting, both in the field and back at base (home, the mycology club, research lab, etc.).
7) Harvesting & Transport- To harvest a mushroom cut it about a 1/4 inch above the soil, as not to disturb (and possibly destroy) the mycelium underneath, if disturbed this will disrupt any future fungi from growing. Only harvest fully grown, fully opened mushrooms, NEVER over-harvest, take only 1 out of every 3 mushrooms in any one area, leave the rest fully intact. Respect the areas in which you hunt, do not throw down trash or disturb the animals. Take nothing but fungi and leave nothing but footprints.
8) Identification - At this point clean up any fungi you may have found, remove any dirt, grass or other debris. Take more notes, make sketches, take photographs, etc. for your records. Spore print each mushroom and be sure to examine and identify every single mushroom individually, be especially careful in your identification if they are for consumption.
9) Drying and preserving - To dry fungi first slice any large pieces into smaller chunks, small mushrooms can be dried whole. Place the mushrooms on a drying rack (wire mesh grid) and place a fan so that air is constantly moving across them. The mushrooms should be completely dry within about three days (approximately 75 hours). A cool, dry, dark place with good air circulations is best for dehydration, keep in mind that light and heat degrade the active compounds of psilocybin containing mushrooms. Amanita muscaria may be dried with heat (such as an over or over a fire) but it would weaken the potency of Psilocybe or Panaeolus mushrooms to be dried by any amount of heating. However it seems that with Amanita muscaria that heating is the preferred drying method.
10) Storage - Always eat mushrooms fresh or dry them, never attempt to preserve them fresh by freezing or by any other means. Once dry, mushrooms may be stored a number of ways- in a plastic bag kept in cool, dark place; in a sealed container in the refrigerator; stored in a jar of honey, ground up and mixed with chocolate, etc.

[u]***How to identify a Mushroom***[/u]

~Observe and take note of the Cap- Takes notes on the color, size, shade and other features of the mushrooms cap.
~Observe and take note of the Gills- Take notes on the gills or alternatively the pores, tubes, teeth or whatever features that particular fungus may have. Sketching the gills or taking a photograph may be valuable in future for identification and research once the specimen has dried.
~Observe and take note of the Stipe- Take notes on the stipe, also known as the stem or stalk.
~Observe and take note of the Veil- Take notes on the veil or lack of a veil. The veil is fragile and may easily fall off or be damaged, so be sure to look at a number of specimens of the same species if possible.
~Observe and take note of it's Habitat- Take notes on the environment in which you found the specimen, it's surroundings, even what type of plants, animals and geographical features are present.
~Observe and take note of the Conditions- Before leaving the field take notes of the time at which the specimen was found, the weather conditions, etc.
~Observe and take note of the Spores- Once you have you fungi back safe at base it's time to make a spore print, observe the color, pattern and other features of the print. Save the spore print with your notes on the particular specimen for your records.
~Observe and take note of the Smell- Use all your senses to identify your specimen. How does it smell? Does it emit a strange odor? Take note of any smell and attempt to describe it, if it lacks pungency, note this as well.
~Observe and take not of any Taste- Once you are positive of your mushroom is edible cut off a small piece and chew it up without cooking, raw, allow the taste to be fully absorbed by your senses and do your best to describe it in your notes. Now, if you desire the remaining mushroom can be consumed raw, prepared and eaten or dried, keep your recipes in your notes.
~Observe and take note of any Reactions- Observe the mushroom. Did it turn to liquid shortly after harvest? Did it turn blue when you handled it? Take notes on any reactions you may observe.

Write very descriptive notes, make sketches, create botanical illustrations, take pictures or even video while the mushroom is fresh and whole. Make brief notes in the field and then write a full description later. Consult guides, the internet, books and pictures until you are absolutely positive of your identification before considering ingesting your specimen, making sure to identify each mushroom separately and individually ensuring that each and every one is exactly what you think it is! Even then it's best to have a professional mycologist identify all fungi before ingestion. Remember the rule- [i]"If in doubt, ALWAYS throw it out!"[/i].

[u]***Mushrooms Hunting Gear***[/u]

~Walking Stick
~Clothes and shoes (old and tough, something you don't mind getting dirty)
~Rain Gear- Boots, hat, poncho/coat, etc.
~Backpack w/ gear for a day's trek- water, snacks, flashlight in case it gets dark, etc.
~Knife- folding pocket knife or a small fixed blade knife with a sheath, alternatively, you could use scissors, clippers, etc.
~Wax Paper, aluminum foil, etc.
~Basket, cardboard box, burlap/hemp sack, paper bags, etc.- Use a container that "breathes" refrain from using plastic.
~Mycology books, guides, etc. (Books on wildcrafting, native flora and other related subjects may also be helpful).
~Magnifying glass
~Notebook, pencil, pen, etc.
~Measuring Tools- Caliper, Ruler, etc.

[u]***Spore Printing Kit***[/u]

~White & Black Paper
~Large Glass Cup or Bowl
~Manilla envelopes

Take a spore print of each mushroom immediately upon your return to base, mushrooms must be printed when they are as fresh as possible. To make a spore print carefully remove the stipe from the cap, place the cap on a piece of white paper with the gills facing down, use black paper if the spores are suspected to be white (such as with Amanita species). Place a glass bowl or cup over the cap and allow it to sit 3-36 hours, usually around 6-12 hours seems best. After giving the spores time to collect on the paper remove the bowl and lift up the cap, you should now have a spore print! Obverse the color, size, shape, pattern, etc. and take note of it. Preserve the sport print by placing it in a manilla envelope and keeping it in a cool, dark, dry place.

[u]***Advice, Tips, Rules & Principals***[/u]

~Do NOT collect any fungi you don't intend to use for some purpose.
~Do NOT disturb the surrounding environment while mushroom hunting. Respect and protect the flora and fauna around you.
~Do not any collect any rare or endangered species of fungi, rare species are often hard to identify and are scarce. Collect only the common, more easily identifiable species.
~Take good notes, record accurately the localities and habitat data of any valuable fungi. Take notes on size, shape, cap, gills, spores, time of collection, environment, soil type, location, surrounding flora and fauna, etc.
~Do not collect any "buttons" (mushrooms that have not fully expanded) or small unopened mushrooms; They are harder to identify and allowing them to expand will give them a chance to release their spores and reproduce, it will also result in a larger mushroom.
~Collect only enough mushrooms for personal use; Don’t excessively profit from nature’s gifts, and NEVER reveal the location of your secret mushroom patch to others!
~Be 100% CERTAIN of identification before ingesting ANY mushrooms. Identify each mushroom individually! It's always best to have a professional confirm the identification before eating any type of fungi.
~Avoid handling any unknown or poisonous fungi, wash your hands afterwards if you happen to do so.
~Avoid areas that have been contaminated by pesticides, herbicides or other polluted areas near roads, businesses or factories.
~Only harvest pristine mushrooms in the peak of health, this help ensure correct identification as well as safe consumption. Do not collect dead, dried or decaying fungi.
~Never mix various types of mushrooms in the same carrying containing, this makes them harder to identify and could also transfer poisons from toxic to edible mushrooms.
~Spread the knowledge and help other interested individuals learn about mycology, mushroom hunting and entheogens in general.
~Always learn to identify the “Look-a-Likes” of your target species as well as poisonous species of fungi and gain a general knowledge of mycology before setting out on a mushroom hunting expedition.
~Many mushrooms look different during the various phases of it's life cycle so you may need to collect both young and old mushrooms from a cluster or group to identify a species. Some important features may only be present at one stage of development.
~Remember that if the soil is dry and lacks moisture, that mushrooms will not grow. Don't go hunting on hot, sunny days when you know the soil will be dry. A good way to test this is to walk out into a sunny spot in the field and work your fingers down into the grass, if you cannot feel moisture at the base of the grass or on the very top layer of soil then it is too dry in that particular area.
~Where a mushroom grows, such as a swamp, desert, rainforest, etc. is the mushroom's habitat. What the fruiting body of the fungus actually emerges from, such as peat, a log, or soil, is the mushroom's substrate. Habitat and substrate can be distinguishing features for many species of fungi and should always be noted. So remember, habitat= forest, swamp, meadow, etc. and substrate= log, sand, dung, wood-chips, etc.
~Any mushrooms that is going be discarded should be thrown out in the field, while still in the habitat of the species being discarded so that their spores can still spread and ensure reproduction.
~Always use a knife or scissors to harvest all types of fungi and be careful not to disturb the substrate from which the specimen is growing, even the weight of a small person may disrupt the network of mycelium below and cause less mushrooms to fruit in subsequent flushes. Only harvest aerial portions of fungi, never dig them up or disturb the soil around them.
~The internet is a great resource for the aspiring mushroom hunter, not only does the internet have a wealth of information on mycology, you can also use it to keep track of changing weather conditions or even join a mushroom hunting forum where experts can help you identify your specimens! Heck, you used it to find this guide your reading right now didn't you?
~Be careful, as the old Native American saying goes: "All mushrooms are edible, but some only once" - Croatian proverb.

[u]***Common Psychoactive Fungi of the South-Eastern U.S.A.***[/u]

>Amanita muscaria ~ "Fly Agaric"
>Gymnopilus junonius (syn. spectabilis) ~ "Big Laughing Gym"
>Panaeolus (syn. Copelandia) cyanescens ~ "Blue Meanies"
>Panaeolus cinctulus (syn.subbalteatus) ~ “Weed Panaeolus” or “Banded Mottle-Gill Mushroom"
>Psilocybe caerulescens ~ "Landslide Mushroom"
>Psilocybe caerulipes ~ “Blue Foot Mushroom”
>Psilocybe cubensis ~ "Cubes" or "Gold Caps"
>Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata ~ "Floodplain Mushroom"
>Psilocybe weilii ~ "Weil's Psilocybe"

[u]***Uncommon Psychoactive Fungi of the South-Eastern U.S.A.***[/u]

>Gymnopilus aeruginosus- This beautiful species of Gymnopilus is commonly refereed to as "Magic Blue Gym"
>Gymnopilus braendlei- Originally collected by mycologist Charles Horton Peck in the District of Columbia near Washington in 1902.
>Gymnopilus luteofolius- Also known as "Yellow-Gilled Gymnopilus" it is a large and widely distributed mushroom which grows in dense clusters on dead hardwoods and conifers. It has a rusty orange spore print and a bitter taste.
>Gymnopilus luteoviridis- This mushroom is found growing gregarious to cespitose on oak stumps and hardwoods from August to November. It is widely distributed in eastern North America.
>Gymnopilus luteus- literally the "Yellow Gymnopilus" it is often mistaken for Gymnopilus junonius.
>Panaeolina (syn. Panaeolus) foenisecii- The "Haymaker" or "Mower's" mushroom contains no psilocybin or psilocin but other psychoactive substances including serotonin and 5-htp as well as other compounds. This species is often confused with other Panaeolus. It is edible and/or mildly psychoactive.
>Panaeolus cambodginiensis- Panaeolus cambodginiensis is mushroom that grows on dung of water buffalo. It was first described from Cambodia and is widespread throughout the Asian subtropics and Hawaii. It can only be differentiated from the similar Panaeolus cyanescens by using a microscope. It is said to be quite potent and has been report growing in Florida.
>Panaeolus chlorocystis- Very little data appears to exist on this species, so little I am considering removing it. help me get data?
>Panaeolus fimicola (syn. ater)- A widespread but seldom identified "little brown mushroom" which sometimes contains small amounts of psilocybin and psilocin. more data?
>Panaeolus olivaceus (syn. castaneifolius)- Similar in appearance to other Panaeolus species in the South.
>Psilocybe atlantis- A rare psychedelic mushroom closely related to Psilocybe mexicana, it is said to have a pleasant smell and taste. It is found in grassy areas near Fulton County, Georgia.
>Psilocybe coprophila - Known as the "Dung-Loving Psilocybe", unlike other members of it's genus this species is reported to be extremely weak or inactive.
>Psilocybe galindoi- This species is a representative of the Psilocybe mexicana aggregate and shares many similar characteristics.
>Psilocybe mammillata- Sometimes alternatively spelled Psilocybe "mammilata", I am unsure which spelling is correct.
>Psilocybe naematoliformis- This species is in the section Neocaledonicae, a group of related tropical and subtropical species in the Psilocybe genus; other members of the section include Psilocybe aequatoriae found in Ecuador, Psilocybe neocaledonicum of New Caledonia and Psilocybe neorhombispora from Mexico.
>Psilocybe plutonia - Small Psilocybe which was recently discovered growing in the Carolinas. It is in the section Cordisporae.
>Psilocybe tampanensis - Native to Florida and Mississippi, this species is extremely rare.

[u][b]>Amanita muscaria ~ "Fly Agaric"[/b][/u]

[s]General Description-[/s] Gleaming with dew like a red ruby, the cap lifts itself up atop a creamy thick white stem, a large conspicuous red and white mushroom, Amanita muscaria is one of the most famous fungi in the world and most people should be familiar with it's general appearance.
When fully grown it's bright red cap spotted with white dots can reach over 25cm (that's almost 10 inches), normally ranging from 7-21cm in width. The color of the cap may fade and some of the white "wart/dots" may fall off with age. It's white gills are free and produce white spores. This mushroom has a thick white or white-tan 5-20cm long stipe. It has a distinctive ring along it's stipe supported by a large bulbous volva.
[s]Habitat-[/s] Around Evergreens in high altitude areas. Its habitat is birch and pine. Specifically in the South??? Appalachian mountains???
[s]Substrate-[/s] ????has symboitic relationship with tress???? need info????
[s]Season & Conditions-[/s] Mid-Summer until late Fall in the South, but differs in other parts of the world. ???IS THIS CORRECT? THIS THIS THE CORRECT AMANITA SEASON FOR THE SOUTH???
[s]Spore Print-[/s] White
[s]"Look-a-Likes”-[/s] Many fungi with a similar appearance to Amanita muscaria include other Amanita species, such as- Amanita basii, Amanita cokeri, Amanita gemmata. Beware of mushrooms that look like "Fly Agaric" but lack the bright red cap or the white dots, as most other Amanita species are deadly poisonous! Other "look-a-likes" include Armillaria species, ???, etc.
[s]Notes-[/s] Unlike psilocybin containing mushrooms Amanita muscaria can be smoked for effect and dried using heat. Amanita muscaria's main psychoactive compounds are muscimol and ibotenic acid. "Fly Agaric" (as it is called in the Old World) is known to be pleasantly psychoactive if properly prepared, but can make one mildly ill if used incorrectly or dosed improperly, research this mushroom more before proceeding with any experimentation. A 2008 molecular phylogenetic study of different regional populations of Amanita muscaria by mycologist József Geml and colleagues show five distinct genetic groups, plus a sixth group of Amanita muscaria associated with hickory, oak and pine forests of the America South. This means that we may have our very own special variety (or perhaps even our own species) of Amanita muscaria here in the South-Eastern United States! Further research needs to be done, so please document your Amanita muscaria collections in the South in great detail and share your findings.

[u][b]>Gymnopilus junonius (syn. spectabilis) ~ "Big Laughing Gym"[/b][/u]

[i]General Description-[/i] A spectacular large orange mushroom often found growing from decaying wood.
[i]Habitat-[/i] Forest, woodlands, etc.
[i]Substrate-[/i] Moist decaying wood
[i]Season & Conditions-[/i] Fall though spring
[i]Spore Print-[/i] Red-brown
[u]“Look-a-Likes”-[/u] Many poisonous species have a similar appearance to Gymnopilus as well as growing from the same substrate and occupying similar habitats, be careful! Beware when picking this mushrooms because many poisonous species also have reddish-brown spores, this is NOT species for amateur hunters!
[u]Notes-[/u] Gymnopilus are reputed to contain other psychoactive substances in addition to the usual psilocybin and psilocin, some of these include bis-noryangonin and hispidine, which are structurally related to alpha-pyrones found in the Piper methysticum or "Kava-Kava" plant. It is reported that various subspecies differ in potency and psychoactivity. "Gymn" as used in the current name means "naked" or "nude" and the species name refers to the wife of the Roman god Jupiter- "Juno". In Japan this mushroom is called "Waraitake" which translates to "laughing mushroom", presumably alluding to it's psychoactive qualities which often produce hysterical laughter.

[u][b]>Panaeolus (syn. Copelandia) cyanescens ~ "Blue Meanies"[/b][/u]

General Description- Cap is small, no bigger than 1.5 inches across, brown-tan and sometimes fading to white or gray in the sun. Gills are gray and then turn black as the spores mature. The stipe is the same tan-grey color as the cap and up to 2.5 inches long sometimes with white filaments on the stipe/stem. Stains blue when bruised.
Habitat- Pasture lands, fields, etc.
Substrate- Dung, manure enriched soil, etc.
Season & Conditions- Early summer through late autumn. Optimum growth occurs at a temperature of 80*F.
Spore Print- Black
“Look-a-Likes”- ????
Notes- Most likely to be found towards the coast, especially in the gulf coast region.

[u][b]>Panaeolus cinctulus (syn.subbalteatus) ~ “Weed Panaeolus”[/b][/u]

General Description-
Habitat- Grows in freshly manured/fertilized lawns or gardens, on straw piles, all types of compost, near horse or other animal dung and any lush grassy green area.
Season & Conditions- Spring to late autumn; Optimum growth 86*F.
Spore Print- Black
“Look-a-Likes”- Panaeolina foenisecii and other Panaeolus species.
Notes- This is one of the most common psychoactive mushrooms and grows just about everywhere. Panaeolus cinctulus found on decaying plant matter, pasture lands and dung seem to be larger and more potent than that of specimen of the same species found on lawns or in grassy areas. This mushroom may occasionally bruise blue.
There are many other related Panaeolus species which grow in the South and may have a similar appearance and psychoactivity.

[u][b]>Psilocybe caerulescens ~ "Landslide Mushroom"[/b][/u]

General Description- Psilocybe caerulescens is often found growing gregariously, rarely solitarily. Convex cap. Stipe is bare.
Habitat- Often appears on cultivated grounds devoid of weedy plants, it grows in sunny locations with muddy soil.
Season & Conditions- June through September
Spore Print- Purple-black
“Look-a-Likes”- ????
Notes- Along with Psilocybe mexicana, it is one of the mushrooms likely to have been used by the Aztecs.

[u][b]>Psilocybe caerulipes ~ “Blue Foot Mushroom”[/b][/u]

General Description- 1-3.5cm cinnamon brown cap. The rusty brown gills are crowded. The stipe is 3-6cm long and white-tan-brown. Bruises blue, sometimes slowly.
Habitat- Decomposing logs and debris of hardwood trees (especially birch, beech and maple). It is found along rivers and streams, near hills and elevation changes as well as in flood planes and river valleys; in deciduous forests on hardwood slash and debris, plant matter, on or about decaying hardwood logs.
Season & Conditions- Mid-Summer to early Winter, about June through late November.
Spore Print- Purple-black
“Look-a-Likes”- Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata
Notes- It is in the section Semilanceatae.

[u][b]>Psilocybe cubensis ~ "Cubes" or "Gold Caps"[/b][/u]

General Description- Psilocybe cubensis is often the choice fungi for the mushroom hunter of the South-Eastern U.S.A., it grows gregariously near the dung of cows and other large grazing animals. It prefers humid grasslands and is found in most subtropical and tropical climates, as well as some temperature regions during the spring and summer. The cap is large, smooth and golden brown in color. The stipe is thick and white, tan or cream colored with a ring (remnant veil) just below the cap.
Habitat- Psilocybe cubensis can be found in , fields, clearings and on the outskirts of forest areas. It is often associated with cows and is found near animal dung. Pasture land is an ideal place to begin mushroom hunting for "Gold Caps" in the South.
Substrate- Cow manure, straw, enriched soil, etc.
Season & Conditions- Spring through late summer; In the Carolinas the season begins in May and lasts all the way into early September. Optimum growth for this species occurs at 85*F.
Spore Print- Brown-purple-black
“Look-a-Likes”- Chlorophyllum molybdites (note the green spores) and others...???
Notes- Most likely to be found towards the coast, especially further south.
Psilocybe cubensis has been found in the Carolina’s from about May 1st to the end of August.

[u][b]>Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata ~ "Floodplain Mushroom"[/b][/u]

General Description-
Habitat- Often found in the woody debris of overflow areas, along rivers and streams
Season & Conditions- April to mid June but they occasionally fruit as late as November
Spore Print- Brown-purple-black
“Look-a-Likes”- Psilocybe caerulipes and others??
Notes- Smells and taste farinaceous.

[u][b]>Psilocybe weilii ~ "Weil's Psilocybe"[/b][/u]

General Description-
Habitat- Psilocybe weilii is found under Pinus taeda "Loblolly Pine" and Liquidambar "Sweetgum" trees or sometimes seen in Bermuda grass or fescue, often in red clay soil that is enriched with pine needles. It also grows in urban lawns and in the deep woods on areas where decaying wood collects.
Substrate- Clay soil enriched with pine needles, etc.?
Season & Conditions- May to December
Spore Print- Purple-black
“Look-a-Likes”- ???
Notes- Reportedly only found in northern Georgia, but its range is presumably larger.
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South Carolina

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