The Liberty Cap mushroom (Psilocybe semilanceata) is one of the most widespread psilocybin mushroom species in the world. This distinctive little mushroom was first recorded over 200 years ago and continues to play an important role in the study of magic mushrooms.
But what does the Liberty Cap magic mushroom look like, where does it come from, and what kind of effects does it produce?
Historical Use of Liberty Cap Mushrooms
One of the fascinating things about these psychedelic mushrooms is that they give us some of the earliest reports of magic mushroom use.
One of the experiences typically cited as the earliest came in 1799 and was published in The London Medical and Physical Journal.
It incorrectly described the mushrooms as being “a species of Agaric”, and noted that they were collected in London’s Green Park by a 40-year-old man who later cooked them in a stew.
The stew was eaten by one of the man’s children, Edward, who “was attacked with fits of immoderate laughter”. He fell into a “great deal of stupor” and while he was roused by calling and shaking, he “immediately relapsed” and proceeded to act strangely. When questioned about his activities, the boy “answered indifferently, yes, or no, as he did to every other question, evidently without any relation to what was asked”.
One of the most surprising things about this report is that it references a mushroom that was fairly common in the UK at the time. The fact that it was incorrectly described as “a species of Agaric” andproduced effects that weren’t expected, suggests it had remained relatively undiscovered to that point.
Of course, we know that magic mushrooms were in use long before this time, and there are reports of them being used for spiritual purposes throughout the ancient world. But for whatever reason, no one thought to try the Liberty Cap (or rather, to record their experiences with it) until this time.
Where Did Liberty Caps (Psilocybe semilanceata) Get Their Name?
You could be forgiven for thinking that the “Liberty Cap” name comes from the Liberty Bell. They have a bell-shaped cap, after all, and they’re one of the most common magic mushrooms in the United States.
In actual fact, the name comes from the Phrygian cap, which looks a lot like a Liberty Cap mushroom. These conical caps were worn in ancient Scythia and Persia, before being adopted by the Greeks and Romans. They were known as “Liberty Caps” due to their association with freedom and liberty, one that was seemingly birthed in ancient Rome and then adopted during the French and American revolutions.
As for the Latin name, Psilocybe semilanceata, it means something like “bald-headed half spear-shaped”.
The genus Psilocybe is so named because of the smooth heads of these mushrooms. It comes to us from Latin by way of Greek, where it was adapted from the word “ψιλός” (psilos) meaning “bald”, “smooth”, or “naked”, and the word κύβη (kúbe) meaning “head”.
As for semilanceata, it comes from the words “semi”, which means “half” and is still in use today, and “lanceata” which means “spear-shaped”. Lanceata also gives us the word “lance”, which has pretty much the same meaning.
What Do Liberty Cap Mushrooms Look Like?
The distinctive Liberty Cap is the first sign that you’re looking at Psilocybe semilanceata. This conical cap has a small nipple-shaped tip and is around an inch in diameter.
The mushrooms are usually a light yellow/brown color and feature a long and thin stem of a lighter shade than the mushroom cap.
Where are Liberty Cap Mushrooms Found?
Unlike Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms, Liberty Caps don’t grow on dung. These psilocybin mushrooms thrive in grasslands and feed on decaying grass roots.
They are at their most common in the Northern Hemisphere, including most of Europe and North America. They can also be found in the Southern Hemisphere, although they prefer temperate climates.
What are the Effects of Liberty Caps Mushrooms?
Liberty Caps produce the same effects as other magic mushrooms, including auditory and visual hallucinations, changes in perception, feelings of euphoria, and a spiritual awakening.
The effects largely depend on the dose, which should be carefully measured beforehand.
What are the Side Effects of Liberty Caps?
Nausea is one of the most common side effects of magic mushrooms, and this can be exacerbated if the mushrooms are consumed whole. To make the mushrooms more palatable and reduce the risk of nausea, make a mushroom tea and add some honey and ginger.
Consumption of Liberty Caps can also lead to muscle weakness, dizziness, impaired coordination, and feelings of extreme confusion.
Before ingesting magic mushrooms, you should also make sure you’re in a comfortable, relaxed setting and have the right mindset.
Dried or Fresh Liberty Caps?
Both fresh and dried Liberty Caps can be consumed, it all depends on the user. However, dried magic mushrooms are far more common. They are more palatable, easier to add to food and tea, and can also be stored for long periods of time.
If you’re using fresh mushrooms, they must be consumed within a few days, after which they will rapidly lose potency and could develop mold and bacterial growth.
Are Liberty Caps Dangerous?
Magic mushrooms can produce very potent hallucinogenic effects and can also make you nauseous and sick. However, serious side effects and fatal overdoses are very rare, and the risk of addiction and abuse is also low.
The biggest risk factor comes from misidentification.
Anytime you hunt for wild mushrooms, you’re taking a chance, and that’s also true for Liberty Caps, which share a lot of similarities with other mushrooms.
If you go in search of Liberty Caps and end up with a handful of poisonous mushrooms, you could be in serious trouble.
The varieties that most closely resemble Liberty Caps are also from the Psilocybe species, including the Psilocybe mexicana, but there are reports of people gathering non-psilocybin mushrooms like the poisonous Inocybe geophylla, which is widespread in North America and Europe.
Summary: Liberty Cap Magic Mushrooms
The Liberty Cap (Psilocybe semilanceata) is a widespread magic mushroom that contains the psychedelic compound, psilocybin.
It was the first species to be confirmed to contain psilocybin in the 1960s, and it also gives us some of the earliest reports of magic mushroom use in Europe.
Needless to say, it’s a pretty important species with a fascinating history.