Psilocybe semilanceata, commonly known in the UK as the Magic Mushroom, and in the USA as Liberty Cap, appears in grassland in autumn. It is most commonly found on pasture and parkland that has not been enriched with artificial fertilizer.
Fairly frequent in Britain and Ireland, where it is rather localised, Psilocybe semilanceata occurs throughout Europe and is found also in North America.
Psilocybe, the genus name, means ‘smooth head’ – a reference to the silkily mooth, scale less surface of caps of these grassland mushrooms. The specific epithet semilanceata comes from semi- meaning ‘half ‘and -lanceata which means ‘spear-shaped’. Some of these little mushrooms do indeed look like spears, although many have wiggly stems uncharacteristic of spear shafts.
The common name Magic Mushroom is, of course, a reference to the hallucinogenic nature of this grassland species
This species contains the compound psilocybin. Because this substance, which occurs in Magic Mushrooms and some related fungi, occasionally causes alarming symptoms including vomiting, stomach pains and anxiety attacks, Liberty Caps are probably best treated with caution (some people even decide to treat them as poisonous).
It is our understanding that it is illegal to possess or to sell psilocybin in the UK. As of July 2005, fresh psilocybin mushrooms are now also controlled. They are treated in UK Law in the same way as dried magic mushrooms, because whether fresh or dried they have the same Class A drug status as Heroin, LSD and Cocaine.
Liberty caps are the only mushrooms in the Netherlands which contain psilocybin. The substance psilocybin makes you trip. For this reason Liberty caps are regularly picked by psychonauts for making a psychedelic journey.