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LIBERTY CAP

MAGIC MUSHROOM

Psilocybe semilanceata

Psilocybe Family [Strophariaceae]  

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16th Nov 2011, Scout Moor, Rossendale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Up to 8cm tall and up to 1.5 cm across, growing in upland grassy areas. The cap is usually shaped like a pixies hat - pointy in the middle, but becoming bell-shaped with age, but never flat. The colour darkens when wet to an olive brown; here the foreground one is dry. The surface of the cap is at first covered with a gelatinous and detachable cuticle (covering).


16th Nov 2011, Scout Moor, Rossendale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
With age, becomes bell-shaped. Slightly striated surface, The stipe ('stalk') is very thin for its size, which is small anyway.


16th Nov 2011, Scout Moor, Rossendale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Surface slightly pock-marked and satin smooth.


16th Nov 2011, Scout Moor, Rossendale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Gills adnate.


16th Nov 2011, Scout Moor, Rossendale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Edges of gills are felty white with very short hairs.


Some similarities to : Egghead Mottlegill mushroom (Panaeolus semiovatus), but that is much larger at up to 6cm across and up to 15cm high, and discolours yellowish rather than bluish and belongs to a differing Genus but within the same family, Strophariaceae. It also looks similar to the Peticoat Mottlegill (Panaeolus papilionaceus) mushroom, which has a serrated edge to the cap and is again much larger that Libert Cap, but a little smaller than Egghead Mottlegill.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature :

The stems of the mushroom turn a bluish hue when bruised, a characteristic (which is not unique) of Liberty Cap. This is due to the formation of oxidation products of Psilocin. Other mushrooms can bruise to a blue colour without containing any Psilocin or Psilocybin. The blue colour results from the action of an enzyme contained within the mushrooms themselves (but only released when the cell walls are disrupted) called hydroxyindole oxidase. The resultant enzymatic reaction on Psilocin yields, it is said, the highly coloured ortho-quinone (1,2-benzoquinone). Unfortunately, the same source which says that the resulting ortho-quinone is blue, in another section of the encylopaedia contrarily says that ortho-quinone is red! This can only mean that blue is red! Thus the author has been unsuccessful in finding the true structural formula of the blue degredation compound, which to the author finds much more interesting than whether or not it gives the imbiber hallucinations. The author notes that para-quinone is yellow and was therefore pondering if the blue substance could instead be meta-quinone. But on further investigation the Author discovered that meta-quinone, somewhat surprisingly, cannot exist, which explains why he could not find it on the internet. However, when said Author tried drawing meta-quinone, it became immediately obvious that two non-contiguous double bonds could not fit into the proposed chemical. So the mystery remains: red is blue according to Wikipedia...

Psilocin is a psychedelic compound and the potential of Liberty Cap mushrooms for recreational mis-use is high so in many countries it is now illegal to possess Liberty Cap mushrooms. The hallucinogenic nature of these mushrooms has been known since antiquity. Their caps, when young, are characteristically pixie-hat shaped, and it is thought that this and their propensity to induce altered states of mind has led to legends of fairies with pixie hats and sayings such as 'gone away with the fairies'.

PSILOCYBIN


Both Psilocin and the phosporylated version Psilocybin are present in Liberty Cap. Psilocybin is a Zwitterion, where there are separated internal charges but overall the molecule is neutral. Psilocybin is unstable, readily decomposing into Psilocin. They are indole alkaloids based on Tryptamine and very similar to the monoamine neurotransmitter Serotonin which Psilocin can partially substitute for. Both are mildly poisonous, ingestion of which can lead to a wide range of sometimes opposite effects such as dis-orientation, hallucination, altered time perspectives, tachycardia, elation, depression, dilation of pupils, restlessness, euphoria, auditory distortions, kaleidoscopic visions with eyes closed, synaesthesia, fever, headache and nausea; the effects lasting anything from 3 to 8 hours, but they are highly variable depending upon the individual. Psilocybin is readily de-phosphorylated within mammalian bodies after ingestion into Psilocin, which is the psychactive component. The de-phosphorylation process occurs either under strongly acidic conditions (such as occur within the stomach) or by the action of enzymes called phosphatases. Psilocybin is therefore a 'prodrug'. The resulting Psilocin is thought to be a partial agonist of the serotonin receptors (specifically the 5-HT 2A receptors) in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain.

The fatal dose of Psilocybin is estimated to be 6g, whereas the dose required for intoxication is just 6mg.


Two other minor constituents of the mushroom, thought to be the pre-cursors of Psilocybin nd Psilocin, are Baeocystin and Norbaeocystin both of which are zwitterions and phosphorylated indole compounds. Whereas Psilocybin has two methyl groups, Baeocystin has but one and Norbaeocystin none. Both are metabolised to Psilocin within the human body.


  Psilocybe semilanceata  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Strophariaceae  

LIBERTY CAP

MAGIC MUSHROOM

Psilocybe semilanceata

Psilocybe Family [Strophariaceae]  

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