Mushroom enthusiasts may already be well aware that some species have a more “magical” component to them, but many Greater Victoria residents don’t know that this infamous species also grows in abundance on the Island.
Psilocybe mushrooms, known more commonly as magic mushrooms, are largely popular with people who take psychedelic drugs recreationally. Mushroom species in the Psilocybe family are potent in hallucinogenic components psilocybin and psilocin, which affect people after it’s been ingested. However, mushroom experts warn that going looking for a good trip could lead to deadly consequences.
Brian Starzomski is the director of the School of Environment at the University of Victoria, and an Ian McTaggart Cowen Professor of biodiversity conservation and ecological restoration. He says that locally, the most commonly encountered species is Psilocybe cyanescens, or the Wavy Cap, which are small brown mushrooms with wavy tops.
“They are easily confused with other small brown mushrooms, many of which are poisonous to various degrees,” Starzomski said, noting that Galerina mushrooms look similar and are deadly. “People have died from eating related species in this genus.”
The magic mushrooms often grow on wood chips and are encountered by gardeners, as are many other species.
Starzomski cautions that people should not be picking the mushrooms with hopes of a psychedelic experience.
“My caution is that they can be very dangerous and shouldn’t be consumed,” he said, adding that any mushroom pickers should always seek out help in identifying any species. “Always ask for help if you’re not 100 per cent sure.”