Psilocybe azurescens aka The Blue Angel[i], also known as flying saucer mushroom or indigo psilocybe, is not especially blue, unless bruised, nor is its scientific name a reference to its color. According to the story, the mycologist who described the species named it after his son, Azureus—who was named for the bluing reaction of psilocybin mushrooms generally. P. azurescens is mostly caramel-color, when not bruised, and is a very strong psychoactive. It is only known to grow wild along parts of the North American northeast coast, but it is also widely cultivated in multiple countries.
P. azurescens is similar in many respects to its relative, P. cubensis. The two look alike, plus they are biochemically similar, producing similar, though reportedly not identical, effects when eaten. Both are also widely cultivated, and it would be easy to mistake the blue angel for just another cube strain—especially since many people find the difference between species and strain a little confusing. If that’s you, don’t worry; just think of mushrooms as dogs.
The strains of P. cubensis are like the various breeds of domestic dog, which come in lots of different shapes and sizes but are all the same species, whereas something like P. azurescens is like a coyote—looks similar and even acts sort of similar, but it’s a different species, and it’s best not to forget the difference.
P.azurescens vs P. cubensis
Here is a quick, side-by-side comparison:
|P. azurescens||P. cubensis|
|Cap||Caramel to straw-colored with a peaked center||Variable, usually brownish, usually rounded or flattish on top|
|Stem||May have a subtle ring zone||Has a well-developed, persistent ring|
|Substrate Type (in the wild)||Eats wood and woody debris||Eats horse and cattle dung|
|Natural Range||Northwestern North America||Most tropical and subtropical areas worldwide|
Identification and Description
Cap: Small to medium, conical when young but becoming flat with a central bump. Brown to caramel-color, sometimes with bluish or blackish splotches, drying to pale straw-color.
Gills: Attached to the stem, mottled brown with whitish edges, but will stain black if damaged.
Stem: Thin, twisted, whitish to brownish, hollow when mature. Sometimes has a distinct ring-zone, but not a skirt-like ring. May have clumps of mycelium emerging from near the base.
Smell: Either odorless or flour-like.
Taste: Very bitter
Spore color: Purple-brown to purple-black.
Habitat: Likes coastal dunes with grass and woody debris, as well as sandy soil with woody debris generally or beds of wood-chips. Fruits in loose groups to tight clusters. Fruits from the autumn into early winter.
Range: Has been found growing wild in California, Oregon, and Washington.
Most of the differences between P. azurescens[ii] and P. cubensis[iii] are subtle. For example, the latter is usually slightly smaller and has a smooth cap, whereas P. azurescens has a striate cap. The clearest difference is the presence or absence of a stem ring. But since they do not share any part of their ranges and require very different substrate types, the two are unlikely to ever be mistaken for each other.
P. azurescens has several very close look-alikes within the Psilocybe genus. Differentiating these in the field would be difficult, except most don’t share the same range. But P. azurescens is a LBM (“little brown mushroom”), a large group of mostly-unrelated, nondescript mushrooms. It’s not that LBMs can’t be told apart, it’s that the forager must carefully attend to all of the details that make up mushroom identification—it’s people who think “well, this looks about right, I don’t need to take a spore-print” who are likely to make mistakes.
And mistakes could kill you, since one of the look-alikes is The Deadly Galerena (Galerina marginata), a very aptly-named mushroom. Worse, since The Deadly Galerina also feeds on wood, the two can grow together, sometimes even fruiting in mixed clumps. You could carefully identify nineteen out of twenty mushrooms in a clump as P. azurescens, harvest the twentieth also without checking, and then die because the twentieth was a Deadly Galerina.
It is absolutely imperative to rigorously check the identity of every single mushroom harvested for consumption.
In general, psilocybin (the primary psychoactive ingredient in Psilocybe mushrooms) alters mood, thought-pattern, and perception for about four to eight hours (longer trips are possible). There are also physical symptoms, most commonly nausea and excessive yawning.
Altered thought-pattern can include important personal and spiritual insight, though for these insights to have much to further personal growth it’s necessary to do a lot of work afterwards to integrate and understand the experience. A trip all by itself doesn’t make a person wise.
The mood alteration is curious in that psilocybin appears to exaggerate whatever was going on for the user anyway. If you’re in a safe, relaxing situation and feeling mellow and optimistic, the trip will likely be euphoric. Go into it tense or anxious, and the trip could become a nightmare.
Hallucinations will be absent at a microdose and subtle at light or moderate doses—for example, colors brighten and walls appear to breathe. Only at higher doses do the visions seriously depart from reality, and by that point the user’s thinking is much weirder than the visions are. Temporary loss of self is possible, something some users find terrifying, but others find enlightening.
Medically serious overdose is possible, but rare. Psilocybin is not risk-free, but it is one of the safest mind-altering substances known.
P. azurescens specifically is said to bring an unusually intense and very visual trip, though whether that’s because of a genuine difference in effect is unclear. It’s possible people just tend to take higher doses of this mushroom because it is so potent.
P. azurescens’ psilocybin content has been reported as 1.78% (presumably of dry weight). It also contains 0.38% psilocin (a substance that is converted to psilocybin in the body) and 0.35% baeocystin (another psychoactive substance). Those numbers are strikingly higher than even the upper range for the more familiar P. cubensis. Curiously, not only is the combined psilocybin/psilocin figure much higher, but whereas P. cubensis has mostly psilocin, P. azurensis has mostly psilocybin, meaning it is less likely to lose potency in storage (psilocybin being chemically more stable).
However, it’s worth noting that mushrooms vary. P. cubensis can have a combined psilocybin/psilocin figure of anywhere from 0.51% to 1.72%. P. azurescens could vary just as much. It should be clear, then, that dosage recommendations are only starting points, especially as human sensitivity to these substances also varies. It’s important to always err on the side of taking too little, rather than too much.
We don’t have a recommended dosage for Psilocybe azurescens as a lot of it is up to the users discretion. If you want to try and find a dose that works for you, check out our general magic mushroom dosage guide. You can also try out our magic mushroom dosage calculator where you can choose between six dosage levels, including microdose and heroic dose.
Growing vs Buying Psilocybe azurescens
The standard methods used for growing magic mushrooms (PF Tek, Shoebox Tek, SGFC, Monotub Tek and so forth) tend not to work for P. azurescens because those methods were developed for P. cubensis (a subtropical/tropical dung-eater), a very different organism. P. azurescens is a temperate wood-eater. But it can be cultivated indoors or out.
Indoor grows have been successful using wood-chips in the refrigerator[iv]. Outdoor cultivation involves preparing and inoculating a bed and then leaving it alone, apart from occasional watering[v]. Either way, colonization time is measured in months. Fruiting time is likewise long.
It’s worth mentioning that people who don’t live in this species’ range should not grow it outdoors because of the risk it will escape into the wild. While P. azurescens is not known o be invasive, such things are almost impossible to predict, and once an introduced species starts causing problems in the environment, it’s too late to do much about it.
The question for a user who does not live in P. azurescens’ native range is whether to cultivate (indoors) or buy. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
Cultivating this species, while not the easiest thing to do, is still very low-cost on a per-gram basis, and has the advantage of privacy—there are many jurisdictions where possession of Psilocybe spores is legal because they don’t contain any psilocybin, so while the grower still breaks the law, no accomplice needs to know about it.
But that legal loophole doesn’t apply everywhere. In some places, growing presents the greater legal risk. In any case, not everybody wants a large supply of mushrooms.
For people who use mushrooms very rarely or who want to try a different kind every time, buying is going to be the better bet.
Toxicity, Safety & Side Effects
Psilocybin is, as noted, relatively safe but not risk-free. Plus there are dangers related to the law and the danger of misidentification.
In many jurisdictions across the world, psilocybin in any form is illegal, and penalties can be severe, even draconian. It’s important that anyone wishing to use any kind of shroom clearly understand the law in their area.
As noted, mistaking a poisonous mushroom for a Psilocybe could lead directly to death. Not everyone who eats the Deadly Galerina dies, but most do, even with the best possible medical care. And since onset of symptoms is often delayed for a day or more, many people don’t realize the mushroom they ate could be the problem and therefore don’t get the care they need. Anyone who suspects they may have eaten a Deadly Galerina must go immediately to the nearest hospital with a sample of the offending mushroom if possible. Proper treatment depends on correct diagnosis. You have a chance of survival, so do not give up.
Psilocybe azurescens, as mentioned, carries a higher risk of confusion with Deadly Galerina than many Psilocybes because the two species both eat wood and therefore can grow together.
Side Effects and Overdoses
Psilocybin itself can sometimes have unpleasant or even dangerous effects. Most commonly, these include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and difficulty with coordination or balance. In rare cases, convulsions and even death have occurred. Children (who sometimes eat the mushrooms without knowing what they are) face an especially high risk of bad reactions. Problems become much more likely at higher doses, and a dose that is higher than the user is prepared for can also cause serious problems. It’s important to never trip alone and to always err on the side of taking too little rather than too much. Because P. azurescens is so potent, a slight miscalculation can easily make a big difference, making overdose more likely than for most other Psilocybes.
It’s worth noting that technically the entire effect of psilocybin is a form of poisoning, it’s just a form that many people like and that seldom causes any lasting damage. But someone who eats a psychoactive mushroom without intending to—someone who goes on a trip unwillingly—should be cared for as a victim of mushroom poisoning. They’ll be at risk for a very unpleasant time.
P. azurescens, like a few other Psilocybes, carries a special risk not yet seen with other psychoactive mushrooms. Wood-lovers’ paralysis[vi] is so called because it is seen with mushrooms that eat wood, however, it has not yet been formally researched, so nobody really knows what causes it. The association with wood could be a red herring, for all anyone knows.
Wood-lovers’ paralysis can involve full and complete immobilization, or just clumsiness and weakness, or anything in between. The muscles could be stiff, lax, or just hard to control. It is temporary, but extremely serious, since victims become unable to protect or help themselves.
Although psilocybin can cause problems with coordination, wood-lovers’ paralysis is thought to be a separate issue, since it can occur even at low doses. Also, it doesn’t seem to happen with most psilocybin-containing species, only those that eat wood—and mostly in Australia.
There are a few educated guesses as to the cause of wood-lovers’ paralysis, but it’s unclear which, if any, of them are right. Fortunately, the condition is very rare.