EncyclopediaLiberty caps (Psilocybe semilanceata)
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Liberty caps (Psilocybe semilanceata) - Encyclopedia

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Liberty caps (Psilocybe semilanceata)


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. Other names are `kaalkopje' (Dutch), Spitzkegeliger Kahlkopf (German) psilocybe lancéolé (French) or just `psilo'.

The history of Liberty caps

The use of magic mushrooms during ceremonies was common in ancient civilisations. Terrence McKenna, writer of Food of the Gods, even claims that mushroom ceremonies have contributed to the development of human consciousness itself.

Liberty caps

The fly agaric, the Mexican and Hawaiian mushroom can all be found in descriptions and centuries old drawings. Strangely there is no evidence which shows that Liberty caps were used during ceremonies in Europe. Although witches did use Jimson weed or Devil's snare to be able to 'fly'. The fly ageric was also regularly used during secret ceremonies. Both fly ageric and Jimson weed are not the most pleasurable for tripping. After digesting these substances one often enters a strange but also frightening world. Both hallucinogenics are relatively toxic. For this reason it is fairly strange that no evidence exists of Liberty cap use in Europe, because these are so much more pleasant compared to the fly ageric and Jimson weed.

The psycho-activity of Liberty caps was recorded for the first time in 1799. This happened in London. A family had picked the mushrooms in Green park and afterwards processed them in food. According to chemist August Everard Brande the father and his four children had enlarged pupils. Moreover they underwent spontaneous attacks of merriment. Eventually they entered a state of delirium.

The Liberty cap was named for the first time in 1838. Elias Magnus Fries named the mushroom Agaricus semilanceatus. After this a number of names were given by different mycologists, eventually ending up with Psilocybe semilanceata.

In 1960 Albert Hoffman determined that psilocybin was responsible for the mind-altering effect. Only in the 1970s people started to use this mushroom as a tripping substance.


Unfortunately Liberty caps cannot be sold at smartshops for some years now. In The Netherlands the trade in psychedelic mushrooms has been prohibited since December 1, 2008. Sometime before the prohibition of mushrooms Liberty caps were unavailable at smartshops. Dried mushrooms were outlawed before fresh specimen. As Liberty caps cannot be grown, you could only buy them in dried form. That is the reason smartshops did not offer them long before they were outlawed. Picking and possession of a small quantity for personal use however is not prohibited. Only the trade has been prohibited.

Prohibition of the trade in psychedelic mushrooms came about as a result of a couple of accidents with tourists in Amsterdam who had consumed mushrooms. One incident ended dramatically when a French girl under the influence of mushrooms jumped off a roof and died. This incident gave the government an excuse to outlaw mushrooms.

The CAM (Coordination point Assessment and monitoring of new drugs) however did classify psychoactive mushrooms as a substance with a low risk. For this reason the government's decision to prohibit psychedelic mushrooms is regrettable. Indeed, one can learn a lot from a trip. Of course every death is one too many, but alcohol in comparison is responsible for many more.

Biochemical background

The substance psilocybin in Liberty caps makes you trip. The chemical name for this component is 4-hydroxy-N. Another name is 4-HO-DMT. The substance is related to DMT, the active substance in ayahuasca. Unfortunately psilocybin is not stable. This means that when the substance comes into contact with oxygen it starts to oxidise. Therefore you cannot keep it in a solution for a long time. As a consequence you must swiftly drink tea made of mushrooms. Psilocybin in itself is not psychoactive. It first must be converted into psilocin by the body. It is psilocin which attaches itself to certain receptors in the brain as a result of which you will trip.

The time for finding Liberty caps

They grow in autumn from September till December. Liberty caps need moisture to spawn and they die at first night frost. That why you have the biggest chance of finding them in October.


Liberty caps grow in grass countries and especially on somewhat wetter lands. In the western part of the country they are found less frequently than in the eastern part. Nevertheless they can be found in the west especially in dunes or old farmland. These in the past were moored to grow carrots, strawberries and potatoes. Often parts of the land where dug off up to the wet foundation. Many of these fields in the course of time fell out of use, as a result of which they rapidly overgrew with stuffy pieces of grass. In order to prevent these areas of becoming inaccessible, grazing animals were put on the fields. Sometimes the nutritious soil was dug off. In this way space was created for pastures with low grass. This is the ideal spot for the growth of Liberty caps.

When the use of grassy grounds grew in the east the number of Liberty caps decreased for some time. With the use of large grazers and an increase in the number of grass lands the number of Liberty caps is currently growing. They grow especially well on horse manure. Previously they were placed on the red list, but these days this is no longer necessary.

Liberty caps in grass

Types of Liberty caps

Many people do not know that three types of Liberty caps can be found in The Netherlands. The pointy Liberty cap (Psilocybe semilanceata) is the best known. These can be found in the eastern part of the country. Almost all information on the Internet about Liberty caps concerns this type.

However in the west one often encounters the Stropharia fimetaria (Psilocybe fimetaria) . Besides some European countries this mushroom is only found in New Zealand. Then there is Psilocybe liniformans. These are very rare and almost only occur in the Netherlands where they are called slijmrandkaalkopje.

Psilocybe liniformans is distinguished by a slimy border exactly under the lamella. This border can be pulled off like a rubber band. Psilocybe fimetaria on the other hand has more of a blue base than other Liberty caps. The pointy Liberty cap, as the name implies, has a sharp cap.

Growing Liberty caps yourself

It is very difficult, indeed almost impossible, to grow Liberty caps. This has to do with the fact that these mushrooms feed themselves with putrescent grass roots. The ideal environment of Liberty caps is therefore difficult to imitate. Hence it is easier to search for them.

Effect of Liberty caps

They contain the same psychoactive substance as Mexican and Hawaiian mushrooms. Even so Liberty caps have another effect. You could compare the difference in effect as the difference between wine and beer. The beverages contain alcohol yet one becomes drunk in a different way from both. This is the result of wine or beer containing different substances which give the alcohol another effect. In the same way there is also a difference in effect if you compare Liberty caps with other mushrooms containing psilocybin.

Liberty caps are considered to be very friendly mushrooms. They are also very social mushrooms. In other words when you use them you become empathic, you will chat a lot and frequently become joyful. Sometimes there are bouts of uncontrolled laughter. In general Liberty caps do not result in strong hallucinations, such as Hawaiian mushrooms can produce. However, they can lead to deeper insights.

What you must know when picking Liberty caps

It is frequently claimed that it is dangerous to pick and eat mushrooms. This is an exaggeration. There are indeed a number of very toxic mushrooms, but that also applies to berries and people dare to pick and eat them. When you go pick Liberty caps you must know that there are some toxic mushrooms which look like Liberty caps. But the degree of toxicity of these lookalikes is small. Should you pick a toxic type that looks like a Liberty cap you probably will nauseous and in the worst case throw up.

Make sure to keep an extra mushroom. Should you suddenly get sick you can show the mushroom to the medic so it is possible for her to intervene more effectively.

It also is wise to deepen your knowledge of determination. An explanation will follow bellow on which characteristics you must pay attention to. You can also make a photograph and place it on a mushroom determination group on Facebook. Others will gladly help your with determination.

Liberty caps in hand

How to recognise Liberty caps?

You find them on grassy peats and clay grounds, such as old clay dikes or dug up farmland. This ground is barren or lightly fertilized. If you find a mushroom on another spot, for example in a forest or on a tree, then it will certainly be no Liberty cap.

They have a conical hat with pointed blotch. These have an average section of 5 up to 15 mm and are 6 to 13 mm high. When fresh they are olive green to greyish brown. If you let them dry they change into straw yellow or ochre. The spores are black to purple-brown. The lamellae are pale brown-grey to violet-brown. The stem is 5 up to 9 cm long with a section of approximately 1 up to 2 mm.

The colour of the stem is whitish or cream. The base sometimes has a blue-green tint. The flesh of the cap is grey brown or beige. They have a mild taste and smell a bit like radish. They have a striking transparent slimy coat which you can pull off with tweezers.

When you bend or snap them a little, a blue discolouring will be seen. If you see this colour you will know with certainty that you deal with Liberty caps. This colour appears because psilocybin oxidises when contacting air. Other mushrooms do not contain this substance and as a result do show the same discolouring.

Use of Liberty caps

For a good effect you should take the Liberty caps on an empty stomach. You can chew the mushrooms and swallow them afterwards. The longer you chew, the better the psychoactive substances are absorbed by your body. Sadly it doesn't taste too well.

For this reason you can also choose to make mushroom tea. Cut them into little pieces and steep them in hot water. It is important that the water does not boil, because this breaks down the psilocybin. You could put the teapot on a hot plate to let it steep as slowly as possible. Drink the tea, including the bits of mushroom.

If you add some lemon juice to the mushroom tea, the psilocybin in the water is converted into psilocin. As stated above, it is psilocin which is responsible for the psychedelic effect. Lemon juice therefore ensures that your trip starts faster. As an additional advantage you will suffer less stomach aches.

Liberty caps dosage

Grown mushrooms are fairly constant when it comes to strength. Liberty caps are only found in nature which means the strength varies. The potency depends on the moment you pick them. Because the psilocybin is only produced under the skin, smaller mushrooms will be stronger than bigger versions (if they weigh the same.) For this reason you should at first try ten to fifteen and see what the effect is. In this way you can discover the right dosage for your next trip. However, realize that it will take a few weeks before you will experience the optimal effect again. You should therefore dry the Liberty caps, so you can enjoy them for a longer period.

Side effects

The use of Liberty caps can result in stomach ache. As has been explained, this can partly be prevented by making mushroom tea and adding some lemon juice. Should you feel pain in your stomach, do not worry; generally it lasts for only half an hour. Furthermore you get slightly painful limbs. Your arms and legs will possibly feel heavier. If you take too much there is a chance you will get confused. In the worst case this results in a bad trip. But Liberty caps are really friendly compared to other mushrooms. Have you never tripped before? Then these are fine mushrooms to begin with.


If you suffer from depression or are susceptible to psychosis you should never use psychoactive substances without professional guidance. This certainly applies to psychedelics like Liberty caps. Also do not use them if you are pregnant. You can smoke cannabis during a mushroom trip, however, be aware that cannabis can intensify the effects of mushrooms considerably. Combining Liberty caps with other substances is not recommended.

In conclusion

Do you want to go out searching for this mysterious mushroom after reading this? Then an organised excursion to find Liberty caps is perhaps something for you. This way you increase the chance of encountering them and you won't make a mistake. Here you can read a news item on an Azarius employee who did such an excursion.

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