The Microbiology of Magic Mushrooms

Magic Mushrooms

What makes mushrooms so fascinating? Well, for starters, fungi are an ancient life form. And, in-depth research into their microbiology suggests that on a DNA level, they share certain common elements with humans. 

There are roughly 148,000 species of known fungi, each with unique qualities to discover. Only a handful have hallucinogenic properties. These are commonly referred to as “magic mushrooms.” 

It’s interesting to note that the magic mushrooms as we know them in today’s culture aren’t the only species of fungi that contain these hallucinogenic compounds. Some, more obscure species, contain trace amounts of these same chemicals as well. Further adding to the mystery that is mushrooms.

It’s these intriguing facts that lure people into the world of mycology, the study of fungi. It’s a branch of the microbiology field where curious minds can delve deeper into the world of mushrooms. 

Below, we uncover detailed information about magic mushrooms. Let’s kick things off by understanding them a bit better. 

Understanding Magic Mushrooms 

What are magic mushrooms? Like the rest of their species, they’re naturally occurring and the sporocarp (fruiting body) of higher fungi. They shoot out from a root-like supporting network called mycelium. 

The network is made up of filament fibers called hyphae, and it’s typically underground or below the substrate. The fruiting body or mushroom is only a tiny part of the fungi. 

What separates these mushrooms from the type you get in the grocery store is the compounds they contain. Let’s take a closer look at these fungi’s structure, effects, and chemical composition. 


Mushroom Structure 

The physical attributes differ among mushrooms, but certain parts are common in most species: 

  • Pileus: The cap-like part that supports the spore-bearing surface. These can take various shapes and even structure changes as the fungus transitions through developmental stages. The most common structures are convex and flat ones. 
  • Stipus: The stalk that holds up the cap.
  • Volva: Also known as the universal veil, this cup houses the immature fruiting body, and the mushroom sprouts from this structure. 
  • Annulus: A ring of tissue below the cap’s gills is commonly called the partial veil.
  • Lamellae (gills): These are the thin ribbon-like projections at the underside of the pileus. In some cases, this is the site of spore production. 
  • Mycelium: The fungal hyphae is a mass of fibers that spreads to collect nutrients.

mushrooms perched on a log

Mycology enthusiasts can identify most of these parts with the naked eye. However, an in-depth study of mycelium and spores requires a microscope. This is where microbiology comes into play.

Fungal spores are little particles. They’re the reproductive elements of the mushroom that the fruiting body releases. They spread by wind or other methods until they land on a suitable substrate to start forming mycelium. 

To accurately identify a species, mycologists need to observe its microscopic features. Common elements that they check include: 

  • The spore-producing tissue (hyphal tissue)
  • The spore cells’ shape and size
  • The spore color from a spore print


Magic Mushroom Effects 

These mushrooms contain psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance. We know from history and contemporary studies that these chemicals produce mind altering effects when ingested into the body. 

But how do these psychoactive experiences occur? 

Psilocin binds with the serotonin receptors in the brain, resulting in a hallucinogenic reaction. A number of factors can influence the type of experience one has, such as: 

  • Age 
  • Height 
  • Weight 
  • Personality
  • Mental state
  • Emotional state 

Although each individual had a different experience, common effects include: 

  • Striking visuals with warped images 
  • Seeing repeating shapes and colors 
  • A change in sound perception
  • Emotional variations
  • Distortions in time perception 

Let’s take a closer look at the chemicals that induce these sensations.

Magic mushroom graphic artwork


Chemical Composition 

Fungi are pretty complex. They contain multiple compounds. Some induce certain effects while others don’t. 

Psilocybin and Psilocin 

Psilocybin is a psychoactive alkaloid present in several species of mushrooms. Before it can induce the hallucinogenic reactions it’s famed for, it needs to metabolize into psilocin first. 

In this form, the chemical is more straightforward for the body to absorb. Its structure is similar to the serotonin receptors to which it binds. Psilocybin mainly impacts the noradrenergic system without really affecting the dopamine receptors. 

Nor Psilocin 

Derived from psilocybin, researchers believe that this compound is a potent dephosphorylated form of baeocystin. It was only discovered in 2017 and required further study to reveal its impact on the body. 


Like nor psilocin, this chemical also requires further study. Getting the compound in its pure form is challenging, which is a significant hindrance to understanding it better. 

Current research suggests that baeocystin has psychoactive effects. Some reports assert that it may be equally as potent as psilocybin.

Nor Baeocystin

This chemical is a minor compound present in most magic mushrooms. It’s a derivative of baeocystin and also 4-hydroxytryptamine. 

Some believe that norbaeocystin may have therapeutic properties that don’t have a psychedelic impact, but this is unconfirmed. There are also reports that the compound may be an intermediary in the biosynthesis of psilocybin in the body. 


The chemical structure of this compound is similar to psilocybin. Evidence surrounding aeruginascin is limited, but its composition gives rise to the theory that it can’t travel from the blood to the brain. 

Researchers also believe that the compound first needs to be demethylated for metabolic activation in the body.


B-carbolines are present in certain species of mushrooms. Evidence suggests that these chemicals may enhance the sensations of the psychoactive experience. 


Magic Mushrooms in a Minute

Magic Mushrooms are fascinating, and the discoveries are even more impressive when you take a microscopic view. These fungi draw nutrients from decaying matter using their underground mycelium. 

Different species have variations in appearance but typically have a similar structure and chemical composition. The hallucinogenic reactions vary among individuals, and further research is required to fully untap their potential. 

If you’re interested in delving deeper into mushroom microbiology, consider ordering a mycological sample from our shop to learn more about these magnificent fungi.

All of the content and images on our site are for informational reference only. The cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is federally illegal in the United States. We do not promote the cultivation of psilocybin “magic” mushrooms under any circumstances. Do not contact us asking for advice related to this subject. Any products found on this site are for microscopy and taxonomy purposes only. None of the psilocybin mushroom spores we offer are for consumption or cultivation. We do not sell any products containing psilocybin.

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