Want to learn how to identify parts of a mushroom?
We spend slabs of blog space discussing shroom types, chemistry, and uses, but not as much on the components that make up the magnificent organism. So today, we’re going down that road.
Studying the mushroom deepened our appreciation of its microscopic properties, and we hope you share our experience. Plus, taxonomists find classification much easier with this knowledge under their belts.
What parts of magic mushrooms have psilocybin? How do they look?
Join us for a short biology lesson on shroom morphology, functions, and applications.
Magic mushrooms (nicknamed shrooms) are a class of wild and cultivated fungi containing the hallucinogenic compound psilocybin. This category includes several fungus families, but we bunch them together for their capability to cause a psychedelic experience.
Most shrooms come from the Psilocybe genus, and you can’t learn much from their appearance alone. These fungi look like many other species, with slender gray stems and brown caps. When dried, they’re a rusty brown with off-white spots.
What parts of a magic mushroom can help you identify one? Popular strains often exhibit these tell-tale traits:
These markers aren’t exclusive to psilocybin fungi, though. The most potent part of a magic mushroom may easily resemble an everyday supermarket aisle item.
We’ve mentioned several parts of a magic mushroom used by enthusiasts to differentiate between species. Let’s dig a bit deeper.
According to scientists, a prototypical shroom has seven primary elements. We can divide them into two categories—the large underground section and the above-ground fruit to pick and study.
Specifics vary from strain to strain, but these seven parts let you hold an informed conversation with an expert mycologist—or start turning into one.
The fruiting body is the fungus section we can observe above the soil surface. Also known as a sporophore, this area is fleshy, sometimes edible, and in our case, packed with psilocybin.
So, if you’re wondering what part of magic mushrooms has psychedelic abilities, you’re mostly looking at its body. In nature, the purpose is to produce and distribute spores, enabling further fungus reproduction.
The cap is the uppermost section of any mushroom, giving the fungus its umbrella shape. Its technical name is pileus.
It stands on top of the stem and can be flat, curved, or convex. The cap serves as a gill shelter, and it typically has a different texture than the rest of the fungus.
Caps come in a wide range of colors and textures, varying by species and the life stage. As you know by now, this part of a magic mushroom is usually golden brown when dried.
This section typically houses the fruiting body’s spore-producing surface. The most potent part of magic mushrooms hides just beneath the cap!
What part of magic mushrooms contains hallucinogens? The spores. Where can we find the spores? In the gills. Sometimes called a pore (or lamellae in Latin), the gills are where the magic happens.
This line-like, symmetrical, and paper-thin portion sits directly below the cap, hanging from its underside. Gills come in various colors and have distinct features that make it easier to identify the species—like the purple-brown print we mentioned earlier.
Gills house the spore-producing machinery and release cells into the air to create new fungi. Alternatively, we collect and pack them for your pleasure.
The stem—stipe in scientific terms—is the second most potent part of a magic mushroom and its central structural element.
The stem is a long, stalk-like protrusion that pokes from the ground, suspending the cap and gills in the air. It can be short and squat or long and curvy, depending on the size and shape of your shroom.
The other function of the stem is to aid spore dispersal. Its height allows the wind and passing animals to scatter the spores into the surroundings; its shape speaks volumes about the fungi’s original environment.
Its form and texture also help us pinpoint the species. For instance, when looking at parts of a magic mushroom, their stems are generally long and thin.
The ring is a part of a magic mushroom on the stem just below the cap. It has a developmental role, protecting the gills of a baby fungus.
Young shrooms have a partial veil—a thin piece of tissue over the gills. The cap grows as the mushroom matures, so the cover ruptures. What remains is a thin tissue ring around the stem.
Rings vary in shape and size, from prominent thick ones to slim cobweb structures. They’re usually thin and airy on magic fungi.
The volva is the part of a magic mushroom that protects it during its young days. It’s unnecessary for most domesticated species and present in rare specimens of this category.
The volva grows at the base of the stem and breaks as the shroom stretches. What’s left is a spherical or bulbous cup at the bottom.
This element is essential for identifying fungi in the wild because they’re the most common in poisonous species. Some rare strains of shrooms, like Amanita muscaria, also exhibit a volva.
Although hidden, the thallus is a vital part of a magic mushroom.
After all, humans and fungi have different relationships to the fruiting body. While we find it tasty, fun, and enthralling, the mushroom treats this section as an element to discard at the end of the growing season. Most of its energy goes to developing the intricate underground system.
The thallus persists for years and allows the species to continue spreading. It consists of two elements.
The mycelium is a vegetative, non-productive part of a magic mushroom. It remains below the surface, collecting and providing nutrition to the fruiting body.
The easiest way to understand mycelium is by comparing it to plant roots. It spreads inside the soil, extending to gather water and nutrients. It also benefits all surrounding plants, feeding the soil and encouraging a rich microbial life.
When mycelium is young, we can make out its structural elements—hyphae.
A hypha is a long, branching structure of tiny, thread-like tubes. Think of it as a predecessor to proper plant roots.
When enough of these filaments develop, they make up the mycelium, connect the body to the soil, and gather nutrition.
You’ll notice that we didn’t include spores in the shroom structure, and we have our reasons.
Think about it—would you consider a seed as a plant element? It’s the same story with spores. Rather than seeing them as a part of a magic mushroom, we consider them its foundation.
Spores are reproductive cells produced in the gills to propagate the species. The fungus releases them into the atmosphere at the season end, traveling through the environment until they catch an acceptable growth surface.
A single spore is enough to form a new fungus. It starts with the hyphae and works its way up until there’s another fruiting body ready to burst.
What part of magic mushrooms contains hallucinogens? Psilocybin manifests in caps and stems, while the other elements maintain their structural integrity. Psychonauts may use both to have a hallucinogenic experience.
Which part of the magic mushroom is the strongest, though? The answer depends on who you ask.
The debate of ‘caps vs. stems’ has been raging in the community. However you slice it, shrooms are bound to contain some psilocybin. Recent research yielded tentative evidence to resolve the issue.
Existing data suggest the caps have the edge over stems regarding potency, but the difference is very slight.
Knowing the parts of a magic mushroom deepens your taxonomy knowledge and helps you identify species in the wild. It may even encourage or contribute to your microscopy efforts.
Understanding the exterior only makes the interior seem more exciting for taxonomists and mycologists alike. If this is your first encounter with the fungus, this guide sets the stage for deeper study. Now’s the time to zero in on microscopy.
Visit our online store to continue exploring these psilocybin powerhouses. Get authentic, 100% viable, high-quality spore syringes and start your shroom journey today.
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.