Flying saucer mushrooms go by several names. While you might not be sure how to pronounce their scientific name, psilocybe azurescens, you may have heard them referred to as Blue Angels, Indigo Psilocybe, or Azzies. And as far as psychedelic mushrooms go, flying saucer mushrooms have more psilocybin than other strains, making them a sought-after shroom. Here, we’ll talk more about how to identify these little brown mushrooms, where they’re found, their historical and medicinal use, and more.
Flying saucer mushrooms (psilocybe azurescens or p. azurescens) are psychedelic mushrooms, or magic mushrooms, containing psychoactive compounds that cause changes in a person’s brain receptors, influencing thought, mood, and perception. People report vision changes, like experiencing colors more vividly or similar experiences.
You might have heard about the psilocybin in mushrooms being responsible for such changes, but that’s only part of the equation. In the course of digestion, our body breaks down the psilocybin into psilocin, which is what creates the “high” that psilocybin mushrooms produce. Baeocystin likely plays a role, too, but researchers are still learning more (1). Famed mycologist Paul Stamets is credited with the discovery of flying saucer mushrooms. He was the first to identify and name psilocybe azurescens after his son Azureus.
Flying saucer mushrooms are one of the most potent psychedelic mushroom species compared to other psychedelic shrooms. An article by Michael Pollan featured in The Atlantic in 2018 detailed a trip he and Stamets took to the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington State to go mushroom hunting specifically for psilocybe azurescens (2). The published story may have created a more significant trend and piqued the interest of those curious about foraging for psychedelic mushrooms, especially years later during the pandemic (3). Stamets even joked in the article that Winnebagos are one of the best indicators for flying saucer mushrooms.
Psst: There are other varieties of magic mushrooms you may be familiar with, such as psilocybe cubensis (p. cubensis), psilocybe cyanescens, psilocybe subaeruginosa, and psilocybe semilanceata.
While flying saucer mushrooms have a distinct appearance, it’s essential to consult a professional when identifying whether they are psychedelic, functional, or something else. For example, Galerina mushrooms include several species of small to medium brown mushrooms. Depending on which growing stage a mushroom is in, it can be tricky telling the non-toxic look-alikes apart from the dangerous ones. Choosing the wrong mushroom in the Galerina family can cause fatal organ damage (4).
Flying saucer mushrooms do look similar to their namesake. They can range from caramel to chestnut brown with a white stem (sometimes called a stipe). Psilocybe azurescens are also hygrophanous, which means they turn blue when bruised. The lamellae (a fancy word for mushroom gills) can be purplish brown to black with white edges and will discolor to a dark shade of blue. Look for its characteristic umbo, a raised area in the center of the mushroom cap, or pileus to round out a preliminary identification (5).
The laws around psychedelic mushrooms are clear and straightforward in some instances, and not so much in others.
The Psychotropic Substances Act of 1978 was established to regulate the production, distribution, and use of substances that could alter a person’s mind or behavior (6). Like cannabis, psychedelic mushrooms fall into this category, making them illegal per this legislation. Remember that alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine count as psychotropic substances too.
The good news is that the laws around psychedelics are changing. Two states, Colorado and Oregon, have legalized and/or decriminalized their use altogether. Some cities around the country have moved to decriminalize their use as well, and several states are having ongoing discussions around legalization.
That said, there are still many states where flying saucer mushrooms and other psychedelics are wholly illegal, so it’s always a good idea to be aware of the laws in your area.
While there are theories on how long humans have been using magic mushrooms, we only have fragments detailing our relationship with them. We do know that at least a handful of ancient societies worked with psychedelics, and they became a sacred part of their culture.
In Central America, the Mayan and Aztecs referred to psilocybin as the “flesh of the gods.” Ancient Siberian shamans used several different mushrooms. One of their traditions involved sipping on the urine of reindeer who regularly ate Amanita Muscaria. Ancient Greeks also imbibed a brew consisting of ergot fungus and psychedelics called kykeon. While this Greek ritual was open to people of all classes, Ancient Egyptians reserved their psychedelic mushroom consumption for the upper classes (7).
While this may not be specific to flying saucer mushrooms, increasing evidence and research is being conducted around the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic mushrooms. An example is the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research (8). Here are some of their findings:
Research is ongoing. With continued funding for psilocybin mushroom research, there are even more opportunities to discover how we can benefit from one of nature’s most sacred gifts.
Psst: There is a potential side effect of flying saucer mushrooms you may not expect. Some species of psychedelic mushrooms can cause temporary paralysis when consumed. It can range from numbness to loss of motor control and even severe paralysis (9).
Flying saucer mushrooms are native to the West Coast of the United States and as such, can be found in California, Oregon, Washington State, and up into British Columbia. While the Pacific Northwest is an ideal environment, flying saucer mushrooms are found in New Zealand too.
There’s a story about Boy Scouts stumbling across flying saucer mushrooms on a camping trip to the Columbia River. While we won’t dive into whether or not that’s true, it’s a solid clue as to where you’re most likely to find these psychedelic mushrooms.
These are hardy little mushrooms; you may find them in late September and early January. The coastal dunes of the West Coast, with its sandy soils and dune grasses, are where flying saucer mushrooms prefer to be. It’s also right at home on mulch like deciduous wood chips.
Before we dive into the ethical wildcrafting of flying saucer mushrooms, it’s important to note the difference between forging and the ethical wildcrafting of resources. Forging is a popular term used to describe collecting wild food resources in nature. And while similar, wildcrafting is harvesting local resources for medicinal needs.
Lots of edible plants and fungi have both medicinal and culinary purposes. Just the same, it’s wise to be sure about what you’re picking before harvesting. Proper identification ensures your safety and the safety of the environment you’re harvesting from.
Because here’s the thing about ethical wildcrafting: it requires careful consideration of the local environment and immense gratitude for nature’s gifts. Over-harvesting has impacted delicate ecosystems, making it even more essential to know where and how we gather plant resources.
Careless harvesting of mushrooms can damage the mycelium, an intelligent and highly sophisticated network of thread-like filaments that grow in the soil or substrate and absorb nutrients. The mycelium also supports the fruiting body, which you see above ground, like the stem and cap (10).
Take the time to familiarize yourself with any endangered or at-risk plant species in your area. And be mindful of the legalities involved in wildcrafting or foraging. Double-check which areas are authorized, and be sure to get permission if you’re harvesting on private property. Consider making a spore print from the mushrooms you harvest.
A spore print is a handy tool for identifying mushrooms or cultivating your own after you’ve collected your mushrooms. After you’ve removed the stems, set your mushroom caps on a piece of paper under a jar. Leave them for several hours or overnight. Spore prints are delicate, so remove the jar from your mushrooms and keep them in a safe and protected place.
Another alternative to wildcrafting flying saucer mushrooms is to grow your own. You can purchase mushroom spores online—which are legal in most states as they don’t contain psilocybin, but do check to see if they’re legal where you live—and use a grow kit to cultivate your own. Think of spore prints as the mushroom version of seed saving (11). Also, keep in mind that only a few areas in the country have decriminalized the possession and use of psychedelic mushrooms.
Suppose you’re going to experiment with consuming flying saucer mushrooms. In that case, you have a few options as to how you can enjoy them.
Psst: There are a lot of factors that figure into an experience of consuming mushrooms. The age of the mushrooms, and how and where they were grown, can all have an impact on someone’s experience. A person’s individual characteristics can factor in, too, such as height, weight, and what mushrooms are consumed.
These uncommon little shrooms offer more than your average psychedelic mushroom experience. While there’s encouraging research demonstrating the benefits of magic mushrooms, it’s important to remember the side effects flying saucer mushrooms can have. We strongly encourage you to mindfully wildcraft and consult a pro when it comes to identifying your mushrooms. Or, better yet, consider cultivating your own while keeping up with the latest changes to the legalities around psychedelics.
To learn more about other types of mushrooms and get the latest news and discoveries, make sure to keep up with us on shroomer.