Psilocybe semilanceata lookalikes

John Uncategorized 51 Comments

[Photo by Colin David Chatfield]

Don’t hurt yourself by blindly hunting your “Liberty Caps”. Know your lookalikes.

Don’t let it deter you from enjoying some of nature’s greatest, most beautiful of gifts. This post will act as a visual comparison guide to Psilocybe semilanceata and some of  its lookalikes.

Psilocybe semilanceata

[Photo by Alan Rockefeller]

Get a good look. This iconic mushroom is also the type species (the species that represents the whole genus)  for Psilocybe. 

Notice the conical shape and smaller stature. The caps don’t normally get bigger than an inch in diameter.

Things to look for:

  • Conical shaped cap
  • Hygrophanous cap (turning pale after drying
  • Purple brown spores
  • Prominent nipple in the center (umbo)

[Photo by Anglerfish]

The “Liberty Cap” is named after its prominent and obvious umbo (the nipple in the center of the cap) which resembles the Phyrigian cap worn by freed slaves in ancient Rome.

The connections to the words ‘Freedom’ and ‘Liberty’ with this mushroom are hard to ignore. 

[Photo by Caleb Brown]

Here you can see the gills sporulating and falling downward. We can tell because of the purple-brown staining happening around the annuluar zone on the stipe.

This is simultaneously confirming the correct spore color for the “Liberty Cap” as well as displaying common feature of this mushroom.

The gills will be somewhat crowded and turn from pale to purple-brown in old age. The gill attachment to the stem can be called adnexed, or rather a very light attachemnt.

[Ryan Lennon Mac Fhiachrá]

Another prominent feature of P. semilanceata is how the margins of the cap becomes stained dark with released spores as shown in this photo.

Becoming intimate with the many features of the mushroom that you’re looking for is KEY. 

Now that we’re familiar with the Liberty cap, let’s get on with the lookalikes.

Conocybe apala

[Photo by Eva Skific (Evica)]

I’m sure you’ve come across this showstopper (that was a joke) if you’ve ever walked in grass that’s been somewhat moisturized.

Lacking nutrients and toxins, this frail thing seems to have only been placed here to resemble your “Liberty Caps”and nothing more.

What to notice in this lookalike:

  • Brownish-red spores
  • Extremely frail
  • Not hygraphanous. Cap is always a pale buff color

[Photo by Eva Skific (Evica)]

C. apala will snap in your hand after the slightest amount of pressure is applied unlike P. semilanceata.

Its spores are brown to reddish-brown. If you take a spore print, and you don’t at least see a little bit of purple, then proceed with the process of elimination.

Perhaps check to see if the cap bears a pellicle. Here’s a good video that shows you how to check for a pellicle.


[Photo by Eva Skific (Evica)]

As you will notice, C. apala's gills are quite different from the "Liberty Cap".

There is a chance that they can resembe the lighter colored gills of P. semilanceata in young age, but once the spores start to fall, it becomes obvious which is which.

Don't get frustrated when you stumble upon thousands of these. That's just the way they are.

Protostropharia semiglobata

[Photo by karode13]

Protostropharia-semiglobata is another mushroom that enjoys very nutrient rich substrates. 

You will likely find these growing in the same grassy fields where your”Liberty Caps” will be growing. Both species enjoy nutrient rich substrates. 

However, Protostropharia-semiglobata can be found growing directly off of dung whereas “Liberty Caps” will never grow directly from dung.

What you’ll find in this lookalike:

  • Caps are yellowish in young age
  • Stem tends to have a bulbous base
  • Spores are purple-black (Not purple-brown)

[Photo by Alternativejamb]

In this great side-by-side comparison, you can see the resemblance of the "Liberty Cap" to Protostropharia semiglobata

If taking a spore print doesn't clear it up for you, then move on to the next set of identifying features.


[Photo by kopeaus]

In the photo above, you can see the bulbous base that I mentioned earlier which you will not find in Psilocybe semilanceata.

You can also see in the photo the annular zone (which may be more apparent than Psilocybe semilanceata).

Oh yeah, this mushroom almost never has an obvious umbo so be sure to check that box off when comparing mushrooms.

    Pholiotina rugosa

    [Photo by Ryan Patrick (donjonson420)]

    • Deadly

    I decided this mushroom as the deadly lookalike to the liberty cap as opposed to Galerina marginata because the latter is normally found growing directly from wood. Though there is a chance G. marginata can appear to be growing terrestrially, it’s not very likely.

    After writing this though, I had a conversation with someone that said he finds G. marginata all over the place when hunting for “Liberty Caps”. 

    Better safe than sorry. Study both.

    Things to look for:

    • Annulus (BIG giveaway. P. semilanceata doesn’t have an annulus)
    • Rusty brown spores
    • Hygrophanous (just like P. semilanceata)

    An easy way to tell if you’ve found P. semilanceata or Pholiotina rugosa, is to pay attention to the annular zone on the stipe.

    P. semilanceata will never have a protruding annulus. It MAY have an annular zone stained dark purple- brown from spores.

    Pholiotina rugosa’s annulus is a dead giveaway that you’ve found a lookalike unless, you happen to find one that looks like the photo below.

    [Photo by Thomas Laxton (Tao)]

    Pholiotina rugosa is hygrophanous just like the majority of Psilocybes. You can see the pale buff color that the cap turns into after drying out a bit. 

    You can also see around the annular zone, a less apparent annulus. 

    Perhaps it fell off, or perhaps just didn't get very big. Make sure to be VERY vigilant as this one is quite deadly.

    It indeed contains the same toxins that you can find in the deadly Amanita genus like Amanita phalloides and Amanita bisporigera.

    [Photo by Tim Sage (T. Sage)]

    The gills are extremely similar to Psilocybe semilanceata in that they are both adnate to adnexed (which means there's either a slight attachment to a more broad attachment to the stem).

    You can tell the difference by comparing older specimens to each other.  The gills should be colored a lighter brown/rusty color in Pholiotina rugosa as compared to a darker purple color in an older specimen of Liberty Cap" based on their respective spore colors.

    Like I mentioned earlier, becoming INTIMATELY familiar with your desired mushroom is KEY to determining the species. 

    Hopefully after reading this you've already started learning some of the more subtle features of Psilocybe semilanceata and can be more confident when hunting out in the field.

    Leave me a comment below if I missed something, or if I made an error!

    Comments 51

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            Yes. While sometimes it may appear purple-black, most people observe purple-brown. This doesn’t mean that purple-black is impossible. Just keep comparing features and match up as many as possible.

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              Lots of fungi (including Psilocybes) have nipples, also called the umbo. It is just particularly prominent in the Liberty Caps.

      1. Initially the info on Psilocybe was my goal, and I felt good about the clarification on how to identify it. Then , with the “look-alikes”, I got somewhat confused. Just more to learn I guess.

    1. I would like to receive more information on liberty caps. I also have some pictures of mushrooms maybe you can help me identify?

    2. Hi there I’m looking into the beautiful world of fungi this season and believe I may have stumbled upon liberty caps. Although your comparison guide is certainly detailed enough, I find myself to nervous to confirm myself. If I sent a couple of photos to you would you be able to assist in the i.d? Many kind regards

      1. I live in North Alabama and have been finding slot of mushrooms this year! Still not to sure of myself won’t eat any unless absolutely sure of what I have but have taken pictures am sure most are not but still need to know so I’m not waisting time and could be looking for the right ones.Thanks

      1. I got some growing in my mulch thst look exactly like the libcap. The print is more blackish and its very fragile. Itz cap bruises dark but i not sure id say blue. I need help

    3. Thank you very much. Most helpful info I’ve found in weeks of double checking myself this fall when I’m strong hunting.

    4. Thank you very much. Most helpful info I’ve found in weeks of double checking myself this fall when I’m shroom hunting.

    5. Haven’t foraged semilanceatas yet, but I feel much more confident now! Here’s to mycophilia (using applied knowledge of course, thanks for sharing knowledge with us)!

    6. Hi John

      Great info, thanks. I would like to get help with identying mushroooms found in my garden. Are they edible etc.

      Can you please email me so I can send some pics.

      Many thanks


    7. It would save me (probably not alone) a lot of time if the scientific terminology was explained. Thank you for the information.

    8. A great read and very interesting as it will be my first hunt at the weekend and I certainly don’t want a bad experience with the wrong type of mushroom.

    9. Good evening John,
      Well it is evening for me here in NW Washington State hence the greeting. I read your article or blog, which ever this is, and since then I have been looking at the mushrooms in my lawn. As far as I can tell they are not liberty caps but they are kind of close and they could fool someone who is inexperienced at identifying mushrooms. I am wondering if I took photos of them where they are growing and on a sheet of paper if you would be willing to add them to your list of fakes to watch out for. I can take photographs of them with a ruler and do a spore print so others know what to watch out for. I did a spore print of the one I thought is the closest but the spores are quite dark which just lead to confusion for me. If this is something that you would be interested in doing then please let me know. I would rather that everyone be safe instead of sorry which is the topic of this article/blog. Thank you for your consideration.

    10. Thank you for this great article, it was very enlightening. Could you compile a more inclusive list of Psilocybin mushrooms and their look alikes? There have been several people injured from look alikes. We live in the Pacific northwest and have several types that have dangerous look-alikes.

      I appreciate your blog and hope you could add a more inclusive blog with this same format! Thanks.

    11. I’ve just been down local meadow and 300 y old common land I found two fully grown liberty I think the caps did not have the usual liberty but both were bruised light blue

    12. Hello,
      thanks so much for your guide, I’ve notice that in every sosias is almost completely absent the protuberance in nipple shape if I’m not wrong. May it be this the main and more evident point on which make focused

    13. What are the yellowish gold with the bulbous bottom that have a purple black gills I would like to know because I ate a couple about a month ago and didn’t feel sick or any thing and they looked exactly like that it is the fourth picture from the bottom

    14. My question is in regards to concybe ala(sp?) Sometimes have a very prominent nipple cap? Are there other lookalikes that do and otherwise closely resemble concybe/liberty….it has classic liberty cap nipple but is growing in a grassy lawn too far south I believe though it had been a cool spring for area.

      1. Post


        The technical name for the “nipple” is the “umbo”. We call a mushroom with a nipple “umbonate” and there are in fact lots of species that display one. That’s why you shouldn’t only use ONE identifying feature and instead try to match as many characteristics as possible. If you have a picture of a suspect species, you can email me at

        1. Hi John, great post. I picked some mushrooms today but now I am doubting their validity of being a liberty cap (its my first time); would you mind if I emailed you a pic? Many thanks.

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    15. I got some soil that supposedly comes from the forest in Oregon and these popping up started. They may be too young to ID.

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    16. I think what trips me up most is how nature has variations and if you are a beginner it’s more learning about the smallest little details to look out for

    17. Thanks for your excellent article. It has helped me identify some Protostropharia semiglobata which I have been unsure about for some time. Compared with Psilocybe semilanceata, my Protostropharia semiglobata lookalikes seem to have bigger flatter/rounder & yellower caps that dry out with a lighter/orangey wrinkle-like structure, and to appear earlier in the season. The bulbous base of the stem is very clear. Given the strong resemblance to Psilocybe semilanceata and common occurrence, I’m relieved to see no mention of Protostropharia semiglobata toxicity. Thanks again

    18. I am looking to some some mushrooms identified, they are growing on the lawn in our back garden and we have dogs and grandchildren, I really dont want the kids picking them and going on a trip!! Good or bad, if you can assist me that would be great.
      Thank you.

    19. I have found a growing patch of liberty caps that is nearly endless all perfect growing conditions . They must be libz I’d like someone to tell me what they see? Can I show a picture of my 50% dried out libz

    20. If you somehow accidentally swallowed one small cap of pholiatina Rugosa would that be enough to kill a person? Are there any other semilanteacea lookalikes with purple brown to purple black spores that are toxic or that may belong to the psilocybe family?

      1. Post

        If you may have ingested one cap, it may not be enough to kill you, but you should still go to the hospital right away. The Psilocybe genus has no deadly members.

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