Updated: Nov 7
Disclaimer: Psychedelics are largely illegal substances across the world, and we do not encourage or condone their use where it is against the law. However, we accept that illicit drug use occurs and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe. For that reason, this article is designed to enhance the safety of those who decide to use these substances. Psychedelics at the very least should be respected. For the best guidance, consider seeking out legal psychedelic therapy centres. Author: Resident Writer, Freya Astrella. Mushroom season is well and truly upon us. And if you’re like me, your social media feeds will be cluttered with pictures of glorious specimens and foragers’ hauls.
But if you’ve spent several hours bent over in random fields with nothing to show for it, I bet you’re feeling the #FOMO! Read on to finally find the mushrooms you’re looking for...
Of course, we’re talking about Liberty Caps – the tiny, charismatic fungi, affectionately called ‘witches tits’ in the eccentric corners of the alternative community. Both these names indicate what they look like, which is a bit like this:
A cheeky nipple on top (which is translucent when wet).
A wiggly light-coloured stem that is fibrous and sometimes bruised at the very bottom.
Dark brown when wet, creamy gold when dry.
Importantly, they keep a dark rim around the cap.
The gills are olive grey and attach to the very top point of the cap.
When wet, the cap is covered with a sticky layer that does not tear easily if you pull the cap apart.
They do not easily fall apart in a dry ‘flaky’ kind of way.
Sizes range from matchstick size (let Mother Nature keep these), to a good few inches.
I recommend this video and article to help with identifying Liberty Caps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt_vjXiDoxs
When to look for Liberty Caps
Disclaimer: The following advice is a mixture of my own experience and the hive mind of the internet. I’m sure some of you fellow foragers will have conflicting advice, so feel free to drop a comment to share your wisdom!
The season for mushrooms (in the UK at least) is usually rather short. You wanna wait for the summer temperature to depart, but the season will abruptly end as soon as the first morning frost hits. The most productive months are usually October and November.
You wanna keep an eye on the weather forecast too. Mushrooms like rain, but not too much. Before you hit the fields it would ideally have rained for a few days then dried off for one day.
And when you’re bent over staring at the ground, it helps to have some sunshine behind you to help illuminate our little friends.
Where to look for Liberty Caps
Liberty Caps grow in grassland – not woodland. The most crucial thing is to ensure the grassland is not ploughed. So, if you’re eyeing up farm fields, they need to be pasture and not arable. But for gawd sake, don’t trespass on private land.
I would actually advise that you travel into the wilderness to find Liberty Caps. Places like the Scottish Highlands, the Welsh mountains, the moors of Devon, Cornwall and Yorkshire, the Lake and Peak districts...
Wherever you are, look for the presence of livestock and patches of reeds, which are signifiers of healthy fertile land.
Liberty Caps are sometimes shy, and sometimes very gregarious indeed! Sometimes, they’re waiting for you right by the car park, sometimes they’re hiding in craggy rocks and gorse bushes. But they’re never growing out of shit – these are one of the many look-a-likes to be avoided.
Altitude is an important factor, with sunny, south-facing hillsides at high altitude yielding the most mushrooms. I would also recommend that you walk up the hill, so that you have more field in your, erm, field of vision. And if you’re on a winning streak, it never fails to crouch down from time to time to inspect your surroundings in more detail – you never know what you’ll see!
Soil type is also super important. Check out the Soilscapes map and find soil that is well draining and acidic. It’s unfortunate for me that my entire local area is alkaline, which means that I have to take strategic autumn holidays to see my beloved little teachers in their natural habitat.
It’s also good to know that Liberty caps tend to grow in pairs or small families. Find one and you’re likely to find a few of their friends close by.
Believe it or not, some people get lucky scouring the edges of golf courses and parks. However, these locations (like most) are closely guarded secrets, so don’t bother hassling people for locations! But fear not, you can rummage through the endless Facebook groups and Reddit threads for tips and reports.
Please be mindful of the fact that picking Liberty Caps is illegal in the UK. And if a police car is patiently waiting for you to return to your vehicle, they have every right to confiscate your finds. So, just be a sensible citizen. Take some photos and go about your merry way.
Best of luck, my fellow mycophiles!