NewsNorthern Ireland

Magic mushrooms discovered in Stormont

Magic musgrooms
Magic musgrooms

Crops of hallucinogenic magic mushrooms are sprouting up in public parks across the city – including in the grounds of Stormont Castle and Parliament Buildings.

Magic mushrooms – which are listed as a ‘Class-A’ drug under UK law – have been spotted growing freely in parks across the city since the beginning of ‘mushroom season’ last month.

The Sunday World found evidence of magic mushrooms growing in popular public spaces such as Ormeau Park, Drumglass Park, Cave Hill Country Park, and even Stormont Park.

However, Belfast City Council claims that it is “not aware” of the problem, adding that they do not take any special measures to prevent the illegal mushrooms from growing on council-owned land.

“We are not aware of any particular problem with so-called ‘magic mushrooms’ in council-owned parks,” said a spokesperson.

“However, fungi does naturally occur, especially at this time of year when growing conditions are most favourable.

“In the majority of council parks, grass is cut regularly and lawns are ‘manicured’ which helps to prevent an abundance of mushrooms. However, in an expansive area such as the Cave Hill, it would not be possible to eradicate fungi entirely.”

(Pic: Conor McCaughley)

Magic mushrooms – or psilocybin mushrooms – grow naturally between late September and mid-November. They thrive in damp and shady conditions, and on sloping ground, making them perfectly suited for the Northern Irish climate.

There are more than 200 different types of magic mushroom in the world, but the psilocybe semilanceata, or ‘’liberty cap,” and fly agaric mushrooms are the two most commonly found in the UK. They contain the psilocybin and psilocin chemicals which can have mind-altering effects on the brain, causing hallucinations, disorientation, and other mind-bending effects. 

According to the drug awareness group FRANK, “magic mushrooms…can make you feel as if your senses are mixed up so that, for example, you think you can hear colours and you can see sounds.

They can also speed up and slow down your sense of time and movement [and] they can make it feel like you’re dreaming when you’re awake.”

They have also been known to cause stomach pains, diarrhoea and paranoia, as well as worsening the effects of existing mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia.

Mushroom trips can last anywhere from two hours to two days, depending on the amount consumed, and experts warn that it is impossible to know whether or not you are going to have a good or a bad trip until it’s too late.

However, that hasn’t stopped local foragers from sharing tips on where to find mushrooms via social media.

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have been overwhelmed with images of mushroom hauls gathered from areas around Belfast’s Divis Mountain and Cave Hill areas.

(Pic: Conor McCaughley)

In one Belfast-focused Facebook group, users swapped recipes for ‘magic’ mushroom tea, yogurt, burgers and pizzas.

But despite the fact that they can be found on public land, magic mushrooms are still illegal, and foragers caught picking the fungi could face the same criminal charges as heroin dealers. 

Possession, supply and consumption of magic mushrooms has been illegal since 2005, when they were upgraded to Class ‘A’ under the Misuse of Drugs Act alongside heroin, ecstasy, crystal meth, LSD and cocaine. 

Penalties can include up to seven years for possession, and life imprisonment for supply.