Of all the ways that animals eat, the cow may top the list for the most work – and the most disgusting.
First, a cow munches on grass just enough to swallow small wads, which get stored in the first two of four stomachs – the rumen and the reticulum. Later on, when the cow is done grazing, those wads of grass (known as ‘cud’) get coughed up and chewed on again. The cud then gets swallowed again, where it goes to the third and fourth stomach, which are called the omasum and abomasum.
Finally, the cow passes the fully digested grass through its self, resulting in a big cow patty. Interestingly (or disgustingly) this pile of poop is unique because it contains almost zero stomach acid. That’s one of the reasons why cow poop makes great fertilizer.
In fact, cow poop is such a great source of nutrients for plants, actual seedlings and fungi often grow straight out of a cow patty. The seeds and spores that a cow eats while grazing do not get broken down by acid, which mean they pass safely through the cow and then get plopped out ready to grow. (Kind of incredible if you think about it!)
Now, before you go searching for cow poop to see if any mushrooms are growing, be aware that this doesn’t always happen.
For starters, only a certain type of psychedelic mushroom is known to grow in cow dung. This species of mushroom is known as psilocybe cubensis and prefers humid climates. This type of mushroom can be found throughout South America and East Asia, or really anywhere the humidity is over 85%.
In the United States, this type of mushroom can be found year round in the State of Florida, and usually from May through September in the Gulf Coast States. Psilocybe cubensis are among the easiest psilocybin-containing mushrooms to grow, which is why they have multiple nicknames like ‘shrooms,’ ‘magic mushrooms,’ ‘golden tops,’ ‘cubes,’ or ‘gold caps.’
While it is true that psychedelic mushrooms can grow on poop, there are two main caveats. First, it must be cow dung, or feces containing extremely low amounts stomach acid. Second, it’s much more common to find psychedelic mushrooms growing in the wild where the soil is rich in nutrients, the humidity is high, and there is low wind.
Finally, and most importantly, do NOT go start picking mushrooms to randomly eat. You need to know what you’re doing. There are at least five separate toxins found in a variety of mushrooms that can KILL YOU.