Get updates from HorizonMass


Bay Staters for Natural Medicine members meet at Arnold Arboretum in October 2023. Photo by Jack Gorsline. Copyright 2023 Jack Gorsline.
Bay Staters for Natural Medicine members meet at Arnold Arboretum in October 2023. Photo by Jack Gorsline. Copyright 2023 Jack Gorsline.

An afternoon in the Arnold Arboretum with Bay Staters for Natural Medicine

For more than 150 years, visitors from all around the world have ventured to the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain to marvel at some of the very best fall foliage New England has to offer. Beneath that kaleidoscopic canopy, last Saturday, the park’s rich biodiversity was on full display for roughly two-dozen foragers trekking through the muddy, leaf-blanketed grounds. 

Despite torrential wind-twisted conditions, a cheery band of artists, activists, and psychedelic advocates reveled in the rain as we hunted for mushrooms big and small. Organized and led by James Davis, a Jamaica Plain resident and founder of the Boston-based Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, the event was meant for attendees to discover, identify, and learn about a dozen or so mushroom species that call the southwest side of the city home. 

Bay Staters was founded in 2020, and its organizers advocate for legalizing naturally occurring psychedelic chemicals, compounds, and plant-life such as psilocybin, the primary psychoactive chemical in magic mushrooms. The group’s leadership approach incorporates a blend of traditional advocacy, like political lobbying, and community building efforts that extend beyond standard bureaucratic engagement efforts and instead strive for the cultivation of a coalition bound together by shared values, interests, and artistries. 

JP’s 281-acre autumnal paradise was an ideal setting for such a utopian effort. In his will, whaling industry titan James Arnold designated the land to “the promotion of agricultural and horticultural improvements,” effectively making America’s first-ever public arboretum a place of tranquility, ecological diversity, and horticultural innovation. Home to more than 17,000 plant species, it has one of the world’s most spectacular public collections of flora, fauna, and fungi.

Despite the rain, I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day sloshing around the woods in search of non-psychoactive mushrooms like Hen of the Woods, Bear’s Head Tooth, and Lion’s Mane. (Ed. note: Please be careful if you’re foraging on your own and consult with an expert before consuming anything that may be poisonous.) Davis said the group aims to create opportunities “where people can make new friends who are also interested in nature and are interested in feeling better and living more fulfilled lives.” He noted that meetups like these have helped forge close friendships in a diverse coalition of open-minded New Englanders.

“A lot of the friendships that people make lead them to get more involved in their communities by volunteering in other ways,” Davis said. “That’s the really beautiful thing about what our events do.”

Next on their agenda, Davis and his team are expanding their events across New England, with a spooky season-themed luncheon in Provincetown today, followed by a Friday afternoon community potluck in Amherst, as well as a psychedelic documentary showcase in Hartford, Connecticut on Thursday, Oct. 28.

More info at Sign up for future events here.

This article is syndicated by the MassWire news service of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. If you want to see more reporting like this, make a contribution at

Jack Gorsline is a HorizonMass reporter. He is also a dual-enrolled student at Bunker Hill Community College and Northeastern University, studying Journalism and Political Science. Raised in Richmond, Virginia, Jack moved to Boston in 2020 to serve as an AmeriCorps’ at two charter schools in the heart of Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. Most recently, he spent the summer of 2023 interning with Strategies for Children: a Boston-based early childhood education policy research and advocacy organization. A lifelong news junkie, Jack will regularly report on higher education, labor, economics, as well as political affairs both foreign and domestic, to name a few beats.

Thanks for reading and please consider this ...

We see the importance of a strong media and the pitfalls of a lack thereof. If you appreciate articles like this and would like to see more please donate to help keep important news like this available for all to see.

Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism not only produces news but works with emerging journalists to help them shape their work and provide vital information to the public.

Started in 2015 BINJ has had dozens of hard hitting news articles that has impacted corporations and government behavior as well as shed light on what's happening where no one else is looking

BINJ operates on an undersized budget hitting far above it's weight class and is one of the leaders in local news and provides leadership in the local news ecosystem.

With your help BINJ can grow beyond it's small staff and strong cohort of freelancers to continue to provide more quality journalism for years to come.
Support Local

Or you can send us a check at the following address:

Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism

519 Somerville Ave #206

Somerville, MA 02143

Want to make a stock or in-kind donation to BINJ? Drop us an email at and we can make that happen!



Related posts:

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To The HorizonMass Newsletter