Conocybe Cyanopus Tiny Mushrooms Of Remarkable Potency

While studying the magic mushrooms of Mexico during the 1950s, R. Heim described a new species of the genus Conocybe.

Conocy be siligineodes Heim was reported to grow up to 8 cm (3.25 in.) tall, a beautiful, reddish brown to orange-colored mushroom that thrived on rotten wood and which was used as a psychotropic species by the Indians as well. However, the species did not appear again in the literature, nor were the chemical composition or the effects of these samples published. Even after decades of field research in Mexico, Guzman was unable to find the species there. Similarly, he did not discover native usage of any kind of Conocybe species. Heim's description however, aroused curiosity as to the chemical composition of this species. Approximately 55 European species which existed saprophytically were relegated to a shadow existence in the older literature. Also, the differentiation of these species is very problematic at times. For the most part, the mushrooms are small and fragile, decay quickly and grow mostly in grassy and mossy areas, where they are easily overlooked.

Around 1930, J. Schaffer discovered numerous Conocybe species growing in abundance on a fertilized grassy area near Potsdam. Intrigued by the mushrooms' extraordinary variety of forms and colors, he was inspired to undertake the kind of taxonomic classification that is essential to pursuing mushroom research. One species that he found in Potsdam, Berlin as well as in Germany's Harz Mountains showed bluish discolorations at the base of their stems. This "Galera" species was included by Kuhner as Conocybe cyanopoda in his 1935 monograph about the genus Conocybe. Today, this species is referred to in the literature as Conocybe cyanopus (Atk.) Kuhn. This species with a blue base had been previously discovered in the U.S. (Ithaca, NY) in 1918 and was judged by Kuhner to be identical with the European mushrooms.

The following is an adequate description of Conocybe cyanopus, because its bluish discoloration is a sufficiently unique attribute to allow differentiation of this species from other European Conocybe species.

Cap: 0.3-2.5 cm broad, nearly hemispheric to convex, striated, ocher to dark brown without grey-green stains.

Stem: 2-4 cm long, 1-1.4 cm thick, whitish at first, equal to slightly curved at the base, silvery later on, stains bluish-green -particularly at base - in reaction to injuries or with age.

Basidia: 4-spored, pleurocystidia absent, cheilocystidia present, 18-25x6, 5-10 ,um Habitat: On grassy areas or moss, summer through fall.

The Conocybe genus is a member of the Bolbitiaceae family, which is similar to the Coprinaceae, a family of dark-spored mushrooms that includes the Panaeolus species.

The Conocybe species are very rare in Europe. The mushrooms are hardly ever found among lists of mushroom discoveries from European countries. Aside from Schaffer's discovery, the mushroom was reportedly found or described only twice (!) within the territory of the former East Germany over the last 60 years (both discoveries were made during the 1980s). However, there are only few mycologists who specialize in the study of the Conocybe genus, due to its lack of attractiveness.

Even though the mushroom is very rare, I was able to include one picture of Conocybe cyanopus in this book (see Figure 36, p. 57). 1 also had the good fortune to obtain a dried Conocybe cyanopus sample for chemical analysis (see Table 9, p. 56).

Psilocybin was discovered for the first time in a sample of fruiting bodies of the species Conocybe cyanopus which had been collected on September 4, 1961 in Seattle, WA. No psilocin however mysterious they may remain.

In 1977, Repke and his research team reported the discovery of baeocystin, as well as psilocybin in a Conocybe species from the United States and Canada. Once again, no psilocin was found in these samples. Finally in 1982/83, Norwegian researchers confirmed the existence of trace amounts of psilocin, in addition to 0.330.55% of psilocybin, an alkaloid that was also reportedly discovered in Finnish samples. Finally, Beug and Bigwood reported 0.93% of psilocybin in samples collected in the Northwestern United States. Interestingly, the second sample ever discovered in Eastern Germany was found on July 2, 1989 near Potsdam, where several fruiting bodies of the Conocybe cyanopus species were growing in a grassy area on sand. The original area, however, where Schaffer first discovered the species 60 years ago, lay within the Potsdam city limits and its exact location can no longer be determined.

The sample collected in 1989 consisted of five mushrooms that were found to have concentrations of psilocybin and baeocystin similar to levels found in Psilocybe semilanceata:

Concentrations of psilocybin were strikingly similar to those found in samples collected in the Northwestern United States.

After several days, spores from one of the fruiting bodies germinated on malt agar and, compared to other species, proceeded to grow very slowly into their permanent forms or "sclerotia" (see Figure 35, p. 57). The sclerotia showed no blue discolorations, and were found to contain 0.25 % psilocybin when dry, while no additional alkaloids were detected.

In summary, it is reasonable to assume that due to its small size and extreme rarity, Conocybe cyanopus is a species that is not a significant contributor to intoxications in Europe, nor is it likely to gain such prominence in the future. My own analyses of other, non-bluing Conocybe species, such as Conocybe tenera (Schaeff.:Fr.) Fayod and Conocybe lactea (Lge) Metrod revealed the presence of physiologically inactive ingredients only.

Samples of Conocybe species from warm countries have not yet been analyzed and may yet yield remarkable results in terms of chemical composition and alkaloid content.

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