Gymnopilus Purpuratus Magnificent Mushrooms From South America

Another controversy documented in the literature revolves around the psychoactivity of several species of the genus Gymnopilus. More than 50 years ago, in October 1942, a remarkable case of intoxication occurred m Cleveland, Ohio, which was attributed to Pholiota spectabilis. Today, these mushrooms have been identified as Gymnopilus spectabilis (Fr.)A.H. Smith (USA). In Europe, they are also Known as Gymnopilus junonius (Fr.) Orton. A woman had been out for a walk in the woods one afternoon and had taken a few nibbles from a mushroom that she found, feeling confident that she could distinguish the edible from the poisonous ones. As soon as she lay down, she began to experience the most glorious visions of color and sounds of music, but with no feelings of discomfort whatsoever. A friend who was with her felt that a doctor should be called immediately. When she consulted me about her symptoms, I told her that certain mushrooms are known to cause the symptoms she suffered. I

added that these mushrooms were not classified as poisonous, nor did the effects last very long. called that same evening and said that the hallucinations had soon passed and that she was feeling perfectly normal again. She added that if this was the way one was supposed to die of mushroom poisoning, she was all for it. Another case of poisoning was chronicled in Harvard, Massachusetts: On September 9, 1966, at about 9 a.m., a 56~year-old retired mechanical engineer of Harvard, Massachusetts, picked a bunch of mushrooms clustered by the side of the road in front of his house. Under the mistaken impression that they were honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea an edible species) he tasted the fresh flesh andfound them to be slightly bitter However, he took them home, where his wife washed them andfried them in butter. He ate two or three caps around noon and within 15 minutes began to feel disconnected and "woozy". head felt numb and his vision was blurred.

The room seemed smaller, and the walls closer than usual. Objects were shimmering, and appeared yellow with dark areas in the center. The trees and grass were a vivid green, with spots of radiant purple. These sensations were not unpleasant. Everything seemed to be unnaturally colored, resembling the image of a color TV. Even though he was unable to collect his thoughts, his mind felt sharp and clear: he asked himself questions and immediately knew the answers. By contrast, after having put down a book, he was unable to find it again. After a few hours all three of the involuntary participants had recovered and were able to give a coherent account of their experience.

In this case, the mushrooms involved were also identified as Pholiota spectabilis. This identification is questionable, however, because the species is generally described as having an extremely bitter taste. It was determined that there are significantly more species of the genus Gymnopilus in North America (73) than there are in Europe (15).

Mushrooms 24 Inches Tall!

Even though Gymnopilus junionius is one of the largest-sized species of mushrooms (with stems that have been observed to grow up to 24 inches [60 cm] tall), there are no known European cases of intoxications caused by Gymnopilus species. The extremely bitter taste typical of some Gymnopilus species is an effective deterrent to their ingestion as table mushrooms, anyway.

However, the cases of intoxication in the U.S. prompted Hatfield and his collaborators to perform phytochemical testing on some of these species. From 1968 to 1971 this group of investigators reported that eight species, including Gymnopilus junonius contained inactive styrylpyrones, such as bis-noryangonin. In the wake of yet another case of unintentional intoxication with Gymnopilus validipes in the U.S., the same research team was able to confirm that this species contained psilocybin (0.12%). They also found the alkaloid in three other species, including Gymnopilus spectabilis.

Still, similar analyses of European Gymnopilus species continued to yield negative results.

It was only through a set of strange circumstances that the presence of psilocybin and its derivatives was finally confirmed in European mushroom species of the genus Gymnopilus.

As far back as May 1887, a new species of mushroom was found growing on a tree fern trunk in the botanical gardens at Kew, England (also see p. 30, bottom right). The discovery eventually led to the publication of these mushrooms as a new species named Flammula purpurata Cooke & Massee. In this context, we must credit Mordecai Cooke (18251914), a mycologist of outstanding competence and expertise, who studied a vast number of mushrooms species, including Psilocybe semilanceata. He was the first to formulate a hypothesis about the nature of the bluing phenomenon and to point out its physiological significance ( also see p. 16, bottom right). He discovered Inocybe haemacta as well as several Panaeolus species and classified the Flammula species mentioned above. Remarkably, one of his first publications was a book of popular folk tales entitled "The Seven Sisters of Sleep" (1860), which just happened to be an interdisciplinary investigation of narcotic plants. Did he himself, perhaps, sample one of the psychotropic mushroom species? Most likely, we will never know the answer to this question. Eventually, the Flammula species came to be recognized as being native to Australia and South America (Chile), where the mushrooms fruit on dead tree trunks during the month of May. Later on the mushroom's name was changed to Gymnopilus purpuratus (Cooke & Massee) Sing.

Mushrooms on Compost Mixture of Wood Chips and Pig Manure

In 1983, a conspicuous mushroom was observed growing on discarded bark and wood chips near a particle board factory in RibnitzDamgarten on the Eastern German seaboard.

The mushroom was initially classified as Tricholomopsis rutilans (Schaeff.:Fr.) Sing. However, this magnificent and beautiful mushroom was found to have spore dust colored orange to rusty brown, along with a well-formed, bright yellow cortina. It also turned blue in reaction to pressure and with age. Closer study revealed that the specimen was actually of the species Gymnopilus purpuratus, a mushroom that, after a hundred years, had once again been imported into Europe. The microclimate essential for the mushroom's growth had been created by mixing liquid pig manure with the discarded wood chips. A powerful composting process results from pouring the liquid manure onto heaps that are up to 20 yards long and several yards tall. The process is designed to eliminate both types of refuse. Measurements inside the heaps revealed temperatures of about 176° Fahrenheit. Consequently, the Gymnopilus species were able to thrive on the top layers of the heaps, along with other species from Asian and South American countries with warm climates.

There is, of course, the question of just how the Gymnopilus species got to Europe in the first place. In the late 1970s, large amounts of feed grain were imported from Argentina. Thus, it appears likely that some mushroom spores may have stuck to the grain from where they passed unharmed through the pigs' digestive systems and went on to colonize the compost heaps.

Even though the compost heaps are plowed at least twice a year and shipped as fertilizer to surrounding fields after about two years of storage, the mushrooms continue to grow on wood piles in new locations whenever its spores have reproduced (see Figure 30, p. 40). However, in the wake of changes in economic conditions and growing ecological awareness in Eastern Germany, it is likely that this composting process will soon be discontinued so that this mushroom species may disappear in Europe once again.

The following description characterizes the Gymnopilus species that does not have a bitter taste:

Cap: 15-42 mm broad, occasionally larger sizes up to 20 cm in diameter. Flesh thin, broadly convex without an umbo. Evenly covered with pointy scales, purplish to ruby on yellow background, dry. Margin inrolled at first, incurved later, occasional blue stains.

Gills: Close, golden yellow at first, rusty yellow later on due to maturation of spores, edges concolorous with lamellae and bald.

Stem: Not hollow, 6-10 mm x 30-80 mm, very rarely up to 15 cm tall, cylindrical to slightly club-shaped, coarse fibrils, striated, lower stem area and base bruise grayish-blue to Greenish when injured and with age, found alone or in clusters of up to 22 mushrooms.

Cortina: Sulphur yellow, almost appendiculate along margin, fibrous at the apex without forming a true annulus, disappears with age.

Basidia: Approximately 35 u long, club

By 1969, Singer had noted that based on analyses performed by Cassels in Chile, the mushroom contained an indole derivative and that the species may be hallucinogenic because of the bluing reaction. By 1988, reports from Germany also confirmed the presence of psilocybin in mushroom extracts of the same species, as evidenced by the results of thin-layer chromatography testing (qualitative detection only). That same year, my own quantitative analyses of 26 mushrooms also revealed that psilocin and baeocystin were present in all fruiting bodies of the Gymnopilus species. So far, no other European species has been found to contain as much psilocin as Gymnopilus purpuratus:

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  • angelina
    Are there gymnnopilus spectabilis mushrooms in massachusetts?
    2 years ago

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