Within the Pluteaceae family, there are about 45 European species of the genus Pluteus, some of whom also produce psilocybin.
Historically, the Pluteus species were classified as belonging to the Amanitaceae family, which also include the "death cap" and its relatives, as well as the fly agaric mushroom, both of which belong to the genus Amanita. Unlike all the other psychoactive mushrooms mentioned here in this book, the Pluteus species are classified as light-spored mushrooms, because of their rose-colored spore dust.
No accidental intoxications involving Pluteus species have been documented in the literature.
The first description providing qualitative evidence for the presence of psilocybin and psilocin was provided by Saupe in 1981, who examined extracts of Pluteus salicinus (Pers.:Fr.) Kumm. from Illinois. Surprisingly, psilocin turned out to be the alkaloid with the highest levels of concentration in the samples tested. This mushroom species had previously been described in Europe about 200 years ago. Since then, however, it has rarely been mentioned in the literature, and only briefly, if at all (see Figure 37, p. 59).
Some taxonomic methods of classification used earlier can still cause confusion today. For example, Ricken (1915) designated the mushroom as Pluteus petasatus.
By way of expanding the description from 1962 (see Figure 37), Pluteus salicinus is identified by the following characteristics:
Medium-sized mushroom with a more or less intensely bluish to bluish-green coloration. Older mushrooms are sometimes colored olive green.
Caps in some cases up to 8 cm in diameter, lighter colored around the margin, silver grey, hairy and felt-like, even hairier and felt-like towards the middle of the cap, often scaly.
Stems up to 10 cm in length, with spontaneous grey-green or grey-blue discolorations at the base, colors intensify in response to pressure.
There are also mushrooms of this species that are white in color (see Figure 38, p. 60). However, these albino fruiting bodies have stems whose bases show a slight grey-green coloration as well, as do the apex areas of their caps. Pluteus salicinus has been described as being anywhere from "very rare" to "not rare" in the wet deciduous forests of Europe. The species of the genus Pluteus are final wood-destroyers, that is, they grow saprophytically on wood that appears rotten and discolored, because it has decomposed due to the presence of other mushrooms over the course of many years. Pluteus salicinus fruits from May to October on stumps of willows, alder-trees, lime-trees, beech-trees, poplars, maple-trees and possibly on the wooden remnants of other tree species as well, The fact that this mushroom has not been the cause of any intoxications may be explained by its fruiting bodies' occurrence on tree stumps as single mushrooms or in groups of very few mushrooms. Also, compared to other wood-inhabiting mushrooms, Pluteus salicinus is not very attractive in appearance. The mushroom's habitus is well illustrated by Figure 39 (p. 60).
For unknown reasons, Kreisel described all Pluteus species as "non-poisonous" in his 1987 handbook of mushrooms, despite the fact that psilocybin (0.35 % of dried mushrooms) had already been discovered in samples of this species in 1981 (North America) and 1984 (Norway). The alkaloid was also found in mushrooms from Holland, Finland, Sweden and France. The latter tests, however, were limited to very few fruiting bodies in each case.
Whereas Stijve found an average of 0.25 % of psilocybin in dried mushrooms from 20 samples collected in Switzerland from 1984 to 1986, my own analyses of non-bluing (!) mushrooms collected in Thuringen, Germany in 1986 yielded much higher alkaloid concentrations:
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