Pacific Coast Teonanacatls Mushrooms of the Gods of the Genus Psilocybe

For millennia, Psilocybes have been used for spiritual and med: 'nal purposes. Curanderos— Meso-American shamans—relied upon them to diagnose illness and to prognosticate the future Through the works of R. Gordon Wasson, Jonathan Ott, Andrew Weil, Terence McKenna and others, these mushrooms became well known to North Americans. In the m;d 1970's, a group of de&i-cated mycophiles from the Pacific Northwest of North America pioneered the outdoor domestication of the temperate, wood-loving Psilocybe species. From these species, many imaginative cultivators 'earned techniques applicable to the cultivation of many other woodland gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. Since I have studied this group for many years and since this constellation of species has become the template for natural culture in North America, it seems fitting that this species complex be explored further.

Figure 289. P. cyanescens complex fruiting on alder wood chips overiayed wiin a thin layer of straw.

■ The Genus Psilocybe as monographed by Guzman (1983) has species which contain indole alkaloids (psilocybin, psilocin) that are known to be "psychoactive". Many species in the Genus Psilocybe do not possess these pharmacologically active compounds. However, in addition, a number of mushroom species unrelated to Psilocybe also contain these indoles. This section is offered for its academic value and does not encourage the violation of any ordinances restricting the possession or propagation of any illegal substance. Readers should further note that some individuals react negatively from the ingestion of psilocybian mushrooms. The author's research on this group was conducted under the provisions of a Drug Enforcement Administration license.

Psilocybe cyanescens Wakefield sensu lato

Introduction: First cultivated in Washington and Oregon in the late 1970's, this complex ol species is primarily grown outdoors in wood chip beds. Indoor cultivation is possible but pales in comparison to natural culture methods. Species in the P. cyanescens complex are not as high yielding per lb. of substrate as some of the fleshier mushrooms in the genus and hence have little or no commercial appeal. However these mushrooms enjoy a popular reputation and are sought by thousands o ;a ger hunters every fall. Because they are infre quently encountered in the wild, many mycophiles create a mushroom patch in the privacy of their backyards.

Common Names: Cyans

Caramel Caps BlueAngels Potent Psilocybe Fantasi-takes

Figure 290. The satin-like mycelium of Psilocyb azurescens nom. prov., a sister species to P. cyanescens growing on malt extract agar.

Taxonomic Synonyms & Con! ierations:

The name Psilocybe is Greek and means "bald head" which refers to the smooth surface texture of the ca . The Genus Psilocybe 1 I such close affinities to Stropharia and Hypholoma that separation of these genera cont tues to present unique Sic - Llties. These genera are clustered withir he family Strophahaceae which so mr dudes !he more distant! related Genus PhoUota. Alexander Smith (1979) proposed that the a, dy St best be represented t only two genera: the Genus PhoUota and the Macro-genus Psilocybe which would also envelope speci' of Stropharia and Hypholoma (as Naematoh ma).

Currently the most thorough treatment ofthe genus can bdfoun m Gaston Guz ms The Genus P^cybe-AWorMM nogr!ph(l 983). This extensive mono, aid updates more than two decades of data accumulati 1 >y Roger Heim & R Gordon Wasson and other researchers. Wasson & Hein s beautifully illustrated monograph « Champignons UMludnogenes i I m (1958) revealed new MesoAme,can species many o_w«were preempted by he r . arly simultaneous publication of Singer & Sirfs update on Psil cybe (1958) which listed several novel species and sections.* This event set the stage for a heated debate on

* According,o the International Rules of Nomenclature, names a, pnoritized accordi first author to publish a description in latin and deposit specimens into an internationally,ecogmzed and accessible he £Zm ¿anted first righi of u . All subsequently published names are cons.dered synonyms.

Psilocybe which persisted for years. (Consult Smith (1977), Ott (1978) and Singer (1986, pp 570571, see footnotes.))

Our limited understanding of the temperate, wood-inhabiting Psilocybe, particularly the Psilocybe cyanescens group, derives from, or more accurately suffers from, our interpretations of Singer and Smith's publications of 1958. We now know that a large constellation of species, subspecies and races revolves around the species concept of P. cyanescens. (The taxonomy of this group is mired in a problem comparable to Pleurotus sajor-caju and Pleurotus pulmonarius. (See page 321.)) Mycologists in the past have improperly mis-applied species concepts from the European continent to North American candidates.

The type collection of Psilocybe cyanescens described by Wakefield from England lacks pleurocystidia, microscopic sterile cells on the surfaces of the gills. The photographs of a mushroom species from western North America identified in popular field guides as Psilocybe cyanescens (see Stamets (1978), Arora (1979), Lincoff (1981), Arora (1991) and numerous papers published since 1958) show a mushroom which in fact, possesses abundant, capitate pleurocystidia. (See Figure 291.) Since this feature is consistent and obvious in water mounts under a microscope, and occurs in such high numbers, the mushroom in question can not be the true P. cyanescens. In fact, I believe no species concept has yet been published to accurately delimit this mushroom.

Another unnamed species, originating from the Columbia river basin near Astoria, Oregon is similar to the misnamed "P. cyanescens". This mushroom, distinguished by its comparatively great size and non-undulating cap margin, is a close cousin, possibly belonging to the European Psilocybe serbica Moser et Horak complex. Provisionally, I am giving this mushroom the name Psilocybe azurescens Stamets and Gartz nom. prov. The third species in this group from the Pacific Northwest is distinguished by its forking cheilocystidia, and is called Psilocybe cyanofibrillosa Stamets & Guzman. (See Stamets et al.,1980) I know of several more taxa yet to be published. Despite the unusual attention these mushrooms have received, the taxonomy of this group needs further exploration. This group of new Psilocybes falls within an expanded concept of Singer & Smith's Stirps Cyanescens as amended by Guzman.

This complex of species is fairly easy to identify. The mushrooms are generally cosmopolitan, and virtually absent from virgin forest ecosystems They thrive in sawdust and chips from alder and Douglas firs. The mushrooms are collybioid—forming clusters that resemble the Genus Collybia 'm habit only. The caps are uniquely caramel to chestnut colored and strongly hygrophanous. The cap is featured with a separable gelatinous skin andbrown gills which produce purple brown spores. The base of the stems radiate clusters of thick white rhizomorphs. Upon bruising, the flesh turns bluish to dark purple. These features separate this group of mushrooms from all others. This group can be further delimited into two sub-groups: those possessing or lacking pleurocystidia. Species having pleurocystida can be lageniform or fusoid-ventricose with a narrow or bulbous apex.

Description: Caps are hemispheric at first, soon convex, expanding to broadly convex and eventually plane in age, 2-10 cm. in diameter. Caps are strongly hygrophanous, sometimes chestnut especially when old or when the gills have fully matured. Cap margins are typ' cally even at first, and straightening with age. Some varieties develop a pronounced, distinct and undulating margin. Other species in

Figure 291. The abundance ol capitate pleurocystidia precludes this species tr n being eel "P. cyanescens". (Stamets Collection # 78-34).

this group have even margins. Gills are colore brown to dark brown, often mottled, and bluntly attached to the stem, typically with a thin whitish margin. The stem is teifically attached to the cap, silky white to dingj brow near the base, often covered wi:h line fibrils which may or may not bruise bluish. The stems are cartilaginous, even, straight to sinuous, usually swelling and curved towards the base. The base of the stem is usually fitted wit i a thick, radiating array of white rhizomoi, hs. Although mushrooms can be found individually, the majority grow in gregarious or collyboid clusters.

Distribution: The species represented in this group of mushrooms are found throughout 'the emperate forests of the world, inching bu not limited to the coastal Pacific Northwest of North America, northeastern North America, the British Isles, eastern Europe, southern Argentina, North Africa, New Zealand and temperate regions of Australia

J ^rJJE^^rwS?™ to to«**.» a™»" «"A*

fondness for fedecode ^ ( ^ s bu,bail areas and are actually am' a natural set-li SoXSX mush ■ are in the landseaped prop, rtj ,f government pi] vhich are g wn over with tall, broad-bladed grasses

SEomete, es have^leurocysttdia »hile most do not Clamp connections are pre ,nt.

, - able Strains: Strains are easy to ob„ n by joining a r »logical socrety where fhis group are quie yexhibi-dd, ingfallforays.Inmostcot nines (except Spam, Czechoslovakia and othereXitisTllegal for companies to sell cultures except those licensed by the government

My oliiil :ha .cteristics: These Caramel Capfed Psilocybes behave similarly in culture, produc

Figure 291. The abundance ol capitate pleurocystidia precludes this species tr n being eel "P. cyanescens". (Stamets Collection # 78-34).

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