Finding Psilocybin Mushrooms

All it takes is one mushroom or a few spores. From this, one can quickly develop a culture that will continue to produce as much psilocybin as desired for years to come. Because the common San Ysidro mushroom Psilocybe cubensis (Singer), formerly Strophanti cubensis (Earl), is the most easily obtainable, most readily cultivated, most disease resistant, and psychoactively strongest species, the techniques in this book are geared to its use. There are, however, numerous other species which contain psilocybin. In case one of these other species is all that is available, pertinent information for several of them is given: such as relative potency; where and when to find specimens; what growing conditions (medium, temperature, lighting, etc.) they favor; and how resistant they are to contamination.

The states, provinces, and regions named are by no means the only places where the species is to be found. They are places in which there have been numerous reports of findings. They are given here to give a general idea of the type of terrain and climate the species favors. In cases where ideal cultivation temperatures and growing conditions are not listed, much can be surmised by considering the environment in which that species thrives.

Psilocybe cubensis can be found in many parts of the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Australia, and even Southeast Asia. It is usually found growing on or near cow dung in pastures during warm rainy periods from February to November. There are several species of mushroom which occur on cow dung, but none of these bears much resemblance to the San Ysidro.

There are numerous toxic mushrooms growing in the wild. Some of these could be mistaken for some of the psilocybian fungi mentioned in this book. It is essential that the mushroom hunter learn to use an identification key. A key is a listing of various features which will positively identify a given species. CAUTION: If a specimen does not conform in every respect to the key, it must not be used. There are several excellent keys to be found on

Psilocybe cubetisis

Drawing by Michael B. Smith frum Halluciimgeiiic and Poisonous Mushroom Field Guiii-by Gnry P. Mentor, Konin Publishing. Inc. Used by permission.

most library shelves. One that is highly recommend by mycologists is Keys to Genera of Higher Fungi by R. Shaffer, 2nd ed. (1968) published by the University of Michigan Biological Station at Ann Arbor. Also recommended is Hallucinogenic and Poisonous Mushroom Field Guide by Gary P. Menser, available from Ronin Publishing. It is further suggested that after the specimen is identified it should be brought to an expert mycologist in order to confirm its identity.

Testing the Mushroom

Many books on hallucinogenic mushrooms suggest a simple test for psilocybian species that involves breaking the flesh of the specimen and waiting about 30 minutes for a bluing reaction to take place. This bluing is due to the oxidation of indole based substances in the fungus. Although it is true that most of the psilocybin-bearing mushrooms will respond positively to this test, other species may also do the same. CAUTION : The poisonous Eastwood Boletus blues upon exposure of its inner tissues to oxygen just like any psilocybian mushroom. Another test that is often given in mushroom manuals is treating the exposed tissues with Metol, a chemical used in photo developers. It hastens the bluing of psilocybian mushrooms, and supposedly one can do a bluing test with it in a few minutes rather than the usual 30 minutes or more. Any mushroom, however, that contains indolic substances of any sort will respond positively to this test. Since indole-based amino acids such as tryptophan are found in most living organisms, this test is rather useless.

Actually, there is no field test for psilocybian mushrooms. There is, however, a relatively simple test for the presence of psilocin and psilocybin that can be carried out at home by anyone who has some familiarity with paper chromatography. The mushroom sample is dried, pulverized, and then extracted into a small amount of unheated methanol by shaking it for half an hour. After the debris in the methanol has settled, the paper is spotted with the top fluid in a zone about 2 mm wide. The spotting zone is then treated with water-saturated butanol for about 2 hours. If psilocin and psilocybin are present in the specimen, the resulting solvent front (7-8 cm from the initial spotting zone) will contain them. After drying the paper with a hair dryer set on warm, this outer zone is sprayed lightly with a saturated solution of p-dimethyl-aminobenzaldehyde in alcohol and again with 1 N hydrochloric acid. The paper is then dried as before. Where psilocybin is present, a reddish color will develop. The presence of psilocin will be indicated by a blue-violet zone.

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