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CHAPTER Twenty - Seven
SCLEROTIA PRODUCING PSILOCYBES AND NEW NAM ES
Recent DNA studies and taxonomic revisions by Dr. Gaston Guzman and his colleagues at the
Instituto de Ecologia in Mexico, now confirm that Psilocybe weilii is a synonym for Psilocybe
caerulescens; while Psilocybe tampanensis and Psilocybe galindoi are synonyms for Psilocybe
mexicana.
The ‘Derrumbe’ (Landslide) Mushroom)
Paul Stamets mentions in his field guide, "Psilocybine Mushrooms of the World" that R. Gordon
Wasson first ate 13 pairs of Psilocybe caerulescens during his initial velada with María Sabina.
However, it was actually 13 pairs of small specimens of Psilocybe caerulescens.
Fig. 24. 1. Psilocybe caerulescens. Photo: Alan Rockefeller.
Leary's First Voyage
Prior to the "hippie" and "bohemian" invasion into Mexico during the 1960's by thousands of
individuals seeking out the sacred mushrooms, Timothy Francis Leary, still a young Harvard
psychologist, was spending his summer vacation in a quiet villa near the tiny village hamlet of
Cuernavaca, Mexico. It was at Leary's rented villa resort swimming pool, while relaxing under
the hot Mexican sun, that he consumed the ‘divine’ mushrooms of Mexico.
Leary had been waiting for the arrival of his friend and colleague, Gerhardt Braun, an
anthropologist-historian-linguist from the University of Mexico. Braun was a frequent visitor to
Leary's villa, and had read of the mushrooms while translating ancient Aztec/Nahuatl texts.
Tim had also expressed a desire in wishing to experience the effects of the wondrous visionary
mushrooms he first learned of in a 1957 issue of Life magazine.
After a short period of time in Cuernavaca, some student friends of Braun said that they had
heard that the so-called "magic mushrooms" grew on the volcanic slopes of Toluca near the
village hamlet of San Pedro. However, not knowing what the mushrooms looked like, someone
suggested that Braun might be able to find some in the village of San Pedro.
Fig. 24. 2. The Derrumbe’s blue-green staining cap. Photo: Alan Rockefeller.
So there, on the streets of San Pedro, under a shadowy archway of the local market, Gerhardt
Braun finally found and purchased a bag of what he was told were the very "magic mushrooms"
he sought. In this market, Braun had finally obtained a small bag of slightly dirty mushrooms
from an elderly sunbaked Señora named ‘Old Juana.’ So, Braun, very excited, immediately
found a telephone and called Leary at the villa in Cuernavaca to inform him that at last he had
finally purchased some "magic mushrooms."
Fig. 24. 3. Psilocybe caerulescens from Georgia. Photo: Kid Weilii.
Timothy Leary later wrote in his two biographies that he first had learned of the existence of the
mushrooms from his friend and colleague Frank Baron, although a few years earlier Tim
admitted to his friends that he had first read about them in an issue Life magazine.
In Baron's own words he stated, "And so I commended the mushroom to the attention of a
colleague of mine at Harvard University, Dr. Timothy Leary, who was an active practitioner of
group therapy. He [Leary] became interested in its possibilities as a vehicle for inducing change
in behavior as a result of the altered state of consciousness that the drug produces.” Thus began
the "psychedelic birthing of Tim" as Leary and several of his friends would soon be able to
participate in their first communion with the ‘Divine Mushrooms of Mexico.’
As Leary consumed the fungi (seven fresh specimens of Psilocybe caerulescens), he complained
of their somewhat bitter and acrid taste with no impending comprehension as to what was about
to happen to him. He had never expressed a single thought that the mushrooms he consumed
would forever change the course of his life.
After his initial experience had passed, Leary claimed that "It was the classic visionary voyage
and I came back a changed man. You are never the same after you've had that one flash glimpse
down the cellular time tunnel. You are never the same after you've had the veil drawn." Later,
Leary returned to the market place where the mushrooms were purchased from ‘Old Juana’ but
he was unable to find her or anyone who might be able to provide him with more specimens of
the fungi.
Later, Leary's friend and colleague, Richard Alpert (Baba Ram Dass), also on the faculty at
Harvard, had flown down to Mexico for a few days and then offered Leary a ride back to
Massachusetts. Leary decided to share with his friend his encounter with some unusual fungi and
shared with Alpert exactly just how inspirational this mushroom experience had affected him.
So Tim described to Alpert his recent ecstatic and interpersonal transcendental out worldly
experience while under the influence of what he referred to as the ‘metaphoric fungi,’ claiming
that he had been, whirled through an experience which Tim described in many extravagant
metaphors, claiming that above all and without question had been the deepest religious
experience of his life."
Fig. 24. 4. Psilocybe caerulescens. Mexico. Photo: Alan Rockefeller.
The species was originally discovered and identified from Huntsville, Alabama in 1923 by
mycologist, William Alfonso Murrill. Since then it had never been seen or collected in the
United States or Alabama until the early 1990s when specimens were found in both Florida and
Mississippi. In the late 1950s, R. Gordon Wasson and French mycologist, Roger Heim identified
it as the ‘derrumbe’ (landslide) mushroom of the Mazatec Indians.
Concerning the synonymy of Psilocybe weilii with that of Psilocybe caerulescens, it came about
when Paul Stamets collected some specimens in Cherokee County, near Alpharetta, Georgia in
1995. At the time of its taxonomic study, Dr. Guzmán said that Psilocybe weilii was delimited
from that of Psilocybe caerulescens due to the presence of pleurocystidia in the former.
In 1997, Dr. Guzmán, Fidel Tapia and Paul Stamets published their findings and named the
species in honor of Professor Andrew Weil from the University of Arizona’s College of
Medicine, in recognition of his studies on hallucinogenic fungi.
Psilocybe caerulescens
Cap: The cap of this species ranges in diameter from 2.5 to 9 cm. The color of the cap may stain
a deep sea green to black cinnamon to rust. It is also cone shaped when young, expanding to age.
The margin is slightly incurved in young and the cap is hygrophanous. Staining blue to deepsea-green.
Gills: Close. Light cinnamon to brown becoming light to dark in age with white edges.
Stem: 3.5 to 10 cm. Long. Cream colored. Hollow with fibrous hairs, veil falls off early in young
stages.
Spores: The spores of Psilocybe caerulescens range in size from 7-10 X 4.5 µ. They are
ellipsoid in shape.
Spore Print: Dark purplish brown in deposit.
Habitat: Gregarious to cespitose, rarely solitary and often in clusters and clumps. On disturbed
grounds devoid of herbaceous plants. This species prefers mudslides, orange brown soils, and
sugar cane soils, in sugar cane mulch and landslide areas along sugarcane roads. In northern
Georgia, Psilocybe caerulescens was found fruiting under Loblolly Pine and Sweet Gum and
sometimes it had been harvested in Bermuda grass or fescue, often in red clay soil that is
enriched with pine needles. They also grow in urban lawns and in the deep woods on areas where
decaying wood collects. I have seen some from Georgia in thick swampy areas.
Distribution: Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela
and Brazil.
Season: Late spring (May) through the summer months into the early fall (September)
depending on the location. In recent years, from mid to the late 1990s, Psilocybe caerulescens
has been collected from South Carolina and Northern Georgia as Psilocybe weilii. Other
collections of Psilocybe caerulescens have since been reported from Florida, Alabama and
Mississippi. I would assume that it also occurs in Louisiana as well.
Those particular southern States, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi have the same climatic
conditions and the same ecosystem as in the Mexican State of Oaxaca. Psilocybe caerulescens
occurs in the early spring through summer into mid-September (the rainy season), while in the
Mexican State of Oaxaca, the rainy season begins in late May to early June, extending through
September.
Dosage: 1 to 7 fresh mushrooms of various sizes. One large or 2-5 to 7 smaller specimens.
Sometime around the year 2000 or later, I posted a rather lengthy pictorial at the Shroomery and
at Mycotopia in their popular online mushroom community forums my concerns that Psilocybe
weilii could be the same mushroom as Psilocybe caerulescens. In my pictorial I compared both
species with numerous photos and research notes and data that suggested that Psilocybe weilii
was more than likely, Psilocybe caerulescens. Now we know that my research at the time
validated my observations that the two species were but one.
As mentioned above, Psilocybe caerulescens was first discovered in Huntsville, Alabama, but
was never re-collected in Alabama since 1923. However, I attribute that to the fact that probably
no one was looking for this species because the majority of mushroom enthusiasts, especially
those who do seek such fungi, more than likely spent their time harvesting Psilocybe cubensis
and various species of Copelandia from manure in pasture lands throughout the state.
Chapter Twenty - Eight
The Philosopher’s Stone (Magic Truffles):
On the afternoon of September 3rd of 1977, while attending what Paul Stamets described as a
boring technical ‘II International Mycological Congress’ in Tampa, Florida, Gary Lincoff, with
only a B.A. in philosophy, had just finished co-authoring a book on Toxic and Hallucinogenic
Mushroom Poisoning, due out in the fall of 1977.
At the time, Gary Lincoff was not yet a mycologist and he had not yet published his Audubon
Mushroom Field guide, he had specifically arrived at this conference with the intent of attending
a presentation on Psilocybe species presented by the world’s leading authority of the genera, Dr.
Gastón Guzmán. Lincoff was interested in their possible use as treatments in psychiatric
medicine.
While attending the conference, Lincoff soon met Dr. Steven Pollock, MD, a physician and
mycologist who set up a mushroom laboratory in his Winnebago to examine mushrooms and
creature cultures for later studies. Both instantly became very close friends.
Fig. 24. 5. Psilocybe mexicana. Photo: Alan Rockefeller.
On this particular day in September of 1977, they decided to take a break from the boredom of
their first mycological conference and check out the local flora and fauna during a short fungal
foray east of Brandon, near Tampa.
During that foray, the intrepid ‘shroom vision seekers’ came upon what they believe was a new
unidentified species of Psilocybe. Just a single specimen was harvested that day by Dr. Pollock
from sandy soiled in a grassy meadow habitat. One year later in the summer of 1978, Drs.
Guzmán and Pollock published their findings on the taxonomy of the new species; naming it
Psilocybe tampanensis after the city it was found near.
Since the time of its discovery by Dr. Pollock and Gary Lincoff, Psilocybe tampanensis had
never been re-collected in Florida; however, it was later observed in the wild one other time in a
1996 collection found by Dr. Guzmán in Mississippi.
Fig. 24. 6. SEM. Germination of 4-young basidiospores forming on Basidium. Photo:
Prakitsin Sihanonth.
In ‘Blood Spore: Of Murder and Mushrooms,’ an article by Hamilton Morris, featured in the vice
rag mag, Harper’s Magazine, not to be confused with the national syndicated publication,
Harper’s Bazaar, Hamilton Morris describes a somewhat misleading story of Psilocybe
tampanensis cultures created by noted Florida Mycology Research Center curator, Steven Peele.
According to Morris, Steven Peele had helped disburse billions of spores of Psilocybe
tampanensis into the air after he had inoculated numerous bales of hay ahead of Hurricane Erin
and Opal in 1995. Hamilton wrote that Steven Peele’s inoculated bales of hay had been
disbursed and spread throughout the entire southeastern United States in the aftermath of
Hurricanes Erin and Opal.
Yet, in the same narrative, Hamilton, mentioned how Dr. Guzmán had found a single specimen
of Psilocybe tampanensis in Mississippi in 1995; and a year later, another specimen fruiting on
Bagasse in Louisiana. Hamilton Morris had somehow misread the paper by Dr. Guzmán on the
Psilocybe species found in Mississippi and Louisiana. The Louisiana specimens collected by Dr.
Guzmán were a non-active species, Psilocybe pseudobullacea, a synonym for Psilocybe
pegleriana. Mr. Morris also reported alleged sightings in Atlanta and Southern Georgia of
Psilocybe tampanensis (since then, they have been re-identified as Psilocybe mexicana.
Unfortunately, neither Steven Peele nor Hamilton Morris were aware that all of the mushrooms
in the Southeastern United States previously identified as Psilocybe tampanensis and Psilocybe
galindoi, were actually Psilocybe mexicana.
In a private correspondence with Dr. Guzmán, I learned that through DNA sequencing and
microscopic examinations by Guzmán and his colleagues, that they has determined that
Psilocybe tampanensis and a 2nd newly named species identified from Florida, Psilocybe galindoi
were synonymous with Psilocybe mexicana (following Guzmán, pers. Comm., June 2014.). And
the single specimen that Dr. Guzmán found in Mississippi occupies the very same environmental
habitat in Mexico where Psilocybe mexicana occurs naturally in manured soil.
Fig. 24. 7. Psilocybe mexicana. Photo: Alan Rockefeller.
Now it seems that the distribution of Psilocybe mexicana is more widespread than originally
thought to be. I suggest that this species is not as rare as it was once believed to be and more
than likely, it also occurs in the U.S.A. from Texas to Florida and North to Southern Georgia.
It is common in most of subtropical Mexico and in Guatemala where it is sold by children to
Western American and European back packers; especially to tourists who seek the mushrooms
on their own by asking everyone “where can I find ‘parajitos (little birds)’ por favor?
Psilocybe mexicana
Cap: Approximately .5-3 cm broad. Conic to campanulate to convex when mature. Usually
displaying a small umbo or protrude. Even and striate at margin halfway towards the center of
the cap. Hygrophanous and ochraceous brown to orangey to straw-brown or yellowish-gray to
pale in drying. Sometimes there is bluing at the margin. Bluing occurs in age or when damaged
from human handling.
Gills: Adnate to adnexed and at times sinuate. Pale gray to dark purple-brown with white
edges.
Stem: 40 to 125 mm long by 1-3 mm thick. Equal but slightly thickened at the base. The stem
appears to be a straw-yellow to brownish color, becoming darker in age or where the stem has
been bruised. Veil is inconspicuous in the adult fruiting bodies. Bruising blue where injured.
Spores: (8-9.9) X 5.5-7.7 (8) µ. With a distinct germ pore and a short appendage.
Spore Print: Dark purple-brown to black-purplish brown in their deposit.
Habitat: Solitary to gregarious in meadows, horse pastures and in soil rich in manure, and in
sandy soil in a meadow. Never directly in manure.
Distribution: In the United States (Florida, Mississippi and Georgia); Mexico at elevations of
1000 to 1500 meters altitude, Michoacán, Morelos, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Puebla, Western Xalapa,
Veracruz, Mexico; and in Guatemala.
Season: Original Pollock collection occurred in Florida in September of 1977. It can be found
fruiting in subtropical Mexico from June through September and in the same season for
Guatemala.
Dosage: One gram dried. 20 or more fresh species.
Comments: Psilocybe mexicana was first described by French mycologist Roger Heim from
Oaxaca, Mexico on one of his expeditions with the Wasson’s to participate in a ceremony with
María Sabina in the mid-1950s. This species, once described by Drs. Guzmán and Pollock as
Psilocybe tampanensis was discovered in Tampa, Florida in the 1970s by Dr. Pollock and Gary
Lincoff. After that find of a single lone specimen, no one in Florida had since found this species.
However, it is now known to occur in Mississippi and Georgia and most likely it may also exist
in Louisiana, Alabama and Texas? Over the years, since mushrooms became legal in the
Nederland, the sclerotia of Psilocybe mexicana eventually became sold as the sclerotia of
Psilocybe tampanensis and later several more species were sold as sclerotia from Psilocybe
galindoi and a few other non-existing species names. It is still is a popular item in the
Amsterdam counter-culture scene where individual doses are marketed legally for tourist
consumption. Paul Stamets also refers to this species as the Mexican ‘liberty cap’ because it has
a pointed nipple and grows in similar habitats of enriched manured soil.
COSMIC CAMOTE
In March of 1978, in a fiberglass greenhouse in Pollock’s back yard, he eventually grew a crop
of Psilocybe tampanensis (Synonym=Psilocybe mexicana) from a single culture obtained by him
and presented to Dr. Guzmán as the original type species found near Tampa, Florida.
Afterwards, Dr. Pollock’s grow had a yield of robust specimens that sporulated copiously with
caps as wide as 38 mm in diameter and stems that were thick and reached as high as 60 mm in
length.
At the time of Pollock’s production of the sclerotia of Psilocybe tampanensis, Dr. Pollock had
already been aware of the production of this sclerotia and provided two epithets to describe his
sclerotia: (1) the ‘philosopher’s stone’ and (2) as his ‘Cosmic Camote.’
Fig. 24. 8. A 1000-gram package of Psilocybe mexicana sclerotia. Photo: Hans Grootewall.
Eventually, that sclerotia first cultivated by Dr. Pollock became a popular item in the Nederland
mushroom scene being sold as the Psilocybe tampanensis ‘truffle); and in the late 2000s, another
new species from Florida, Psilocybe galindoi; also now recognized as a synonym of Psilocybe
mexicana is now also a popular source of enlightenment to ludible users of the Divine Fungi.
Some growers in the Nederland’s also market and promote sclerotia labeled with non-existing
unscientific names as coming from species they refer to as Psilocybe Hollandia and Psilocybe
MacKennae. Again, the sclerotia sold under those names are nothing more than the sclerotia of
Psilocybe mexicana, Since December of 2008, psilocybian mushrooms were declared illegal in
the Nederland; however, the sclerotia from psilocybian fungi was not included in the banned
substance law. Nor were the spores and growing kits made illegal.
An error on the part of the Dutch Parliament is that they enacted a law banning more than 186
species of these divine mushrooms. Mushrooms that the lawmakers, who enacted this law, had
no basic knowledge about the law they created in regards to magic mushrooms. That law
includes several edible species and was based on a paper written by me, Dr. Guzmán and Dr.
Gartz in 2000.
Fig. 24. 9. Sclerotia spawn of Psilocybe mexicana.
Most likely, in the spring of 2015, the two largest truffle growers in the Nederland, ‘Truffle
Magic’ of Tiel (formerly Fresh Mushrooms of Tiel), and ‘Magic Truffles’ of Hazerwoude-Dorp
(formerly Pro-Care of Hazerwoude-Dorp), along with several other smaller producers of truffles
in the country, will now have to change the labeling for their many strains of truffles to all be
relabeled as Psilocybe mexicana. Of course, there a few other families that have species that
produce truffles, including Conocybe cyanopus and Psilocybe caerulescens.