The first documented case of Psilocybe intoxication occurred in 1799, when a man picked several semilanceata from the shores of the Thames River in London, and cooked a meal for his family with them. This led to the classification of a new species of mushroom, which was placed in the genus Agaricus, then moved to Psilocybe in 1871.
Since then, over 200 species and subspecies have been developped or discovered, as magic mushroom enthusiasts have grown globally.
Each species or subspecies of shroom has unique visual characteristics along with varying levels and ratios of three psychotropic compounds — psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin. A few of the most prevalent species are P. azurescens, P. cyanescens, P. semilanceata, and P. cubensis (which is the most widely known and easily cultivated). Each strain has a slightly different effect in terms of quality, and potency.
A shroom by any other name…
Classification of mushroom strains can be confusing. It’s useful to draw parallels between Cannabis strains and shroom strains.
Cannabis and Psilocybe mushrooms both have major species, and then strains of each species with slightly different qualities.
Cannabis has species like indica, sativa, and ruderalis –
Psilocybe mushrooms have species like azurescens, semilanceata, cubensis
Cannabis has strains like Northern Lights, Purple Kush, and Jack Haze
Psilocybe mushrooms have strains like Penis Envy, Golden Teacher, and Huaulta.
Unlike cannabis, where the crossing of genetics combines plant traits to create a new weed strain, mushroom strains often start with a desirable mutation, such as being albino or growing especially large mushrooms. These random mutations can be selected and cloned for several generations from the largest, healthiest mushrooms of each life cycle, to create a new strain in a process known as “isolation.”
Is it a magic mushroom? Easy ways to identify shrooms
The effect, duration, and onset of the psychoactive experience from different species and strains can vary widely. However, all members of the genus Psilocybe share a few key identifying factors that can aid in their identification.
- Magic mushrooms all bruise an azure-bluish color when handled or damaged, from oxidation of the compound psilocin at the site of impact.
- Shrooms all have a thin gelatinous veil, known in mycological terms as a “pellicle,” and it separates the cap (or pileus) from the stem (or stipe). In maturity, this veil often disintegrates, leaving a darkened section (annular zone) along the stem.
- Psilocybe mushrooms have dense gills on the underside of the cap (or pileus) and a shiny or silky film on the outside of the cap.
- They all have a hygrophanous nature (meaning coloration changes with the state of hydration).
Most popular North American Species of Psylocybe Mushroom
The bulk of shrooms you can get, or find, in North America are made of up of four species:
- P. semilanceatas or Liberty Caps
- Golden Teacher
- Penis Envy
One of the most widespread, potent, and commonly-recognized members of the Psilocybe genus. Easily distinguishable by a conical-bell-shaped cap. While most Psilocybe shroom caps flatten in maturity, Liberty Caps hold their shape. They are also, on average, smaller than other species, often with a thin, elongated, fragile stem, and a spear-shaped cap from which the name “semilanceata” (meaning “spear-shaped” in Latin) comes from.
Testing done by mycologists Paul Stamets and Jochen Gartz placed Liberty Caps as the third most potent Psilocybe species, with an exceptionally high concentration of psilocybin, low concentration of psilocin, and moderate levels of baeocystin. The high concentration of psilocybin often leads to semilanceata mushrooms eliciting a very visual experience that also lasts longer than those of other species, due to the body having to break down this psilocybin into psilocin before the effects are felt.
This strain was first classified in the late ‘80s, and since then, the name Golden Teacher has become almost ubiquitous with psilocybin mushrooms. Golden Teacher mushrooms are medium to large in size and often feature a distinct triangular bump in the center of their golden caramel-colored caps. It is a moderately potent strain ideal for beginning shroom psychonauts, one that offers a subtly more spiritual, introspective undertone to the experience, along with feelings of euphoria and uncontrollable laughter. This makes Great Teacher well suited for both social recreational use and therapeutic or medicinal applications.
Penis Envy P. cubensis has an interesting history. It is theorized the strain was isolated from Amazonian P. cubensis (another popular strain) by legendary ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence McKenna. Since Mckenna’s original isolation, many variations of Penis Envy have subsequently been created, such as Albino Penis Envy and Uncut Penis Envy. All of these variations have characteristics which are clearly distinct from other P. cubensis strains, consisting of substantially higher potency (30 to 50 percent); extremely thick, dense stems; and pale, underdeveloped caps — making them somewhat resemblant of the organ for which they were named. They are known to generate an experience filled with deep philosophical ideations and intense feelings of euphoria.
This strain was one of the first to be classified, and is thought to be the mushroom referred to by R. Gordon Wasson in the famous LIFE Magazine article “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” which popularized psilocybin mushrooms throughout Western cultures. Its name comes from the village of Huautla De Jiménez in Oaxaca, Mexico where Wasson’s experience took place. Huautla are typically medium-sized mushrooms of moderate potency that sporate very heavily, often turning the caps purple-black with spores. They are known to reliably elicit spiritually meaningful experiences permeated with intense feelings of love and unity, along with a sense of connection with nature and the universe as a whole.
Want to try out different strains, or species of shroom?
Not sure what strain or species is right for you? We have the best collection of highest quality psilocybe mushrooms in Canada, including small batch, organic, natural shrooms, and our mix and match grab bag is designed to give you a tester amount of four different kinds! We carry:
- Penis Envy
- King Kong
- Dino Eggs
- Great White Monster
- Blue Meanies
Looking to microdose, but not sure how to do it? Check out our beginners guide here.