Psilocybe cubensis is a species of psychedelic mushroom whose principle active compounds are psilocybin and psilocin. The mushrooms are reddish-cinnamon brown to golden brown in color and they will turn bluish/purplish when bruised due to the oxidation of their psilocin content. Their caps are planar when fully mature, and their gills are adnate (horizontally attached to the stem) to adnexed (slightly indented at the attachment point) depending on the variety. The mycelia are like microscopic straws that look similar in appearance to foam or hoarfrost. The gills are closely spaced and contain purple spores that can germinate once they are in a suitable substrate.
- Cap: 1.5-8 (10) cm broad, broadly conical or oval or bell-shaped (often with an umbo ) when young, gradually expanding to convex, broadly umbonate, or plane; surface smooth or with small whitish veil remnants when young, viscid when moist, soon dry, color variable: whitish with a brown to yellowish center, or entirely yellow to yellowish-buff to yellow-brown, or sometimes cinnamon-brown when young and sometimes dingy olive in old age; bruising and aging bluish; margin sometimes hung with veil remnants. Flesh firm, white, staining blue or blue-green when bruised.
- Spore print: dark purple-brown to blackish; spores 11-17x7-12 microns, elliptical, smooth, thick-walled, with a large apical germ pore. Cystidia present on faces of gills, but chrysocystidia absent.
- Bruising: blue or blue-green
- Gills: adnate to adnexed or seceding to free
- Stipe: 4-15 cm long, 0.4-1-5 cm thick, equal or more often thicker below, dry, white or sometimes yellowish to yellow-brown, aging or bruising blue or blue-green; smooth.
- Veil: Membranous, white or bluish-stained, usually forming a thin, fragile, superior ring on stalk which is blackened by falling spores.
- Mycelium: strong rhizomorphic white
Psilocybe cubensis is a coprophilic fungus (a dung-loving species) that often colonizes the dung of large herbivores, most notably cows and other grazing mammals such as goats. It prefers humid grasslands and has been found in tropical and subtropical environments. In the US, it is sometimes found growing wild in the South, generally below the 35th parallel. It has been found in modern times in the highlands and river valleys of Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela in South America. It has also been found throughout Thailand, Cambodia, India, South Africa, and Australia. Psilocybe cubensis can be found where humidity is above 85% a lot of the time, and where grass-eating mammals are. The reason cubensis grows commonly on the dung of these animals is because they have no or very little stomach acid. The cow eats feed with mushroom spores on it, and the spores germinate in the cow's moist, warm stomach. No, cubensis is not found under cow patties, and you should not consume anything you find under cow pies. Cubensis can be found within a few hundred miles of the Gulf Coast reliably, especially in fall and spring, all the way from Galveston, TX to Miami, FL. as far north as middle Tennessee. Note though that after 11 years of diligent wild hunting, I've only found cubensis in TN twice. If you hunt wild shrooms, make sure you are an expert at identifying mushrooms. What's the worst that could happen if you mis-identify? Your liver will shut down in a day or two, and you'll die of systemic ammonia toxicity and jaundice within a week or so. Yeah, you want to be careful. I also found it in New Jersey.
Fruit body Development
Since cubensis are a dung-loving species, they will grow exceptionally well on horse and cow manure, they will also produce well on many other substrates such as coconut coir, straw and whole grains. The PF tek, arguably the most popular growing technique for cubensis, allows a cultivator to get many flushes out of a substrate of vermiculite and brown rice flour.
Although cubensis cakes will benefit from a casing layer of vermiculite and are able to conquer a relatively deep one, they will fruit well without one.
Due to a note in Paul Stamets' book, The Mushroom Cultivator, the optimal colonization speed of cubensis was thought to have been reached at 86°F. Since then, independent testing has shown that 75-81°F (24 - 27 °C) is far more favorable for the species.
My petri dish studies a few years ago showed that cubensis reaches peak linear growth between 75F (24 °C) and 80F (26,5 °C), then is flat until 83F (28 °C), where it starts to slow down. Mycelium at 86F (30 °C) is growing at about 2/3 the speed of mycelium at 80F (26,5 °C). In addition, the higher temps tend to stimulate thermophic molds and bacteria.
Cubensis are extremely resilient to various temperatures when they are in their fruiting stage, but like many other species, will produce higher quality, denser fruit bodies when lower temperature is maintained. Many have found that that the ideal fruiting temperature is between 68 and 72°F (20 - 22,2 °C).
Cubensis fruit best in a 100% humidity environment. Fruit bodies will grow in less than saturated air, but primordia will not form well. Cubensis will be far more resilient to changes in humidity if a casing layer is applied.
Cubensis is the most popular psychoactive mushroom among hobby cultivators due to the the ease with which it can be grown. The PF tek, a famous mushroom cultivation method, was originally designed with this species in mind. Cubensis produce a very rhizomorphic mycelium and will fruit well on a wide variety of substrates without a casing layer.
Its major psychoactive compounds are:
- Psilocybin (4-Phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine)
- Psilocin (4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine)
- Baeocystin (4-Phosphoryloxy-N-methyltryptamine)
- Norbaeocystin (4-Phosphoryloxytryptamine)
Psilocin and psilocybin are substances isolated by Albert Hofmann in 1958 in a related and less potent species, P. mexicana. All four compounds are presumed hallucinogenic, though it is suspected that baeocystin and norbaeocystin are less psychoactive than psilocybin and psilocin.
Individual brain chemistry and psychological predisposition play a significant role in determining appropriate doses. For a modest psychedelic effect, a minimum of one gram of dried cubensis mushrooms is ingested orally. 0.25-1 gram is usually sufficient to produce a mild effect, 1-2.5 grams usually provides a moderate effect. 2.5 grams and higher usually produces strong effects . For most people, 3.5 dried grams (1/8 oz) would be considered a high dose and likely to produce an intense experience. For many individuals doses above 3.5 grams rapidly become overwhelming. For a few rare people, doses as small as 0.25 grams can produce full-blown effects normally associated with very high doses. For most people, however, that dose level would result in virtually no effects.
Effects usually start after approximately 20-60 minutes (depending on method of ingestion and what else is in the stomach) and may last from four to five hours, depending on dosage. Hallucinatory effects often occur, including walls that seem to breathe, a vivid enhancement of colors and the animation of organic shapes. At higher doses, experiences tend to be less social and more entheogenic, often intense and spiritual in nature.
Many people microdose psilocybe mushrooms and report that it helps relieve depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, while also increasing creativity. A microdose is roughly one tenth of a normal dose, usually between 0.05 grams and 0.1 grams, and is not enough to produce psychedelic effects. The microdose is taken two to five times a week and is sometimes combined with various supplements.
It's nearly impossible to overdose on Psilocybe mushrooms since one would have to consume nearly their entire body weight in fresh mushrooms or ≈1680g of dried mushrooms. Nevertheless, the effects of very high doses can be overwhelming. Depending on the particular strain, growth method, and age at harvest, Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms can come in rather different sizes. It is recommended that one weigh the actual mushrooms, as opposed to simply counting them.
People taking MAOIs need to be very careful, as psilocybin and psilocin are metabolized by the enzyme monoamine oxidase. An MAOI reduces the body's ability to handle the mushrooms (roughly doubling their potency), and can lead to an unpleasant, prolonged, or dangerously strong experience.
Although it is illegal in many nations to possess psilocybin containing mushrooms (which contain psychoactive compounds), it is legal in several places to own and sell spores. In the United States, only the psychoactive compounds (see above) are listed as schedule 1 drugs under federal law. Although the spores do not contain psychoactive compounds, possession is prohibited by state law in Georgia, California and Idaho. In 2019, Denver, Colorado became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Since then, several other U.S. cities have followed suit. In 2020, the state of Oregon decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms and legalized medical psilocybin.
- Arora, David. Mushrooms Demystified. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1986. ISBN 0-89815-169-4
- Nicholas, L.G. and Ogame, Kerry. Psilocybin Mushroom Handbook: Easy Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation. Canada: Quick American Archives, 2006. ISBN 0932551718
- Stamets, Paul. Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1993. ISBN 1580081754
- Stamets, Paul. The Mushroom Cultivator. Olympia: Agarikon Press, 1983. ISBN 0961079800
- Stamets, Paul. Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1996. ISBN 0961079800
- The results of the 2006 Johns Hopkins study of psilocybin.
- MycoTopia Forums with some of the most experienced minds on the subject, with archives containing thousands of techniques and ideas on Psilocybe production.
- The Ones That Stain Blue Studies in ethnomycology including the contributions of Maria Sabina, Dr. Albert Hofmann and Dr. Gaston Guzman.
- Erowid Psilocybin Vault
- PF TEK Psilocybe cubensis growing techniques.
- Psilocybin Awareness A molecular neurobiology student manuscript from the University of California at Berkeley.
- The Shroomery A massive repository of knowledge on the growing and use of psilocybe cubensis.