Psilocybe cubensis is a species of psychedelic mushroom that contains psilocybin and psilocin as its active compounds. Among users, it’s commonly called shrooms, cubes, gold caps, golden halos, buttons, magic mushrooms, or caps in short. These species of mushrooms belong to the fungus family Hymenogastraceae, previously known as Stropharia cubensis.
It is the most well known psilocybin mushroom strain due to its ease of cultivation and wide distribution throughout the world.
The first scientific description of these species is noted in 1906 by American mycologist Franklin Sumner Earle in Cuba. Earle described them as Stropharia cubensis. In northern Vietnam same species have been found by the pharmacist and mycologist Narcisse Théophile Patouillard identified them as Naematoloma caerulescens in 1907. Near Gainesville in Florida, in 1941, William Alphonso Murrill found the exact same species called Stropharia cyanescens. Finally, in 1949, German-born mycologist Rolf Singer moved the species into the genus Psilocybe, giving them the binomial name Psilocybe cubensis, as we know them today. Sometimes they are also referred to as Palenque mushrooms.
The name of these psilocybin-containing mushrooms is derived from the Ancient Greek roots psilos (ψιλος) and kubê (κυβη), roughly translated as “bare head”. Cubensis also means “coming from Cuba”, referring to the strain found by Earl in 1906.
Rolf Singer divided Psilocybe cubensis into three distinct varieties:
The Nominate – having a brownish cap
Murrill’s cyanescens found in Florida – having a pale cap
Var caeurulascens mostly found in Indochina – has a more yellow-toned cap
To identify a Psilocybe cubensis mushroom you will have to take a closer look at the whole fruit body of this fungus.
The cap is conic to convex measuring around 0.6–3.1 inches with a central papilla when it is young, becoming broadly convex to plane as it ages. A slight umbo sometimes surrounded by a ring-shaped depression is present on the cap when it is young.
The surface of the cap is smooth and somewhat sticky, sometimes with white veil remnants attached to the bottom side of the mushroom.
The cap is brown at the center becoming pale as you look towards the margins, with age it fades to more golden-brown or yellowish.
An interesting fact about P. cubensis is that when bruised, all parts stain blue, giving the illusion of a blue mushroom.
Psilocybe cubensis gills are narrow and grey in color. They’re adnate to adnexed, and sometimes get mottled with age, darkening to purplish-black, while the edges of the gills remain whiteish.
The stem is 2-6 inches high by 0.2-0.6 inches thick, white in color, and hollow, it becomes yellowish in age.
When the veil is well-developed it leaves a white membrane under the cap. The vail becomes the same color as the gills over time, due to falling spores.
The fruit body of the cubensis mushroom has no odor and tastes like flour made from grains.
Psilocybe cubensis is a pan-tropical hallucinogenic species, which means that it’s occurring in the Gulf Coast states and southeast parts of the United States and Mexico. It is also found in Central American countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Belize, the Caribbean countries Cuba, Trinidad, Martinique, Guadalupe, and the Dominican Republic. Psilocybe cubensis is found in South America as well, in countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Peru. Southeast Asia is home to psilocybe cubensis mushrooms as well, they’re found in Thailand, Australia, Vietnam, India, Cambodia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Fiji.
In nature, P. cubensis grows on animal excrement most of the time it is cow dung. It can also grow on rich pasture soil or sugar cane mulch. Wild magic mushrooms, in the northern hemisphere, appear from February to December, and in the southern hemisphere from November to April.
In southeast Asia, psilocybe cubensis shrooms grow on water buffalo dung. It’s speculated that the introduction of cattle in Australia, along with other fungi that grow on cow excrement, P. cubensis has colonized this region!
Identifying wild mushrooms was never an easy task. As a result of strain variety and cultivars, Psilocybe cubensis has over 200 species and the distinctions become even more complicated. Although there are several Psilocybe cubensis specimens, they all belong to the same species, however, they can feature different physical characteristics, conditions in which they grow, and even potency. Through the past five decades, a wide variety of these strains was created by underground breeders. Some of the most popular strains of these psilocybin-containing mushrooms are:
Psilocybe cubensis are not the only psychoactive mushroom species, there are many other hallucinogenic mushrooms with similar properties. Some of the related species are:
P. azurescens, commonly referred to as Flying Saucers, Blue Angels, Blue Runners, or Azzies, are the most potent psilocybin mushrooms that grow in the wild. There have been stories about Boy Scouts camping in Oregon that discovered this mushroom species in 1979, however, they weren’t listed as an official species until 1996, when Paul Stamets identified them and published his work.
In Oregon, Azurescens occur mostly near the Columbia River delta. They can only be found on the West coast of the U.S. from California to Washington. They prefer sandy soils, such as near sea grasses or dunes, also they can be found on loose decomposing wood. Being pretty resistant to chilly temperatures compared to other psilocybin-containing mushrooms, they’re able to withstand temperatures from 60 – 75° F. Fortunately, that also makes them easy to cultivate outdoors for home growers in the United States and Europe.
The psilocybe azurescens has some of the highest concentrations of psilocybin (1.78%), and psilocin (0.38%), which means that they’re up to four times more potent than p. cubensis. Having that in mind, one gram of dried mushrooms could be enough to have a powerful trip.
Psilocybin tampanensis produces truffles or sclerotia, a compact mass of hardened fungal mycelium. These truffles are often called magic truffles, psilocybin truffles, or philosopher’s stones. This species can also fruit into small yellowish mushrooms with conic caps, but most growers eat their sclerotia, which grows under the soil. P. tampanensis contain up to 0.68% psilocybin and 0.32% psilocin, according so Stamets’ book.
These are the truffles that are popularized and sold at specialty coffee shops in the Netherlands, through a legal loophole. However, philosopher’s stones were discovered near Tampa, Florida in 1977, they haven’t been found in that state since. As a matter of fact, they are extremely rare to find in the wild but have become popular with home growers due to their ease of cultivation.
Psilocybe cyanescens, having the rippled shape cap became known as the Wavy Caps. Elsie Wakefield identified this species and described it in England in 1946.
They’re one of the most widespread wild magic mushrooms in the world, thus it’s hard to determine their origins, but it’s believed that they are native to Central Europe and the Pacific Northwest. They can be found on decaying wood, such as wood debris, mulch, and chips that are found in gardens, trails, or parks. It’s believed that it’s the way how P. cyanescens spread internationally.
Psilocybe zapotecorum is a specie native to Mexico that has been linked to ancient ceremonial use. The Zapotec community of southern Oaxaca named this mushroom. In their language. P. zapotecorum is referred to as “Bado, Badao, and Badao Zoo,” which roughly translates to drunk mushroom or even, drunk god.
Psilocybe zapotecorum has also been found in subtropical South American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. In Stamets’ description, this mushroom is often found in patches of humus-rich, swampy soil rich in leaves and wood debris.
Psilocybe semilanceata, also known as Liberty Caps, are the most widespread species of psilocybin mushrooms in the world. According to the research conducted in 1997 by Paul Stamets and Jochen Gartz, it’s the third most potent magic mushroom in the world.
It has been identified in 1838, making it the first formally recognized psilocybin mushroom that is native to Europe. This species is still wildly popular and used among many psychonauts. The first report of a psychedelic trip with this particular mushroom was in England in 1799. A London family reportedly picked and decided to eat wild mushrooms growing in Green Park, which caused one of the sons to laugh uncontrollably and the father to believe he was about to die, most of the other family members reported having vertigo.
Liberty caps are also known as Witch’s Hat, as their cap resembles it in shape. They grow all over the Northern Hemisphere. P. semilanceata prefers rich and acidic soil such as lawns, meadows, pastures, and grasslands. Because this is a common environment around the globe, they grow in many countries throughout Europe. They’re found in the United States as well as in some parts of the Southern Hemisphere.
Psilocybe caerulescens are also known as “Derrumbes”, which when translated from Mexican means “Landslide Mushroom”. They were first found in 1923 near Montgomery, Alabama. As the report stated, they were found on sugar cane mulch. They can still be found in Southern US and Mexico.
Psilocybe caerulescens became famous for its use in healing ceremonies conducted by Maria Sabina. Gordon Wasson, the famous mycologist, was given thirteen pairs during a Mazatec ceremony, which he wrote about in Life Magazine, where the term “magic mushroom” was born.
As they are resilient to low temperatures and high altitudes, their natural habitat is former sites of landslides and other parts of land that are free of plants during the rainy season in Mexico.
Psilocybe mexicana, as the name suggests is a Mexican hallucinogenic mushroom. It’s believed that these particular psychoactive mushrooms were used by the Nahuatl and Aztec people in ceremonies calling it “Teonanacatl,” meaning “flesh of the Gods,” they were also considered a sacred mushroom. P. mexicana is also the species Albert Hoffman (father of LSD) received in 1958, and managed to cultivate more of these hallucinogenic mushrooms and isolate psilocybin and psilocin for the first time in the laboratory.
P. mexicana still grows up to this day in most parts of Mexico, during the rainy season. It’s common to find them in higher altitudes between 3290 to 5900 feed. Its preferred habitat is moss, meadows, and soil rich in manure, as well as alongside trails and roads.
Learn More: What Are Magic Truffles?
There is also a strain of Psilocybe cubensis called Blue Meanies, which can lead to confusion since Panaeolus cyanescens and Copelandia cyanescens are sometimes called “Blue Meanies.”
These mushrooms are different in a few ways compared to Psilocybe cubensis. For starters, these are the first species on this list that isn’t part of the Psilocybe genus, instead, they are in the Panaeolus genus. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t hallucinogenic.
Having two to three times more psilocybin and psilocin than the genus Psilocybe cubensis, these mushrooms are among the strongest in the world.
A warm, subtropical climate is the preferred habitat of Copelandia cyanescens, which grows in dung in pastures and fields.
Psilocybe caerulipes is also called the Blue Foot Mushroom. When bruised, all parts of the mushroom stain blue as that’s the case with the majority of magic mushrooms, however, it is believed that it is how it got its name. P. caerulipes grows in the US, it’s commonly found around decaying hardwood logs, especially near rivers.
In addition to hardwoods, they can also be found growing on slash and debris, and they are “widely distributed” east of the Great Plains throughout the Midwest, the Eastern United States, and even into Canada.
Psilocybe stuntzii is a rare hallucinogenic mushroom that has only been reported on the West Coast of the United States and Canada. The first appearance of this mushroom was identified on the University of Washington’s campus. It got its nickname “Stuntz’s Blue Legs” as the first species type collection was gathered by Dr. Daniel Stuntz, it’s also called Blue Ringer or Blue Legs.
P. stunzii is a wood-loving mushroom, its natural habitat is on decaying debris, wood chips, and fresh mulch. They’re also found in grassy areas, such as lawns, alongside roads, paths, and gardens.
In 1949 after examining Psilocybe cubensis, Singer noted that they have psychoactive properties.
In Australia, the rapid growth of magic mushroom consumption has been reported between 1969 and 1975.
In 1992, there has been reports from the locals and tourists in Thailand that they consumed magic mushroom omelets, particularly in Ko Pha-ngan and Ko Samui.
In 1996, jars of honey containing P. cubensis were confiscated at the German-Dutch border. The Dutch coffee shops allegedly sold honey jars containing psychedelic mushrooms, according to the investigation.
High-performance liquid chromatography is used to determine the psilocybin and psilocin levels in magic mushrooms. Usually, they’re in the range of 0.37–1.30% and 0.14–0.42% in dried cubensis shrooms, with the cap containing slightly more of these psychoactive compounds than the stem.
Psychological predisposition as well as one’s brain chemistry plays a significant role in determining the proper dose of magic mushrooms. For mild effects, 0.25-1g would be enough,1-2.5 grams are the usual dose providing moderate effects and everything above 2.5 grams is considered a high dose that will have strong effects on the body and mind.
Psilocybe cubensis is naturally found in tropical and subtropical conditions, often near cattle excrement, like many other psilocybin mushrooms, due to its ideal conditions for fungus growth. It provides good relative humidity and is rich in nutrients.
The cattle usually consume grass or grains that are covered with the Psilocybe cubensis spores, they go through the cows’ digestive system and start to germinate within the dung. Psilocybe cubensis are easy to cultivate indoors, as they grow on numerous substrates such as brown rice flour, ground coffee, coco coir, straw, and sawdust. Rye grains are reported to be the most suitable substrate by the cultivators for growing Psilocybe cubensis.
Psilocybin and psilocin levels were found to be higher in mushrooms grown in dark environments than those grown in indirect light, according to a study conducted in 2009.
Studies were conducted in a controlled environment. A wind tunnel and a computer program were used to determine the influence of humidity on the growth of Psilocybe cubensis, which aided in mapping their development. The growth of mushrooms was heavily influenced by the humidity of the air. Transpiration was also affected, at higher humidities it was accelerated, while light had no impact on the growth. At higher humidities, the growth was faster. It was also noted that misting enhances both growth and transpiration rates in the Psilocybe cubensis growth process. As a result, mushrooms grown with higher humidity will yield more when the fruit bodies appear.
Cultivating Psilocybe cubensis shrooms on a personal scale level is relatively simple. Small-scale methods of growing such as PF Tek, and other “cake” methods are easy, but they produce a limited amount of mushrooms. The advanced techniques and methods used by professional mushroom cultivators are far greater, but they require more time, money, and knowledge invested into them. These methods reward cultivators with higher yields and more consistent harvests as described in the “Psilocybin mushroom handbook”.
In the 1970s, Terence and Dennis McKenna, returning from the Amazon rainforest, published Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide which made Psilocybe cubensis extremely popular. They deducted new methods of growing psilocybin mushrooms, stating that Psilocybe cubensis were amongst the easiest psilocybin mushrooms to cultivate compared to the other species. Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide explained everything there is to know about cultivating. Psilocybe cubensis grown by following the methods in the book are 100% safe to consume, the book also features everything from growing and harvesting, to preserving and dosing.
Another great book was written by Haze Virginia and Dr. K. Mandrake, it’s called “The Psilocybin Mushroom Bible” its described as the definitive guide to growing and using Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms and other psilocybe species.
Each flush (harvest) of cultivated Psilocybe cubensis specimens has a different potency. A study showed psilocybin levels varied with flushes, but were essentially the same in the first and last flushes as well. Psilocin, however, was typically absent in the first two flushes but was highly potent in the fourth flush.
There are various ways of ingesting cubes. Most of the time dried psilocybe cubensis mushrooms are used, cultivated mushrooms can be stored for longer periods of time when properly dried.
P. cubensis are the easiest psilocybin-containing mushrooms to grow, so many users describe their experience with this particular genus, but it could all be applied to any specie you want to consume.
Dried mushrooms can be eaten raw, brewed into magic mushroom tea, ground up into capsules, and even put on a pizza like your regular Champignon mushroom (Agaricus bisporus). Usually, the whole mushroom is used, although caps contain more psychoactive compounds than the stem.
Under the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971, psilocybin and psilocin are listed as Schedule I drugs.
In the United States, possessing Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms is illegal in all states, and growing and cultivating such species is illegal as well. However, it is legal to possess, obtain or buy spores for microscopy purposes.
In Denver, Colorado from May 8th, 2019, psilocybe-containing mushrooms have been decriminalized for those 21 and up. Oakland, California quickly followed the suit and decriminalized these types of mushrooms on June 4th, 2019.
Santa Cruz, California decriminalized naturally-occurring psychedelics, including magic mushrooms in 2020. The state of Oregon decriminalized possession of psilocybin mushrooms for recreational use and granted a practitioner’s permission license to administer psilocybin mushrooms to individuals of age 21 and older.
Hopefully, more states will recognize the benefits of magic mushrooms and follow with decriminalization or even legalization of their use.
Unexperienced people might easily be deceived by lookalike mushrooms, therefore an extreme level of caution is advised while foraging nature for psilocybe mushrooms. Some mushrooms found in the wild can essentially be fatal.
When buying magic mushrooms on the black market, it’s also important to have a trustworthy source, as you always want to make sure to clarify what kind of mushrooms are you buying. For instance, a standard dose of shrooms is around two grams, but two grams of penis envy mushrooms could contain much higher concentrations of psychoactive compounds, than other cubensis mushrooms such as Z strain or Golden teacher, for say. As there are different cubensis strains, their potency varies from mild to strong, thus good information about the strains could give you greater insights into deciding the dosage.
No hallucinogenic mushroom genus has shown any indication of the development of addiction. In fact, the use of mushrooms to treat addiction has shown some promise.
However, they may be a chance of other risks, if you have mental disorders such as bipolar, or schizophrenia, or a family history of such illnesses. This doesn’t only apply to psilocybin mushrooms, is the same risk with every other hallucinogenic drug.
Species Psilocybe cubensis is the most common species that is grown and used by many people. Whether you are a professional mushroom cultivator or a complete beginner, cubensis are still a great option to grow as they will provide you with satisfying yields.
Studies conducted in the past, have shown us that when the temperature is controlled, the area was ventilated and relative humidity was high psychoactive mushrooms grew rapidly.
On a personal scale, the cultivation of psilocybe cubensis mushrooms ranges from the rather simple PF Tek method, which produces only a small amount of mushrooms, to sophisticated methods which use professional cultivation methods.
Although there is no addiction potential and no chance of overdosing, psychoactive mushroom use shouldn’t be taken lightly. They should be treated with respect, as well as the experience they provide.
1UpMaps is a community resource that serves as a one-stop-shop for credible information, including a strain library as well as products and doctors/healers who are able to offer trip sitting during or integration therapy after an experience.