Magic mushroom strains – 7 varieties of shrooms
Magic mushrooms are stepping into their moment. Research continues to illuminate psilocybin as a possible pharmaceutical resource, and some cities and states are starting to decriminalize it. The fungi are having a moment outside of the counterculture. Let’s learn more about magic mushroom strains to truly grasp their potential.
Psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, are a group of fungi that inspire a hallucinogenic experience if consumed. The classic psychedelic experience is prompted by psilocybin and psilocin, compounds in magic mushrooms. The ratio of psilocybin to psilocin dictates how quickly the fruiting body takes effect.
Molecular biologist Christopher Pauli co-founded the molecular biology and genetics department at Tryptomics, a testing lab that tests magic mushrooms for these ratios. Pauli explained that, like cannabis strains, defining what magic mushroom strain is best is subjective.
“It’s important to recognize that there isn’t a universally perfect mushroom. Rather, different mushrooms cater to specific preferences and purposes. For instance, if you’re geared up for a music show, opting for the most potent mushroom might not grant you the upbeat and enjoyable experience you’re after. Conversely, a milder mushroom with a varied alkaloid composition might be precisely what suits the occasion,” Pauli explained in an email.
“Moreover, if your intention is to embark on a deep meditative journey with higher doses, selecting mushrooms with elevated alkaloid content that also produce beta-carbolines could mean you need fewer grams of the fruit to attain the desired outcome.”
There’s no “best psilocybin mushroom,” but you can pair magic mushroom strains with the right moments. Let’s learn more about this nuance.
The history of magic mushroom strains
Magic mushrooms started gaining popularity in the U.S. in the 1950s thanks in part to mycologist R. Gordon Wasson, who was invited into a ritual with the Indigenous Mazatec tribe in Mexico. The psychedelic experience proved riveting, and Wasson recollected it in “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” for Life magazine.
This is often cited as the first American reference to psilocybin. Though Wasson changed her name and did not name the village, people began seeking out a similar transformative experience.
Maria Sabina, the curandera responsible for sharing the ritual with Wasson, was blamed by her community for bringing unwanted attention to their village. Her home was frequently raided, and she was hassled by police and even jailed.
Twenty years later, Wasson shared regret about writing about the Mazatec ritual after watching the way the sacred experience had been commodified. But the bottle had already been opened, and by the 70s magic mushrooms had been solidified in American counterculture.
Microdosing & the Stamets stack
One major influence on modern mycology and North American mushroom foraging is longtime advocate and author Paul Stamets. Stamets could be found amidst the flurry for microdosing that took the tech (and general) world by storm in the last half a decade. This could be due in part to the popularization of the Stamets stack.
Microdosing is the act of taking a small, almost undetectable dose of psilocybin over an allotted period. The method is meant to elicit the positive effects of a psilocybin trip without stirring up the intense, emotional rollercoaster of a macro dose.
Stamets stacks psilocybin with Lions Mane Mushroom to maximize the creation of new neural pathways and repair damaged ones. This stack is meant to maximize the effects of the microdose, using not only magic mushrooms but functional ones too.
Magic mushroom strains
Today, the public consensus on magic mushrooms is shifting. Research continually shows the potential for psilocybin and psilocin for various mental health conditions like treatment-resistant depressive disorders.
These studies point to the need for more research and a deeper understanding of the therapeutic potential of the psilocybin mushroom species.
There are over 180 species of magic mushrooms in the Psilocybe genus. These are the general types of Psilocybe mushrooms:
Psilocybe is one of the most commonly available species of mushrooms with psychedelic properties, and there are many iterations of the fruiting bodies. Like cannabis strains, psilocybin comes in many forms. On top of that, Psilocybe is not just one mushroom strain, but the parent of many easy-to-cultivate options.
Potent, easy to grow, and native to the west coast of the United States, Psilocybe azurenscens has the attention of psychonauts and mycologists alike. It has been found as far north as Grey’s Harbor, Washington, but is most often found growing naturally along the Columbia River. Feral cousins of this mushroom strain have also been found in Stuttgart, Germany.
Stamets wrote in Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World that the plant loves wood chips or sandy soils rich in wooded debris. Psilocybe azurescens is also called Flying Saucer Mushrooms, Azzies, Indigo Psilocybe, and Blue Angels. Not to be confused with Blue Meanies, also known as Panaelous cyanescens.
Blue Angels tend to have a more caramel color than yellow-brown Psilocybe cubensis. They have a flat-topped cap with a whitish-brown stem. The stem can turn black with damage and tends to hollow out as they age. This magic mushroom strain is said to be more potent than the common cubensis.
Since it’s easy to grow, Psilocybe cubensis is the most well-known magic mushroom species. Mycologist Franklin Sumner Earle was the first American to record and describe this mushroom strain while on a visit to Cuba. This is how it got the name cubensis, or “coming from Cuba.” It grows off of dung.
There are many subspecies of Psilocybe cubensis. The original has a brown cap, Psilocybe cyanescence is paler in color, and Psilocybe caerulascens from Indochina has a more yellow lid.
The original Psilocybe cubensis has a smooth but sticky cap that sometimes has bits of thin white veil-like matter attached. It features a white color that turns brown with age, if disturbed, the flesh turns blue. This slowly degrades to black over time.
This strain of psilocybin mushrooms is often called Wavy Caps or Potent psilocybe. Psilocybe cyanescens grow in wood chips, often in manicured urban areas. A super flush of over 100,000 magic mushrooms was once found growing on an English racetrack.
But that’s not what Wavy Caps are known for—they’re actually famous for their coloring. The chestnut coloring turns yellow-brown when dried, which is pretty standard. But Psilocybe cyanescens will also turn blue when touched or disturbed. It’s believed this is due to the oxidation of the psilocin.
This magic mushroom strain has been found in many locations, including the Pacific Northwest, California Bay Area, New Zealand, Western Asia, and Central Europe.
This fungus is commonly called a Liberty Cap and grows bountifully in nature. This strain of psilocybin mushrooms contains psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin– all of which are psychoactive.
Liberty Caps feed off of rotting grassroots and thrive in grassland habitats, the wetter the better. They grow a cone-shaped bell-like cap that is light brown and appears slimy. The top has a small bump descending into grooves going down the cap. Another telltale sign that a psychedelic mushroom is a Liberty Cap is its slender stem.
This mushroom commonly grows in Europe but similar species thrive in other climates.
Psilocybe strictipes have the same slender build and grow in grasslands but don’t have as large of a protrusion on top of the cap. P. Mexicana (also known as the Mexican liberty cap) looks the same as Psilocybe semilanceata but grows in manure-rich soil in a subtropical climate.
One of the most highly sought-after magic mushroom strains is the Golden Teacher. The lore of Golden Teachers has been wafting through trip circles since the 1980s.
Golden teachers are a cultivar of P. cubensis and look like it with golden brown caps that peak with a little dome on top and swaths of spores in their gills. This species of mushroom makes a perfect spore print.
The popularity of this psychedelic mushroom strain may be due to how easy it is to grow them in a substrate, aka at home. It’s tolerant of many environments and is known for its high potency.
Another cultivar of cubensis, Penis Envy is known for its unique appearance. As the name suggests, this entheogenic mushroom is phallic, featuring a thick stem under the dome-shaped cap. While it’s hard to identify many psilocybin strains with the naked eye, it’s always clear when someone has a bag of Penis Envy.
Like its cubensis brethren, Penis Envy grows from dung and thrives in hot, humid climates. This strain isn’t just coveted for its girth, it also contains high quantities of psilocybin and psilocin.
Penis Envy comes in different varieties, including the all-white Albino Penis Envy. A version of Tidal Wave from Magic Myco Farm won the 2021 Oakland Hyphae Psilocybin Cup. That variety was a combination of Penis Envy and B+, another sought-after magic mushroom strain.
Many of the P. cubensis strains listed here came from Mexico, Cuba, and South America, but not B+. This species of magic mushroom was said to have been discovered in Florida growing a whopping 16 inches tall. The caramel-colored caps are also large, reaching up to a five-inch diameter.
The caps are smooth aside from that little nipple-like protrusion on the top, but sometimes they also develop unique spots. Like Penis Envy, B+ mushrooms have a thick stem that can grow up to six inches long and one inch thick. They appear white unless bruised, then a blue hue emerges.
Find B+ magic mushrooms in grassy areas growing on decomposing plants or dung. They like hot weather and their growth cycle is triggered by raised humidity amidst already-hot temperatures.
The rarity and legality of magic mushroom strains
These strains are well-known and depending on the season can be hard to find. Pauli explained that home breeding donates to the rarity of some magic mushroom strains.
“Certain mushrooms are considered rare not because they’re naturally occurring, but due to human innovation. The creation of new hybrid strains by crossbreeding results in singular entities – there’s literally just one place on the planet where that specific mushroom is cultivated, under the care of the breeder,” Paul shared.
“Over time, these custom hybrids often surge in popularity. The fascinating world of hybridization is continuously evolving, driven by passionate mycologists such as Julian Mattucci, who are even experiment with inter-species crosses of these rare psilocybin containing mushrooms.”
Though they grow naturally on U.S. soil and in humid, residential closets, magic mushrooms are still illegal in various forms that differ by state. Psilocybin is outright illegal in 44 states. Selected municipalities in Washington, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Colorado have decriminalized the compound, and Oregon State has fully decriminalized it.
Because of this, it is critical to note that cultivating magic mushroom strains or foraging them from public lands could be illegal and bring legal repercussions.
Additionally, mushroom foraging isn’t a frivolous activity. Consuming a misidentified mushroom could result in a hurt tummy at best, and death at worst. Don’t eat a foraged mushroom without amply identifying it against field guides.
Magic mushroom strains look a bit different and can create more or less potent effects depending on their genetic makeup and the environment where they grow. Sounds a lot like cannabis strains, to be honest.