Psilocybin Mushrooms of the UK – 1: Conocybe, Gymnopilus and Inocybe

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Psilocybin Mushrooms of the UK

Gymnopilus junonius - Rare UK psilocybin-containing 'magic mushroom'

As the UK mushroom picking season is nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good time to start our three part series on the various psilocybin-containing species, including those hitherto unnoticed by many budding psychonauts… The UK is lucky enough to possess several species of psilocybin mushroom, with North Wales being one of the best places to see them. A wet autumn is good, but beware – the first frost will end the season!

When picking any mushrooms, always pinch and twist from the base of the stem, to avoid causing damage to the delicate subterranean mycelial networks from which the mushrooms fruit. Please also remember not to consume anything without 100% certainty of its identity, as there are several toxic mushroom species growing wild across the UK. Finally, the Inocybes are included here only for completeness sake, as many species of the genus are highly toxic, and nearly identical in appearance – do not risk it!

Conocybe kuehneriana (“Dunce Cap”) Conocybe kuehneriana - An obscure magic mushroom growing in England

Growing on fertile lawns and grassland, dead moss, dead grass, sand dunes, decayed wood, and dung, Conocybe kuehneriana is a species of hallucinogenic mushroom, found worldwide, which contains both psilocybin and psilocin.

Patched with fine velvety fibres, Kuehneriana is delicate, and has a long thin stem, and a conical cap (similar to that of semilanceata – Conocybe is from the Greek words for cone and head). Four other Conocybes are known to contain psilocin and psilocybin, with one, Conocybe siligineoide, being shamanically utilized by the Mazatecs of Oaxaca.

Conocybe kuehneriana is not to be confused with Conocybe filaris, a common lawn mushroom containing the same deadly poisons as the notorious Death Cap.

Gymnopilus junonius (syn. Gymnopilus spectabilis, “Laughing Cap”) –

Common globally, Gymnopilus junonius (the name means Naked Juno, after the wife of the Roman god Jupiter) is a large orange-brown mushroom, known as the ‘Laughing Cap’, which grows widely across the UK and Ireland in groups and dense clusters on tree stumps, logs, and the lower sections of trees. It is particularly fond of dead hardwoods and conifers, and fruits between July and November.

Gymnopilus junonius / Gymnopilus spectabilis - 'Laughing Cap' psychedelic psilocybin magic mushroom

The species does not always contain psilocybin, and there is speculation that certain regional subspecies contain none at all. It is also often mistaken for Gymnopilus ventricosus, which contains no psilocybin. While not as potent as other active Gymnopilus, several subspecies of junonius can contain other alkaloids, which may affect the overall experience. These alkaloids include bis-noryangonin and hispidine (structurally related to chemicals found in the psychoactive kava), as well as a neurotoxic oligoisoprenoid, gymnopilin.

The convex cap typically ranges from 7-20 cm wide and is bright orange, orange/brown, or reddish brown. The stem is 25-265 mm long, 8-9 mm thick, and usually narrows toward the base.

Gymnopilus purpuratus - Psilocybin psilocin baeocystin magic mushroomGymnopilus purpuratus –

Gymnopilus purpuratus (“clad in purple”) was initially identified in Australia, but it is now known to be well distributed around the world. The species is found on dead wood (particularly hardwoods and conifers), pig dung, and wood chip mulch, and grows across the UK and Ireland throughout June-November, either solitarily, or in small clusters. Consequent to the large size of purpuratus, caution must be exercised when attempting ingestion – misidentification could prove serious.

In 1992, a chemical analysis carried out by Jochen Gartz in 1992 found the alkaloid content of purpuratus to be 0.34% psilocybin, 0.29% psilocin and 0.05% baeocystin; relatively high amounts of the former and low levels of the latter respectively. Gartz noted that no other tryptamines were present.

The reddish-brown cap ranges from 1.5-6 cm across, and is convex to obtuse. The stem is between 2.5-5.5 cm long, and 3-9 mm thick, and may be decorated with cottony fibres. The stem is brown-red in colour, but can take on blue-green areas where damaged.

Inocybe corydalina var. corydalina –

The Inocybes are included here only for completeness sake, as many species of the genus are highly toxic and nearly identical in appearance – do not risk it!

Commonly known as ‘Greenflush Fibrecap’, Inocybe corydalina is a small mushroom, widely distributed across the UK, Europe, and the USA. It can be found between August and October, growing in woodland soils, often beneath deciduous trees, as well as (to a lesser extent) under conifers.Inocybe corydalina - 'Greenflush Fibrecap' psilocybin mushroom

Researchers Gurevich and Nezoiminogo report that corydalina contains no psilocybin, but does contain the mycotoxin muscarine (also found in the famous Fly Agaric’). Other researchers, however, have not demonstrated this research with analysis by Stijve and Kuyper showing that the species does in fact contain a very low concentration of psilocybin (0.032%), no psilocin, and 0.034% baeocystin.

Corydalina has a buff to brown cap, often of a grey-green tinge, is conic to convex (plane in age), and is 3.8-5.2 cm across, with white flesh on the underside of the cap. Its stem is approximately 2.5-10 cm long and 0.4-0.6 mm thick, and is generally of equal width for the whole length (although can sometimes swell toward the base). The stem’s flesh is white-gray, and it has an aromatic scent.

Inocybe haemacta –

The Inocybes are included here only for completeness sake, as many species of the genus are highly toxic and nearly identical in appearance – do not risk it!

Inocybe haemacta grows in the autumn, in broad-leafed woodland across Europe, and, like most Inocybes, is considered poisonous. With a reddish stem measuring 0.4-0.70 cm tall, and a reddish-green-brown, conical or bell-shaped cap, 2-5 cm across, haemacta apparently has a mild taste, and smells weakly or strongly of horse manure.

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