Monday, 19 November 2012

Magic Mushrooms Demystified - A Comprehensive Guide To The Fleshy Fungi

Strophariaceae is a reasonably common family of saprophytic magic mushrooms with brown to purple-brown to purple-black spores and attached gills. A veil is generally present, but does not necessarily form an annulus (ring) on the stalk. The gills aren't usually decurrent as in Gomphidius and Chrogomphus, nor are they typically free as in Agaricus, nor do they deliquesce as in Coprinus. The small, fragile species resemble Psathyrella and Panaeolus, but tend to have a viscid and/or brightly coloured cap. The magic mushrooms in this family is also share many anatomical ( miniscule ) characteristics: the cap cuticle is mostly filamentous instead of cellular, the spores are smooth and often have a germ pore and the gills often feature special sterile cells (chrysocystidia) which have a highly refractive golden content when mounted in potassium hydroxide (KOH). Four genera are recognized here, all of which integrade to a degree: Pholiota has dull brown to rusty-brown spores and is consequently placed in the Cortinariaceae by some mycologists; Stropharia, Psilocybe and Naematoloma have deep brown to purplish or black spores and are often lumped together (by the "lumpers," naturally) in a single or giant genus, Psilocybe. The latter three genera are differentiated largely on microscopic traits like presence or absence of chrysocystidia, but can customarily be told in the field by the aggregate of traits released in the key. This is not important family from a gastronomic perspective. However , it is the most major group for magic mushrooms hunters because Psilocybe is the principal genus of hallucinogenic or'pupil-dilating' magic mushrooms. The active guidelines are psilocybin and psilocin. Psilocybe enjoys a notoriety grossly disproportionate to its visibility, for it embraces some of the most exalted and sought-after of all mushrooms -as well as some of the most common-or-garden. The exalted ones are the hallucinogenic ("pupil-dilating") species popularly known as "Magic Mushrooms."The Psilocybes as a group are different to characterize : the majority are listless little brown magic mushrooms ("LBMs" ) wit a viscid cap (when wet) and dark (purplish to virtually black) spores. The hallucinogenic species usually turn blue or greenish when bruised, especially on the stem, but virtually any "LBM" can be mistaken carelessly for a Psilocybe -with possibly disastrous results! A good spore print is critical, as it will eliminate the brown-spored genera (Galerina, Inocybe, Conocybe, and so on.), which contain many lethal species. Among the dark-spored genera, Coprinus has deliquescing gills, Psathyrella typically has a non-viscid cap and never stains blue; Panaeolus species with a viscid cap grow on dung and have black spores and Naematoloma and Stropharia species are sometimes brightly coloured, while the cap color in Psilocybe (with the notable exception of P. Cubensis) is usually some shades of brown, grey or buff. In contrast to popular belief, Psilocybes don't grow completely on that brown stuff that sounds like a bell. Rather, they occur in a wide selection of habitats: in grass, on wood chips and mulch in landscaped areas, on decaying wood, and in humus or beds of mossin forests and bogs. The hallucinogenic species are particularly abundant in two varied locales : the Pacific Northwest and Southern Mexico. In our area, alas, they're like solar eclipses -seemingly rare, though actually more common than any one person's experience would indicate. Put simply, they are not something you can really look for. It is more a matter of geography -being in the right spot at the right time. Psylocybe is a pretty big and tricky genus. Only a few species are "pupil-dilating," and those that are not are too small or too rare to be of food value. Since it was discovered that native americans near Oaxaca, Mexico, used certain magic mushrooms to prompt changed states of conciousness, Psilocybes have received an inordinate level of attention in the northern US press. Underground newspapers and mags are full of flighty articles on "getting off," there is a surfeit of "magic mushrooms" field guides and cultivation manuals available and as so regularly occurs, it has become difficult to sort fact from fiction. Much more reason to develop a methodical awareness of magic mushrooms habits and traits before leaping into the field of the "LBM's."