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Danny’s DNA Discoveries – Psilocybe of the PNW
by Danny Miller

Click here for my Pictorial Key to Psilocybe


This portion of the large Hymenogastraceae family (or perhaps it should be called a super-family) are usually small LBMs, have dark purple-brown spores, a viscid, hygrophanous cap, and unlike the very similar Deconica, turn blue when injured due to the presence of the hallucinogen psilocybin.  They are usually smaller and more drab coloured than the similar Stropharia (brown or olive brown instead of yellow brown) which are not hygrophanous. These are the so-called "magic mushrooms" that are a controlled substance and illegal to possess, although promising trials are finally being done to prove their medicinal value.

This is an interesting example of an exception being made so the rules didn't have to be followed. All similar LBMs, hallucinogenic or not, used to be called Psilocybe. When the genetics showed that the non-hallucinogenic ones were not related and needed to be separated out, the name Deconica was chosen for a second genus. The problem was, the very first one described was Psilocybe montana, not hallucinogenic. So to follow the rules, Psilocybe would have to become the name of the non-hallucinogenic ones, and Deconica would have to be the name of the magic mushrooms. Well, too many puns had been told already about the Psilly mushrooms and there was an uproar about changing their name. Was there an uproar when Gyromitra esculenta, translating to "tasty false morel" turned out to be deadly poisonous? Nope. Was their an uproar when Chlorophyllum, translating to "green gills" ended up needing to be used to describe mostly white gilled mushrooms? Nope. But they had to hold a special vote at the 2010 International Botanical Congress (held only once every four years to deal with such business) to allow Psilocybe to continue to refer to the magic mushrooms. (The vote was unanimous).

It is not unusual for species to only differ by a couple of bp in their ITS sequences, and most of them are best differentiated microscopically.

abundant  common  uncommon  rare - colour codes match my Pictorial Key and are my opinions and probably reflect my bias of living in W WA. Rare species may be locally common in certain places at certain times.

Summary of Interesting Results

Here are some of the newest, most interesting results of the study:

  • TBD


Psilocybe cyanescens UK - Our most common species has a wavy, caramel cap when fresh, known from wood chips and gardens. We have a German epitype sequence and local sequences from BC and WA.

Psilocybe allenii WA - a similar species whose cap never gets wavy. We have the WA type sequence and others.

Psilocybe azurescens OR - a larger species often with an umbonate cap, mostly known from coastal areas in wood chips and sand. The four very closely related species I treat together here have almost identical microscopic characters. They are even hard to tell apart in ITS and a multi-gene study should be done to make sure we do understand how to tell them apart. P. azurescens sequences are mostly recognized by not matching either P. cyanescens nor P. allenii, as there is some variation in them. It is possible that Psilocybe subaeruginosa Australia is an earlier synonym, as some Australian sequences are similar to our P. azurescens sequences, but not all of them. We have a type sequence of P. azurescens, but we need one of P. subaeruginosa.

Psilocybe PNW01 - One BC sequence from north of Whistler is a little different than the other P. azurescens sequences, and might be a unique species in this group. I'll need to see if we ever see this sequence again to make sure there's nothing wrong with the sequence.

Psilocybe cyanescens © Noah Siegel,     unsequenced Psilocybe allenii © Alan Rockefeller,     Psilocybe azurescens © Paul Kroeger,     Psilocybe PNW01 © Paul Kroeger


Psilocybe stuntzii WA - the species with the most well developed ring. We have a couple reliable sequences.

Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata PN - leaves a weak ring or strong ring zone behind, but perhaps best identified by its peculiar shaped cystidia under a scope. An OR and CA sequence both match an east coast OH sequence fairly well. An isotype sequence is 3 bp different than all other sequences, which I can't quite explain.

Psilocybe stuntzii © Michael Beug,     Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata © Alan Rockefeller


Psilocybe semilanceata EU (=Psilocybe strictipes OR) - this small, mycenoid conehead grows in grass. WA and BC sequences match EU sequences fairly well. Only 2 bp in ITS separate it from the very different looking P. baeocystis, below. The few P. strictipes sequences we have, both locally and from the EU, have identical ITS, and since the descriptions are so very similar (P. strictipes is said to have a cap that may expand and slightly smaller spores) they are most likely synonyms.

Psilocybe semilanceata © Kit Scates Barnhart,     Psilocybe strictipes (probably a form of P. semilanceata) © Alan Rockefeller


Psilocybe pelliculosa OR - this similar small almost as conical mushroom grows in soil and isn't supposed to leave a ring zone. We have BC sequences of this OR native that seem to fit the description, but we need a type sequence. If I'm wrong, and this isn't P. pelliculosa, this will need a name. At most 2 bp separate it from the dung species fimetaria, below.

Psilocybe fimetaria UK - on dung. We have an EU sequence and an couple of OR sequence that match and may represent this species. At most 2 bp separate it from the soil species P. pelliculosa, above.

Psilocybe PNW02 WA - sometimes looks like P. pelliculosa, but also resembles P. cyanofibrillosa (as in the photo). Only a few bp separate it from P. fimetaria and P. pelliculosa.


Psilocybe pelliculosa © Drew Henderson,     P. fimetaria © Alan Rockefeller,     P. PNW02 © Yi-Min Wang (2 images)


Psilocybe baeocystis OR (=Psilocybe cyanofibrillosa WA?) - another difficult to differentiate local species. Only 2 bp different in ITS from P. semilanceata, but clearly different morphologically. An isotype sequence of P. cyanofibrillosa is the same as a bunch of P. baeocystis sequences, and may be a newer synonym. The difference between the two is supposedly the spore shape. This species is much like P. pelliculosa but the conical cap is said to flatten in age and the veil leaves a ring zone.


unsequenced Psilocybe baeocystis © Michael Beug


Psilocybe turficola EU (=P. atrobrunnea EU) - a barely bluing, tall, reddish brown capped somewhat striate mushroom on wet ground, perhaps also best recognized microscopically, we have a Vanc. BC sequence matching a bunch of reliable EU sequences.

Psilocybe caerulipes NY - not known from the PNW before DNA found it in BC, matching a reliable NY sequence.


Litte known species - like many of them, best distinguished microscopically

Psilocybe silvatica NY - we have a sequence that may be a reliable east coast sequence, but we don't have any local sequences to prove the reports of its existence here.

Psilocybe liniformans EU var. americana WA - another dung species with a hemispherical cap and a peelable gill edge, described from WA. One possible sequence matches sequences of the grass species P. semilanceata, and the microscopy is close too, but we need a type sequence to know for sure.

Psilocybe subfimetaria BC - One possible sequence of this dung species is also the same as sequences of P. semilanceata, but we need a type sequence to know for sure, as the micro is said to be distinct.

Psilocybe washingtonensis WA - assumed to be active.

Psilocybe oregonensis OR - very little is known, could be a Psilocybe or Deconica.


Deconica - probably need to have a name change as I don't think they are hallucinogenic since they have not been noted to turn blue, but then again, very little is known about any of them.

Psilocybe apelliculosa UK -

Psilocybe laticystis OR -

Psilocybe sabulosa KS -

Psilocybe subborealis ID -


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