- Historical and modern usage among Mixe and Mazatec Indians
- “Genius” or “Divinitory” mushroom
- Suspected to have high potency. Readily bruises with handling
- Shares similar appearance with toxic species of Conocybe
Psilocybe yungensis has a long history, it derives its name from the titles it was given by mystics of ancient civilizations. The Mixe natives, and those of Huautla de Jimenez, refer to this specie as “Hongo-” (mushroom), “-adivinador” (divinitory) or “-genio” (genius). “Hongo” was later transformed by scientists into “yunge-” to honor long-lasting tradition.
The legends of this species are not restricted to the tales of South American tribes. When Jesuit missionaries arrived in the 17th and 18th centuries, they wrote of a “tree fungus” that was the mystical ingredient in an “intoxicating beverage”. As P. yungensis is nearly always found on rotting wood or near plantations, this species is frequently suspected to be that of legend.
Even in modern times, P. yungensis is used by the Mazatec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico. They are the primary tool in entheogenic rituals and spiritual journeys. They are favoured for their potency, though exact levels have not yet been established. The obvious and rapid bluing reaction to damage and handling suggests elevated vigour.
While P. yungensis is primarily found in Mexico and South America, it has more recently been found in the Caribbean and even as far as China. Its native range spans Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and the island of Martinique. It prefers habitats in higher elevations, commonly found between 1000 and 2000 metres above sea level.
The orange- or reddish-brown cap is one of the few defining features of P. yungensis, though it does make it similar in appearance to species of the Conocybe genus. Specifically C. filaris (also known as Pholiotina rugosa) has the same deadly toxin as the “death cap” mushroom (Amanita phalloides); it is only distinguishable visually by having a prominent, moveable ring on its stipe.
Aside from its colour, a further feature of P. yungensis is its conic or bell-shaped cap, usually with an umbo or papilla, that is sticky to the touch when wet. The cap sits atop a long, slender, hollow stipe that is densely covered in white hair-like fibrils that are pressed against the surface. These hairs are lost over time, leaving older specimens with a smooth stipe. These lean fruiting bodies are most commonly found in groups or bunches, rarely occurring on their own.
Along with its smaller cousin P. subyungensis, native to Venezuala, this species is common throughout history and its range. While a find worth celebrating for its potency, an expert eye is required to avoid dangerous mistakes.