His

Psilocybe hispanica

  • Depicted on 6000 year-old wall art from Spain
  • First evidence of “magic mushrooms” use in Europe
  • Moderate to highly-potent, active alkaloids unconfirmed
  • Very small mushrooms, amateur cultivation possible

Ancient cave-art in Spain, likely depicting Psilocybe hispanica, is considered the first evidence for use of psychoactive mushrooms in Europe. The mural has been preserved for nearly 6000 years in the Selva Pascuala region of the Cuenca province. While depicting a hunting scene, it suggested understanding and ritual use of “magic mushrooms” in early Europe.

P. hispanica grows commonly near where the cave paintings were found; other anthropological clues point toward shamanistic or divinatory practices in the histories of local indigenous peoples. Throughout the middle ages, tales of witchcraft and rituals became associated with the small mushrooms.

Only recognized by science in 2000, the species has since been commonly enjoyed by Spanish youth of the local region, along with the other common species P. semilanceata and P. gallaeciea. They are known to contain Psilocybin, those familiar with the specie suggest a potency that lies between P. cubensis and P. azurescens.

The mushrooms are a frequent find in parts of the Pyrenees: Northeastern Spain and Southeastern France. Some specificities of its environment assist in its identification: P. hispanica grows in Pinus forest, directly on horse or cow dung, and at high elevation (+1500m). Their presence in mountainous areas suits their preference for cold temperatures, with some even being seen sprouting through snow.

P. hispanica are usually very small: the brown cap rarely surpasses one centimetre and the slender stipe ranges up to three centimetres. Otherwise, the conic to convex caps are sticky when wet, common to Psilocybe, along with the potentially wavy stipe. The tiny mushrooms can be found alone or growing in dense groups of up to 25 on a single dung deposit.

There are other species that share the range of P. hispanica, both from within Psilocybe and out. P. semilanceata has an acute umbo and never grows directly on dung, though is commonly found near to P. hispanica. P. fimetaria is very similar though has a slightly different range and commonly has a ringed stipe. P. liniformans differs only by having a gelatinous covering on the cap edge.

The non-hallucinogenic Deconica coprophilia shares the same habitat preferences and a nearly identical appearance, though is not dangerous to consume. As the name suggests, P. hispanica is known as a “coprophilic” species, growing only on dung. This restriction seems to allow for amateur cultivation outdoors, with anecdotal evidence suggesting it is a fast grower. However, spores may not be readily available outside professional or local circles.

With a documented history that my span thousands of years, this compact species has evaded modern science. Most details are derived from local populations and anecdotal evidence, but their local abundance and popularity is likely to drive more interest.

Guzmán G. (2000). “New species and new records of Psilocybe from Spain, the U.S.A. and Mexico, and a new case of poisoning by Psilocybe barrerae”. Documents Mycologiques. 29 (116): 41–52.

Fernández-Sasia R. (2006). “Psilocybe hispanica Guzmán, un taxón novedoso en nuestro entorno” [Psilocybe hispanica Guzmán, a new taxon in our environment]. Errotari(in Spanish). 3: 73–6.

Images from The Hawks Eye.