Ovo

Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata

  • Found in coastal USA, native to Ohio River Valley. Recently in Europe
  • Often confused with P. caerulipes, both nicknamed “blue-foot”
  • Moderately active, contains baeocystin, variable psilocin
  • Spicy scent and ringed stipe help to identify this species

Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata is a mushroom most commonly found in the USA, though its confusion with other common Psilocybe species has resulted in little information, only being described by science in 2003. It is usually confused with P. caerulipes, as they share a similar potency and overall shape. The lack of differentiating features has led to these two species sharing the nickname “blue-foot” in the areas where they are found.

Both species contain moderate psilocybin, trace amounts of baeocystin, and sometimes contain psilocin. These alkaloids contribute to the characteristic blue bruising of Psilocybe species when damaged or aged. The two mushrooms are only discerned by their relative size and when they are found: the cap of P. ovoideocystidiata grows larger to 5 cm and fruits from April to June, sometimes as late as November.

P. ovoideocystidiata is primarily defined by a membranous ring, or “annulus”, usually found halfway up the stipe. This is rare among Psilocybe, as most other species have their ring near the top, if it is even present at all. The hollow, slender, tall stipe further displays small scales near the base that may be whitish or lightly hued blue.

The cap is variable in shape, from convex to flat with age, sometimes displaying a broad umbo. It ranges from a dark chestnut to orange-brown colour that is often dotted with blue-green splotches in older specimens. A final identifying feature is a lightly spicy, though inconsistent, scent; the flavour is similar to many other Psilocybe, starchy and mild.

The natural range has seen recent expansion, likely due to a preference of this mushroom to grow on commercial wood chips and mulch. P. ovoideocystidiata was originally confined to the east coast of the USA, from Rhode Island in the north, to Kentucky in the south. Particularly in the Ohio River Valley, it resides along waterways and streams, growing from the woody debris of natural dams and overflow areas.

P. ovoideocystidiata has since been found on the west coast of North America and scattered across Europe, with colonies recently reported in Germany and Switzerland. Its expansion to the Pacific Northwest has further complicated identification, as a number of similar Psilocybe are common and popular in the area. P. stuntzii and P. allenii also share a preference for wood chips and require a microscope to successfully differentiate.

P. cyanescens has generally similar features and are one of the more commonly found mushrooms on the west coast. They are significantly more potent, though they can be discerned with close examination. Further, P. subaeru and P. septentrionalis are nearly identical in appearance, though their ranges are restricted to only Java and Japan, respectively.

With only fifteen years since its official “discovery”, this mushroom has quickly expanded beyond its native range. With subtle features and many similar Psilocybe relatives, it may continue to fly under the radar in new and unsuspected locations. The availability of spores online, a preference for commercial mulch and wood chips, and their relative cold weather tolerance are likely to further assist P. ovoideocystidiata in colonizing new lands.

Guzmán, Gastón; Gaines, Richard V.; Ramírez-Guillén, Florencia (2007). “New Species of Hallucinogenic Psilocybe (Fr.) P. Kumm. (Agaricomycetideae) from the Eastern U.S.A.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 9: 75–77

Allen, J.W., Gartz, J., Sihanonth, P. and D. Molter. Winter. Winter 2009. The Occurrence, Recreational Use, Cultivation, and Chemistry of Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata, a new Bluing Species (Agaricales) from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Ethnomycological Journals: Sacred Mushroom Studies vol. VIII:70-81. Exotic Forays. Seattle, Washington

Image by Shroomydan, also here; and by George Sayers.