Psilocybe subcubensis, like its sister species P. cubensis, is one of the most widespread and common mushrooms in the world. It is considered “pantropical”, found in both hemispheres and on every continent in tropical and subtropical regions. Like its sister species, it goes by the nicknames of “Cubes”, “Golden Tops” and “Gold Caps”.
This species is commonly confused with P. cubensis, both in the wild and in amateur cultivation, and can only be differentiated with a microscope. They have a similar potency, although the levels of psilocin seem to be more variable in P. subcubensis and seems to depend on the region where they were grown or collected.
Their moderate potency leads to a significant bluing reaction to age and damage, with older mushrooms covered partially or entirely in blue-green splotches. In young specimens, the cap is whitish with a pale yellow centre, progressing to a reddish or golden-brown. It grows up to 8 centimetres wide and usually has a convex or bell-shape, rarely with a subtle umbo.
This sits atop a stipe that can grow up to 15 centimetres tall with an impressive girth of up to 1.5 centimetres, usually wider near the base. The stem is hollow and frequently has a fragile ring where the cap edge was once connected, remnants of this veil can sometimes be found on the edges of the cap as well.
These large mushrooms can easily be cultivated by an amateur, usually on a substrate of rye-grass or straw. Their ease of growth and methods exactly match P. cubensis, and they may even be mistakenly mixed or cultivated instead. As in nature, they grow in groups and are rarely found solitary.
P. subcubensis is nearly always found in clumps growing out of some sort of dung. As they grow worldwide, their preference for the type of dung varies by country. Cow and buffalo are favorites, elephant and rhinoceros have also been reported, horse and sheep are much rarer. Occasionally they may also be found in the rich soils of pastures and meadows.
As they are found across all parts of the tropics, P. subcubensis may be commonly mistaken for other local species. One of the few oddities of this species is that they fruit early in the year, usually late spring or early summer. This contrasts with many other tropical Psilocybe, that usually fruit later in the autumn or winter.
Likely much more common both in the wild and in cultivation, P. subcubensis will be forever confused and overshadowed by its much more popular sister P. cubensis. With matching potency and looks, as well as ease of cultivation, the consequences of this confusion will likely always be minimal.
Redhead S, Moncalvo JM, Vilgalys R, Matheny PB, Guzmán-Davalos L, Guzmán G (2007). “Proposal to conserve the name Psilocybe (Basidiomycota) with a conserved type”. Taxon. 56 (1): 255–7.
Keller, Thomas, et al. “Analysis of psilocybin and psilocin in Psilocybe subcubensis GUZMAN by ion mobility spectrometry and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.” Forensic science international 99.2 (1999): 93-105.