Psilocybe mexicana art

"Rediscovered" by Roger Heim in 1956, this is a petite mushroom, with pileus (cap) typically measuring 1 to 2 centimeters. It was from this species that Dr. Albert Hofmann, working with laboratory-grown specimens, first isolated and named the active compounds psilocybin and psilocin. Hoping to determine whether artificially cultivated mushrooms retained their psychoactive properties, Dr. Hofmann consumed thirty-two specimens. His account of the experience, published in The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens, follows:

"As I was perfectly aware that my knowledge of the Mexican origin of the mushrooms would lead me to imagine only Mexican scenery, I tried deliberately to look on my environment as I knew it normally. But all voluntary efforts to look at things in their customary forms and colours proved ineffective. Whether my eyes were closed or open, I saw only Mexican motifs and colours. When the doctor supervising the experiment bent over me to check my blood pressure, he was transformed into an Aztec priest, and I would not have been astonished if he had drawn an obsidian knife. In spite of the seriousness of the situation, it amused me to see how the Germanic face of my colleague had acquired a purely Indian expression. At the peak of the intoxication, about 1½ hours after ingestion of the mushrooms, the rush of interior pictures, mostly changing in shape and colour, reached such an alarming degree that I feared I would be torn into this whirlpool of form and colour and would dissolve. After about six hours, the dream came to an end. Subjectively, I had no idea how long this condition had lasted. I felt my return to everyday reality to be a happy return from a strange, fantastic but quite really experienced world into an old and familiar home."

This classic species can be found fruiting singly or in small groups in meadows and pastures, among moss and herbs along roadsides and trails, and particularly in the vicinity of grassy areas bordering deciduous woodlands. Its range includes much of subtropical Mexico, typically in limestone regions at elevations between 4,000--5,500 feet; also common in Guatemala. Fruitings occur May to October.


Required Reading

Guzman, G. The Genus Psilocybe: A Systematic Revision of the Known Species Including the History, Distribution and Chemistry of the Hallucinogenic Species. Beihefte zur Nova Hedwigia Heft 74. J. Cramer, Vaduz, Germany (1983).
Hofmann, A. "Psilocybin und Psilocin, zwei psychotrope Wirkstoffe aus mexikanischen Rauschpilzen." Helvetica Chemica Acta 42: 1557-1572 (1959).
Hofmann, A. (Translation by J. Ott) LSD: My Problem Child. Translator's preface by J. Ott, pp. vii-viii. McGraw-Hill, New York (1980).
Hofmann, A. et al. Experientia 14(3): 107-109 (1958).
Schultes, R.E. and A. Hofmann. The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens. Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, IL (1973).


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