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The Taxonomy of Magic Mushrooms

Taxonomy of Magic Mushrooms

In order to understand the taxonomy of magic mushrooms, it’s import to understand how mushrooms themselves are classified by mycologists, so it’s time to flash back to high school science class, to upgrade your mushroom knowledge.  Part of the reason this is important is that while many people refer to the different types of magic mushrooms as strains, similar to cannabis, the correct terminology is to refer to the different types of mushrooms as species and subspecies.  Understanding mushroom taxonomy should help you use the correct terminology.

What Is A Taxonomy?

First things first? What in god’s name is a taxonomy?

In biology, the scientific study of life, a taxonomy, a word derived the the greek words for ‘arrangement’, and ‘method’) is the scientific study of naming, defining (circumscribing) and classifying groups of biological organisms based on common characteristics.   

The classifications of organisms goes something like this:

  • Organisms are grouped into separate taxons
  • These groups are given a taxonomic rank;
  • Groups of a given rank can be aggregated to form a more inclusive group of higher rank, thus creating a taxonomic hierarchy.

The principal ranks in modern use are:

  • Domain
  • Kingdom
  • Phylum/division 
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus, and
  • Species.

Magic Mushroom Taxonomy Classification: Order

Taxonomy of Magic Mushrooms - gills

Example of gills on a psilocybin mushroom

When looking at the taxonomy of magic mushrooms, we are going to start our conversation at the “Order” level, as it is the last common grouping of psilocybin mushrooms before they splinter off into their different families.  Psilocybin mushrooms fall into Fungi kingdom obviously and are grouped together in the Agaricales order which are also known as gilled mushrooms or euagarics and covers over 13,000 mushroom species. This order is characterized by:

  • Fleshy Basidiocarps (the multicellular structure on which the spore-producing hymenium is borne)
  • A stipe, often called a stem or stalk,
  • A pileus (or cap) and lamellae (or gills), where basidiospores are produced.

Magic Mushroom Taxonomy Classification: Family

Psilocybin mushrooms are classified into a number of families including:
  • Bolbitiaceae: have a hymenium on gills, brown spores and a hymenoderm pileipellis.
  • Strophariaceae: The species of Strophariaceae have red-brown to dark brown spore prints, while the spores are smooth and have an apical germ pore
  • Inocybaceae: a widespread distribution in tropical and temperate areas.
  • Incertae sedis: a taxonomic group where its broader relationships are unknown or undefined
  • Pluteaceae: small to medium-sized mushrooms which have free gill attachment and pink spores
  • Hymenogastraceae: both agaric and false-truffle shaped fruitbodies.  This family hold a large number of psychoactive species, including Psilocybe cubensis.

Magic Mushroom Taxonomy Classification: Genus

An important thing to take away from the magic mushroom taxonomy classification is understanding the naming conventions of organisms, which involves the genus and species level.In binomial nomenclature, the genus name forms the first part of the binomial species name for each species within the genus.

Genus classification standards are not strictly enforced, and different authorities can produce different classifications for genera.

Genera containing psilocybin mushrooms include:

  • Gymnopilus: Gilled mushrooms within the fungal family Strophariaceae containing about 200 rusty-orange spored mushroom species. The fruit body is typically reddish brown to rusty orange to yellow, medium to large, often with a well-developed veil. Fourteen members of Gymnopilus contain psilocybin.
  • Inocybe: Not considered suitable for consumption; 7 contain psilocybin.
  • Panaeolus: Small and black spored. Thirteen species of Panaeolus contain psilocybin and it is suspected that a number of other members of this genus contain unidentified psychoactive compounds.
  • Pholiotina: Small thin Mycena-like mushrooms, with an hymenoderm pileipellis, a dry cap surface, cystidia that are sub-capitate to blunt, and spores which are rusty brown in deposit. Spores of mushrooms of this genus are thick walled, smooth and have a germ pore.
  • Pluteus: Small to medium-sized mushrooms which have free gill attachment and pink spores
  • Psilocybe: The genera with the most psilocybin species.  Most or nearly all species contain the psychedelic compounds Psilocybin, psilocin and baeocystin

Magic Mushroom Taxonomy Classification: Species

When people talk about different types of magic mushrooms, they are usually talking about species like Psilocybe Cubensis (notice the binomial naming convention) and their related subspecies that can be found in Frshminds’ Psilocybe Cubensis Subspecies Guide. Other common psilocybe species include:

  • Psilocybe semilanceata aka “Liberty Caps”
  • Psilocybe cyanescens aka “Wavy Caps”
  • Psilocybe Azurescens aka “Flying Saucer Mushrooms”

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