|Abstract - The genus Psilocybe (Fr.) Quelét consists of over 173 species of mushrooms. These mushrooms are known to occur throughout the world. Psilocybe mushrooms have been found in Papua New Guinea. Five new species of Psilocybe have been collected from Papua New Guinea. Data on the distribution, habitat, description and taxonomic relationships of these five species is presented. There is little data on the chemistry and activity of these mushrooms. Based on taxonomic relationships with other Psilocybe species, the possible chemistry and activity of these mushrooms is the subject of conjecture in this short communication.
The genus Psilocybe consists of over 173 species of Basidiomycetes (fungi) of the order Agaricales (mushrooms) (Guzmán 1995; Guzmán 1983). This genus includes mushrooms that generally have a brownish cap (pileus) when moist in fresh fruiting bodies and fade markedly in colour after drying (hygrophanous) (Stamets 1996: 84). Some Psilocybe mushrooms bruise bluish when injured. This indicates a high psilocine(1) content (Stamets 1996: 84). Many species of Psilocybe also contain psilocybine(2). The psychoactive properties of psilocybine are well known (Shulgin 1980).
Psilocybe mushrooms are known to occur throughout the world (Stamets 1996; Allen & Gartz 1992; Stamets 1978). These mushrooms have been found in Mexico (Heim 1978; Heim & Cailleux 1959; Heim & Hoffman 1958 ; Heim & Wasson 1958 ; Heim 1958; Heim & Hofmann 1958; Heim 1957a; Heim 1957b), the United States of America (Beug & Bigwood 1982; Bigwood & Beug 1982; Guzmán & Pollack 1978; Guzmán & Ott 1976), Canada (Ola'h & Heim 1967), Europe (Guzmán 2000; Gartz & Müller 1989; Stijve & Kuyper 1985), Japan (Yokoyama 1976; Yokoyama 1973; Matsuda 1960; Imai 1932), Thailand (Gartz et al. 1994; Guzmán et al. 1993; Allen & Merlin 1992), Australia (Margot & Watling 1981; Guzmán & Watling 1978; Picker & Richards 1970; Aberdeen & Jones 1958) and New Zealand (Guzmán et al. 1993; Guzmán et al. 1991). Psilocybe mushrooms can also be found in Papua New Guinea (Thomas 2000a; Thomas 2000b). Mycologists have collected several new species of Psilocybe from Papua New Guinea (Guzmán & Horak 1978; Heim 1967). These species are Psilocybe brunneocystidiata Guzman & Horak, P. inconspicua Guzman & Horak, P. kumænorum Heim, P. nothofagensis Guzman & Horak, and P. papuana Guzman & Horak.
P. brunneocystidiata was originally collected from Bulolo and Manki in Morobe Province (Guzmán & Horak 1978). It was found growing on rotten wood (Castanopsis acuminatissima and Nothofagus species) in subtropical forests. The cap is nine to forty millimeters in diameter, brown to yellowish brown, conical when young and later convex. The stem is ten to forty millimeters long and one to two millimeters thick. The gills are beige to cocoa brown (Guzmán & Horak 1978: 45). Guzmán and Horak (1978) have reported that this species is closely related to the psychoactive species P. yungensis Singer & Smith (Singer & Smith 1958b). P. yungensis contains psilocybine and is moderately active (Stamets 1996: 169).
Psilocybe inconspicua was originally collected from Bulolo and Susa in Morobe Province (Guzmán & Horak 1978). It was found growing in small groups on soil in Araucaria cunninghamii forests. The cap of this mushroom is five to ten millimeters in diameter, brown or ochre-brown, and conico-convex. The stem is twenty to twenty-five millimeters long and one-half to one millimeter thick. The gills are white at the edges (Guzmán & Horak 1978: 50). Guzmán and Horak (1978) considered that P. inconspicua was a very distinct species with no obvious relationships with any other Psilocybe species. They suggested that it was likely that P. inconspicua was "…an hallucinogenic fungus [sic]" (Guzmán & Horak 1978: 51).
P. kumænorum was originally collected from Kondambi in the Western Highlands Province (Heim 1967). It was found growing on soil in small groups in grassy, humid places. It has also been suggested that P. kumænorum may occur in Australia (Allen et al. 1991). The cap of this mushroom is five to seven millimeters in diameter, black-brown, darkish crimson or purple, and bell shaped. The stem is twenty-seven millimeters long and thirteen millimeters wide at the top bulging to twenty-five millimeters at the bottom. The gills are cream at first and finally violet-purple (Heim 1967: 186). Heim (1967) observed that the flesh of P. kumaenorum tends to turn green or blue like some other Psilocybe species that are known to contain psilocybine and suggested that P. kumænorum probably contained psilocybine, based on morphological and microscopic similarities with the known psychoactive species P. cærulescens Murr. (Heim & Hofmann 1958 ; Heim & Hofmann 1958). P. cærulescens contains psilocybine and is moderately to highly active (Stamets 1996: 103). Heim also compared P. kumænorum to the Mexican species P. wassonii Heim (Heim & Wasson 1958 ), which was originally named P. muliercula Singer & Smith (Singer & Smith 1958a). P. wassonii contains psilocybine and is potently active (Stamets 1996: 134).
P. nothofagensis was originally collected from Wau and Mt. Kaindi in Morobe Province (Guzmán & Horak 1978). It was found growing on rotten mossy wood in Nothofagus forests. The cap of this mushroom is three to six millimeters in diameter, dark brown and conical. The stem is fifteen to twenty millimeters long and one-half to one millimeter thick and the gills are deep brown (Guzmán & Horak 1978:47). P. nothofagensis has been compared by Guzmán and Horak (1978) to P. montana (Fr.) Kummer . P. montana does not contain psilocybine (Marcano et al. 1994) and is not known to be active (Stamets 1996: 133).
P. papuana was originally collected from Mt. Michael, Frigano, Kassem Pass and Hut Track in the Eastern Highlands Province (Guzmán & Horak 1978). It was found growing in small groups or occasionally solitary on soil or among litter in tropical or subtropical mountain forest under Castanopsis species, Lithocarpus species and Nothofagus species. The cap of this mushroom is ten to twenty millimeters in diameter, black-green to olive-green and conical or conico-convex. The stem is thirty-five to fifty five millimeters long and one to one-and-a-half millimeters wide. The gills are brownish grey or pale brown when young and turn cocoa brown or brown when mature (Guzmán & Horak 1978: 49). This species reminded Guzmán and Horak (1978) of P. cærulescens Murr. from the United States and Mexico. P. cærulescens contains psilocybine and is moderately to highly active (Stamets 1996: 103).
The chemistry and activity of these five new species of Psilocybe is poorly understood. Based on the interesting taxonomic relationships with species known from tropical America and temperate Eurasia (Guzmán and Horak 1978: 44), it is possible, however, to conjecture about the chemistry and activity of these mushrooms. P. brunneocystidiata may contain psilocybine and might be moderately active. P. inconspicua may contain psilocybine but has unknown activity. P. kumænorum may contain psilocybine and might be potently active. P. nothofagensis may not contain psilocybine and might not be active. P. papuana may contain psilocybine and might be moderately to highly active.
There are few published reports on the traditional use of Psilocybe mushrooms in Papua New Guinea. For example, P. kumænorum has been used ritually with other species of mushrooms among the Bimin-Kuskusmin of West Sepik Province (Rudgley 1993; Poole 1987). There are, however, no reports of the use of P. kumænorum from the village where it was first collected (Heim 1967). It has been reported that the Southern Tairora in the Eastern Highlands Province ate without cooking "little and long" mushrooms that so confused the mind that people under the influence of these mushrooms would walk into an enemy village and be killed or else might kill someone in their own village (Clarke 1973: 202 n. 1). It is possible that these "little and long" mushrooms were the species P. papuana. P. papuana is "little and long" and has been collected in the Eastern Highlands Province.
There are anecdotal reports that Australian expatriates have used Psilocybe mushrooms in Papua New Guinea (Hübner 2001). As the cattle industry in Papua New Guinea is based entirely on introduced breeds, Psilocybe mushrooms that grow in cattle dung like P. cubensis (Earle) Singer ('gold tops') (Allen et. al. 1991) can be found. 'Gold top' mushrooms can be collected in Papua New Guinea from areas where cattle have grazed and also from well-manured gardens. The cattle industry in Papua New Guinea may have also introduced other psychoactive dung fungi like Copelandia cyanescens (Berk. & Br.) Singer ('blue meanies') (Allen et al. 1991). The use of psychoactive dung fungi has also been reported in the Solomon Islands (Marshall 1987: 42; Pacific Islands Monthly 1979: 78). Youths on San Christobel have eaten mushrooms growing on cow dung that have resulted in temporary paralysis, weakness, dreams and images of people and objects (Pacific Island Monthly 1979: 78).
Further research on the genus Psilocybe in Papua New Guinea is required. Little is known about the chemistry and activity of the five new species of Psilocybe mushrooms collected in Papua New Guinea (P. brunneocystidiata, P. inconspicua, P. kumænorum, P. nothofagensis, and P. papuana). It remains to be seen if these Psilocybe mushrooms contain psilocybine and are psychoactive.
1.Psilocine is 4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine or 3-[2-(dimethyl-amino)ethyl]-1,H-indol-4-ol and has the empirical formula C12H16N2O (Ott 1993: 448). Psilocine was first isolated by Hofmann (1958) from Psilocybe mexicana Heim [Strophariaceae] and later synthesized (Hofmann 1959). Psilocine is psychoactive in doses of 2 to 4 milligrams and hallucinogenic in doses above 6 milligrams (Ott 1993: 448). Psilocine is a substance under international control (International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 1997), in accordance with the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and is classified as "hallucinogenic" and as having "no medical use" by the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) (1996).
2. Psilocybine is O-phosphoryl-4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine or 3-[2-(dimethylamino)ethyl]-1,H-indol-4-ol dihydrogen phosphate ester and has the empirical formula C12H17N2O4P (Ott 1993: 449). Psilocybine was first isolated by Hofmann et al. (1958; vide Hofmann & Troxler 1959) from Psilocybe mexicana Heim [Strophariaceae] and later synthesized (Hofmann 1960). Psilocybine is psychoactive in doses above 3.4 milligrams and hallucinogenic in doses of 10 milligrams (Ott 1993: 449). Psilocybine is a substance under international control (International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 1997), in accordance with the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and is classified as "hallucinogenic" and as having "no medical use" by the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) (1996). Methods for the identification of psilocybine are provided by the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) (1989). This includes the Keller Color Reaction in which the sample is dissolved in ferric chloride containing acetic acid. This is then stratified with concentrated sulphuric acid. After mixing psilocybine produces a permanent violet color (Hofmann et al. 1958).
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