Pholiotina cyanopus[i] is a small, somewhat delicate mushroom known to contain significant amounts of psilocybin, though it is rarely, if ever, eaten. Its lack of popularity is probably due to its very small size, combined with the fact that it has dangerously toxic close look-alikes; if you want to trip, there are easier ways to do it than to find and harvest fifty tiny mushroom’s, any one of which could be a misidentified deadly toxin.
That being said, while P. cynopus isn’t commonly found, it is wide-spread. You might find one, notice the bluing reaction, and wonder “what is this?” and “will this make me trip?”
You deserve an answer[ii].
Note that this species has not always been in the genus Pholiotina[iii], and might not remain in it. Older sources particularly still list it in Conocybe, but these two genera differ in important ways microscopically. But Pholiotina as currently defined includes species that are not closely related to each other and are closely related to mushrooms in other genera. Depending on how these taxonomic issues are resolved, this little mushroom could get yet another name.
Interestingly, Pholiotina, though it has multiple members that produce psilocybin, is not closely related to the better-known psilocybin-containing genera, such as Psilocybe or Panaeolus.
They aren’t even in the same family[iv].
Identification and Description
Cap: Very small—less than 2.5 centimeters across, hemispheric or bell-shaped when young, opening wider with age. May have webby veil remnants around the margin. Reddish brown to tan, depending on moisture content.
Stem: Proportionately long and very thin. Often curved at the base. Pale. No ring forms. The base may blue if disturbed.
Gills: Brown with whitish edges. Darkens with age.
Spores: Elliptical but flattened on one side.
Spore Print: Rust-brown
Habitat: Commonly grows in grassy areas, notably well-cared-for lawns.
Range: Northern United States, southern Canada, and central and northern Europe.
Although this species will blue when handled or damaged, the bluing may not be extensive and is typically slow and delayed. Do not rely on bluing as an identification mark, as it is unlikely to happen while you watch.
P. cyanopus has several look-alikes so close that they cannot be reliably distinguished from each other except by microscope. One of these, P. smithii, is considered by some to be simply a variant of P. cyanopus. Of greater concern is P. rugosa[v] (also sometimes listed as P. filaris or Conocybe filaris), which sometimes has a stem ring but doesn’t always. P. rugosa contains potentially deadly amotoxins. And the Deadly Galerina (Galerina marginata), though not an exactly look-alike, is close enough to confuse the inexperienced or unwary.
There are also a great many other little brown or gray-brown mushrooms that bear at least a general resemblance to each other and confuse non-experts. These are not unique-looking mushrooms.
We haven’t been able to tract down anyone who claims to have actually used P. cyanopus. Its chemistry is similar to that of the famed Psilocybe cubensis, but not identical, so most likely it provides the well-known psilocybin trip but with some qualitative differences. But no one actually knows.
Potency and Dosage
According to chemical tests, P. cyanopus is roughly similar to Psilocybe cubensis in potency, but it is highly variable, meaning that calculating the right dose for the intensity you want is hit or miss. The chance of accidentally taking way too much or way too little is very high. As a matter of safety, taking too little is definitely better, but still disappointing. The way around the problem is to gather a large batch of the mushrooms, dry them, then pulverize and mix them. The correct dose can then be established through careful trial and error, and should then be consistent for the entire batch.
But all this is hypothetical, as the chance of finding enough of these tiny mushrooms to add up to even one dose, let alone multiple doses, is fairly slim. When we compare these to cubes, we mean potency per gram, not per mushrooms. You might need fifty dried mushrooms to add up to a gram.
P. cyanopus has not been cultivated. It’s not clear whether cultivation is even possible.
Toxicity, Safety, & Side-Effects
Because no one seems to be using P. cyanopus, it’s hard to say what its side effects might be. Certainly, there would be the risk of any of the known side effects of psilocybin, including nausea, anxiety, problems with balance, or possibly even convulsions. There are ways to minimize the chance of these side-effects and to reduce the harm they can cause if they do occur—the most important of these safety procedures is to always err on the side of taking too little rather than too much, and do not trip alone. However, the possibility of P. cyanopus carrying additional risks cannot be ruled out. Some could be serious.
Please remember, too, that psilocybin is illegal to use or even possess in most jurisdictions. The risk of prosecution and punishment must be considered among the possible dangers of mushroom use.
[i] (n.d.). Pholiotina cyanopus (G.F. Atk.) Singer. Shroomery