Psilocybe cubensis is the best-known of the Psilocybe mushrooms, a genus of mostly small, dung-loving species that produce the popular hallucinogen, psilocybin. Psilocybe mushrooms are usually microdosed. P. cubensis can be cultivated on many substrates other than dung (though dung remains its favorite), and many varieties have been either discovered in the wild or bred deliberately by growers and are now under cultivation. The varieties, or strains, vary in how well and how fast they grow, what conditions they prefer, their color, size, and shape, and in the quality and intensity of the experience they give to users.
There are a couple of possible points of confusion to keep track of.
One is that because psilocybin (and anything that contains it, including mushrooms) is illegal in most jurisdictions, there is no way to do the research that would determine exactly how these strains differ from each other biochemically. The (largely spurious) claims of different alcoholic beverages producing different effects, such as making drinkers mean verses friendly and so forth, shows that user accounts can sometimes be wrong. It’s possible that just as alcohol is alcohol, psilocybin is psilocybin, period. On the other hand, there could be a whole range of unidentified “active ingredients” in play, causing genuinely differing results. The bottom line here is “your mileage may vary.”
Psilocybin concentration does differ from one mushroom to the next, and it’s likely that each strain does have a distinctive typical potency. However, the difference is likely subtle, and there is a lot of overlap between strains due to individual variation.
Which brings us to the final caveat. Many do not differentiate between strains of P. cubensis and other Psilocybe species, discussing all of them as simply “types of shrooms,” but the difference matters because other species can have dramatically different potency, either much stronger or much weaker than one would expect with P. cubensis. Estimating proper doses can be difficult to impossible without knowing the species of mushroom in question. The most popular consumption methods for Psilocybe Cubensis are Lemon Tek and Shroom Tea.
With all that being said, here is a brief review of many of the more popular Psilocybe Cubensis strains ranked by their potency, visuals and effects, in order.
The Alacabenzi strain is, according to legend, a cross between a natural P. cubensis variant found in Alabama and another variety, possibly the species P. mexica. It produces very large fruiting bodies and is considered easy to grow.
Users report that it provides a relatively gentle trip, similar to come cannabis strains, and good for beginners—except it can cause serious problems with physical balance, especially at higher doses.
Albino A+[i], or AA+, as it is sometimes called, is typically cream-colored to white, sometimes with a bluish tint—it bruises blue very obviously when damaged. The strain is not a true albino, despite the name, but is, rather, leucistic, meaning it has reduced pigmentation, not none at all. The spores are usually the typical Psilocybe purple-black. When mature specimens drop their spores, the stem-ring may appear black with them. There is also a more typically-pigmented strain called A+, but it is not as popular.
Albino A+ is sometimes said to be part-Panaeolus, which is likely impossible (species from different genera usually can’t hybridize), but the rumor reflects the fact that the Albino A+ can be somewhat Panaeolus-like in character. There may be some similar biochemistry. It’s a popular strain, very potent, and although it often grows a bit slowly, it produces large flushes.
An extremely popular strain thought to have been developed intentionally by a cultivator twenty to thirty years ago—some people suspect it of being a hybrid between P. cubensis and another species, P. azurescens, rather than a pure P. cubensis strain. The fruiting bodies are relatively large, and the spores are quick to germinate. The strain is relatively easy to grow and produces a big first flush but smaller subsequent flushes.
Users report a middle-of-the road experience and a lethargic feeling, but nausea seems less common with B+ than with other strains.
“Blue Meanie” is both the name of a popular P. cubensis strain and a common name for Panaeolus Cyanescens, a different but related species. The two look somewhat similar but not identical, and they have differently-colored spore prints. Perhaps more to the point, Panaeolus Cyanescens is dramatically more potent.
The Blue Meanie strain of P. cubensis has a bluish stem. It’s considered highly potent (for a p. cubensis) with an intensely visual, very long-lasting trip.
The Burma strain was, indeed, originally a natural variation collected in Burma. They are
known for their fast, aggressive growth, their potency, and their intense and enjoyable high—although
Burma trips are said to bring little of the insight credited to other strains. Growing Burma is not difficult.
Any method commonly used to cultivate Psilocybe cubensis will work for them. Colonization time can
be only a matter of days. Several brands of grow kits are available for the Burma strain, and growing
from scratch makes an engaging hobby for those who have the interest.
The Cambodian strain was found growing wild in Cambodia near Angkor Wat, hence its name. The fruiting bodies are small, with brown caps with pale spots. It’s a very popular strain with growers, since it grows very fast and fruits quickly, abundantly, and repeatedly. They do need slightly warmer growing conditions than most P. cubensis strains do.
Users report high potency and trips that are not intensely visual but with a lot of energy and a very creative or philosophical mindset.
Costa Rican Cubensis[i] is a naturally-occurring Psilocybe cubensis variant now being cultivated. While Costa Rica is tropical country, this mushroom was found at high elevation and is therefore used to cooler temperatures—it can be difficult to grow, especially if the temperature isn’t right[ii]. Costa Rica cubensis mushrooms are mostly brown. The thick secondary veil tends to rip away from the stem at maturity, leaving any veil remnants on the cap edge rather than on the stem.
This strain is considered low-potency by many users, though experiences vary widely.
As the name implies, this one is a naturally-occurring strain originally from Ecuador. The mushroom is specifically native to the highlands of that country—the harsh growing conditions there may explain the strain’s resilience, its ability to grow and fruit with virtually any cultivation method. It’s a good option for beginners in mushroom cultivation.
Ecuador cubensis is relatively large, for a P. cubensis, with a thick stem and a caramel color. Its growth is on the slow side, but flushes are generally large. Colonization goes best at around 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with fruiting almost ten degrees cooler.
Some people describe the effects as coming on hard and fast, but then mellowing as the trip progresses. Others emphasize the mellowness overall. The experience is clean and spiritual, without much in the way of a “body high.”
The Enigma Cubensis strain is what’s called a “blob mutation.” That means that the pins, instead of developing into mushrooms, simply fuse together and grow larger, gradually developing into a mass of dense fungal tissue. It never produces spores. Enigma must be propagated entirely by cloning. There is actually more than one Enigma strain, since the blob mutation has occurred in multiple P. cubensis strains. It’s a little unclear whether the different blobs are distinct from each other in any recognizable way.
Cultivation is fairly standard, for P. cubensis, except that it must begin with liquid culture, rather than spores, and the fruiting stage takes a very long time. The long fruiting stage does leave the grow vulnerable to contamination.
The high is pretty standard for a P. cubensis strain. The primary attraction for Enigma is simply its novelty.
This strain produces an unusually large mushroom with a big, yellowish cap with pale spots. There are multiple stories about their origin, but they are generally thought to have been found in the wild about thirty or forty years ago. They are popular with beginner-growers, since they grow well on many different substrate types and can tolerate marginal conditions and still produce large crops. They do take a little longer to fruit than most varieties.
Golden Teacher is considered average to high potency, although the trips are often relatively short (an advantage for some users). Visuals are less intense than with some strains, but users often report a euphoric and relaxing experience, and sometimes also a sense of mental clarity.
Lizard King is a strain of Psilocybe cubensis that is sometimes associated with rock star, Jim
Morrison, although the stories are conflicted and perhaps unreliable. Otherwise, Lizard King is
pretty typical as cubes go, which is by no means a bad thing. Caps are usually beige on
whitish stems. Growth is quick and flushes are often large, though colonization time is
average. Lizard King will grow on any method usually used for P. cubensis. Potency is
average or somewhat higher, and the high is known to be very mental or spiritual, without
much body load.
The Melmac strain of Psilocybe cubensis is named in reference to the old TV show, Alf, about a
space-alien, because this mushroom is “out of this world.” Of course, so are all other P. cubensis
strains, but it’s true this one is odder-looking than most, with a thick, contorted stem and a wavy, even
split cap. It is a close relative of Penis Envy, and the two have a lot in common, though they don’t look
much alike. It’s always a subject of debate how much different strains differ as far as their trip effects
go, but Melmac is at least said to be mellow, with a strong emotional component but few visuals. It is a
relatively high-potency strain. Melmac is easy to grow, with colonization time in the normal range,
though fruiting can be on the slow side. The only difficulty is that, like Penis Envy, Melmac drops few
spores. Cloning might be the better bet for cultivation.
The Mazatapec strain was named after the Mazatec people of Mexico, who have traditionally used it for religious and spiritual purposes. Unfortunately, somebody added two extra letters to the name by mistake, and by the time somebody noticed, the garbled name had gotten too popular to change. Potentially adding to confusion, although this strain is Mexican in origin, it is not the same as the strain called “Mexican.” The two are similar, but not identical. Mazatapec can be a slow grower, but often produces large flushes of brown-capped mushrooms.
Mazatapec is said to be less potent than the average P. cubensis strain, but also gentler on the body, causing fewer side-effects. Its high is also said to be very spiritual, as might be expected of something originally used for religious purposes. It is a favorite of both beginners and spiritual seekers.
Penis Envy is a little more penile in shape than other strains, thanks to a thicker stem and a smaller, more curved cap, but it is not noticeably more envious. While its discovery is often credited to Terrence MnKenna, he only found and collected the wild progenitor; a cultivator named Stephen Pollock discovered the mutation that would become Penis Envy while working with the material provided by McKenna.
Penis Envy is a very difficult strain to grow. It drops very few spores, those spores do not stay viable very long, and they take substantially longer to germinate than most P. cubensis spores do. Plus, the mycelium is unusually vulnerable to contamination. As a result, very few growers work with Penis Envy, making the variety rare and expensive to buy. Users pay the high prices because this strain is unusually potent.
Besides the potency, the Penis Envy trip is unusual for having a notably fast onset with wavy, rather than geometric, visuals and relatively little effect on the body—the experience feels “clean,” mental and emotional, rather than physical. It is propagated and used both in pure form and as one of the parents in a number of different popular hybrid strains.
PES stands for “Pacifica Exotica Spora,” the name of the company that first offered it—though the strain is now widely available. These mushrooms do indeed originate in the Amazon. As a tropical strain, they require slightly warmer growing conditions than most, but they typically grow fast. The individual mushrooms are large, sometimes very large. Especially when young, they have reddish caps. PES Amazonian is unusually potent, perhaps one of the most potent known, yet its high is said to be less visual than that of other P. cubensis strains. Instead, it is mental and spiritual, and can be intense. The experience can last eight hours. The intense, yet somewhat atypical trips are a major reason for this strain’s potency, especially among spiritual seekers.
The “PF” is, according to legend, from the nickname of the strain’s developer, Psilocybe Fanaticus, who also invented PF-tek mushroom cultivation. His real name is Robert McPherson. His strain of P. cubensis is known for large, brownish caps that often get lighter in color as they get older. They take a long time to grow and are not a great choice for first-time growers but do flush repeatedly.
Users report a strongly visual experience, especially at higher doses, with a creative and introspective mood. Nausea afterwards is likely, though.
PF Redspore[i] is a variation on the PF Classic. Both were developed by Robert McPherson, who used the nickname, Psilocybe Fanaticus. That, his nickname, is where the PF comes from. The spores (and the gills, once the spores have matured) are indeed a kind of reddish-brown, not the purple-black more typical of the Psylocybe genus. These mushrooms have a reduced ability to produce pigment, almost like a very mild albinism or leukism. Note that there are other red-spored Psilocybe cubensis strains, but not many. Until genetics became an important part of taxonomy, the purple-black spore color was actually part of the definition of the whole Psilocybe genus!
Besides the spore color, PF Redspore is similar to its progenitor, PF Classic. It is known for an intense body high, sometimes including temporary paralysis, and it grows fairly quickly if cared for well.
The Pink Buffalo 1 strain was first found in Thailand–according to legend, in a field where a pink buffalo was busy grazing (that sounds crazy to American ears, but actually a large minority of Thai buffalo are pink). It is one of the more potent P. cubensis varieties (as implied by the deep blue color of any cut stems), but its high is said to have a kind, gentle quality. It is relatively easy to grow—any method that works for P. cubensis will work for Pink Buffalo, but while colonization time is short, fruiting time is long, and may require cold-shocking or some other push to get pin formation started. Yields are high, and individual mushrooms can be quite large.
As the name implies, this strain was found growing wild in India. On its favorite substrate, elephant dung, it can produce truly huge fruiting bodies. In cultivation, it is not huge but is still large, the biggest and tallest known P. cubensis strain. The cap is brown at the center but fades to white near the edges. The stem is yellowish. It’s a good strain for beginners who want to grow magic mushrooms, since it resists contamination and tolerates poor conditions fairly well.
Users report that it is extremely potent, with a very relaxing and very visual trip.
The Z-strain was intentionally developed to maximize both growth and potency. The fruiting bodies are large with unusually long stems. The strain grows fast and fruits heavily multiple times, and is therefore a favorite with commercial growers—that makes it one of the most commonly-available strains as well.
Users report high potency with a long-lasting, very visual and very euphoric trip.