The mushroom species Psilocybe cubensis has made a big name for itself; from humble beginnings growing wild in the tropics, this mushroom has traveled to nearly every country on the face of the Earth. You may know it by another name — magic mushrooms — of which over 95% of the ones you might grow or buy are Ps. cubensis.
Most magic mushrooms are Psilocybe cubensis
Psilocybe cubensis — nicknamed “cubes” or “gold tops” — are the most common species of magic mushroom. There are over 180 different types of fungi that produce psilocybin, the compound that makes these mushrooms magic. The native range of Ps. cubensis is actually quite small, largely found in Cuba, where they gained their name.
Cubensis gained its fame and worldwide distribution by how easy they are to grow indoors. In 1976, Terence McKenna and his brother Dennis published Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide. In it, they describe a simple method for indoor cultivation of Ps. cubensis that reliably yielded ounces of mushrooms after only a few months. Until this point, many individuals sought their mushrooms from the wild, with only a few diligent cultivators of both indoor and outdoor grows.
Since the ‘70s, there’s been a growing network of spore (a mushroom equivalent to a seed) traders and sellers. Like cannabis, some individuals chose to pursue the breeding of desirable traits, leading to the creation of strains with names like Golden Teacher and Penis Envy. When you buy magic mushrooms online or from somebody, they will likely be identified simply by their strain name.
The diversity of Psilocybe cubensis
Aside from a few specific strains, most Ps. cubensis mushrooms are indistinguishable from each other, making identification of strain nearly impossible once they’re harvested. In most cases, the strain name can be considered a ‘brand name’ or marketing tool, provided by the breeder at their whim.
The names usually refer to the history or a trait of the strain itself. Brazilian, Hawaiian and Mexican refer to where the mushroom might have first been cultivated from the wild, but it might equally refer to where the breed was developed. In other unfortunate cases, the name may be nothing more than a marketing fiction.
Aside from the strain, other factors are much more likely to have an impact on your trip: dose, set, setting, and the growth conditions of the mushrooms themselves. At the moment, this isn’t really a problem; all available evidence suggests that “a shroom is a shroom.” The real problem, arguably, is that almost no data exists on the differences between strains of Ps. cubensis. There is however one outlier, and that is Penis Envy (PE).
Penis Envy is a truly unique ‘cube’
This notable strain gained its name from its unique shape, characterized by an under-developed cap that resembles a helmet. It also has an albino sibling, the starkly white APE (for Albino Penis Envy). Through some act of nature or breeding, this strain is one of the few that is readily recognizable and generally considered to be potent.
Magic mushrooms will rarely let you down when sourced from a reliable friend or vendor, the strain isn’t much more than a branding choice, unless it’s PE.