Identification: Psilocybe azurescens

Common Names: Astoriensis, flying saucer mushroom, indigo Psilocybe, blue runners, blue angels.

Cap: 3-10 cm broad, conic to convex, expanding to broadly convex and eventually flattening with age with a pronounced, persistent broad umbo; surface smooth, viscid when moist, covered by a separable gelatinous pellicle; chestnut to ochraceous brown to caramel in colour, often becoming pitted with dark blue or bluish black zones, hygrophanous, fading to dingy brown in drying, strongly bruising blue when damaged. Margin even, sometimes irregular and eroded at maturity, slightly incurved at first, soon decurved, flattening with maturity, translucent striate and often pale azure tinted. Flesh at centre 3-6 mm thick, cottony and whitish to pallid brown at stipe/pileus junction before bruising. Flesh rapidly bruising blue, then darkening to deep caerulean blue and eventually indigo-black.

Gills: Attachment ascending, sinuate to adnate, brown, often stained indigo black where injured, close, with two tiers to lamellulae, mottled, edges whitish. Spore print dark purplish brown, to purplish black in mass.

Stem: 90-200 mm long by 3-6 mm thick, silky white, dingy brown from the base or in age, hollow at maturity. Composed of twisted, cartilaginous, silky white fibrous tissue Base of stem thickening downwards, often curved, and characterized by coarse white aerial tufts of mycelium, often with azure tones combined with dense, thick, silky white rhizomorphs that tenaciously attach to wood chips or dead grass, strongly bruising bluish upon disturbance. Veil white, cortinate, often leaving a fibrillose annular zone in the superior regions of the stem. Taste is extremely bitter. Odour none to slightly farinaceous.

Habit, habitat and distribution Cespitose to gregarious on deciduous wood chips and/or in sandy soils rich in lignicolous debris. This mushroom naturally grows, often prolifically, along the northern Oregon coast near Astoria, favouring the land adjacent to the shoreline. P.azurescens has a strong affection for dune grasses, especially Ammophilia maritime, with which it is closely associated. Generating an extensive, dense, and tenacious mycelial mat, P. azurescens cause the whitening of wood. Fruitings begin in late September and continue well after the first frost, often into late December and early January. An adaptive species, outdoor beds have been established with ease in the United States (California, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Vermont and Ohio) and Germany (Leipzig).

Comments: Extremely potent, containing up to 1.78% psilocybin, .38% psilocin, and .35% baeocystin (Stamets and Gartz 1995). After six months of storage, analyses revealed that this species retained most of its original potency. This species is unique not only in its potency, but also in its relatively high baeocystin content, roughly on a par with Psilocybe semilanceata. A cold weather-tolerant species, P.azurescens is one of the most potent species in the world and exhibits one of the strongest blueing reactions. The flesh actually becomes indigo black where damaged. The silky white stem, caramel-coloured cap, relatively large umbo are representative features. Psilocybe cyanescens is similar to P.azurescens but can be macroscopically distinguished from it by its much smaller stature, and characteristically sine-wave margin.

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