Psilocybe weraroa

Psilocybe weraroa Borov., Oborník & Noordel. (2011)

Secotium novae-zelandiae G.Cunn. (1924)
Weraroa novae-zelandiae (G.Cunn.) Singer (1958)

Macroscopic feat.:
  • Cap/Pileus: 10-30 mm in diameter, 30-50 mm tall. Light brown to tan when very young, maturing to bluish grey often with blue to bluish green stains especially where damaged.
  • Stem/Stipe: Up to 40 mm long, cartilaginous, white to grayish blue, yellowish brown at the base, bluing where damaged.
  • Gills/Lamellae: Chambered, chocolate brown gleba.

Microscopic feat.:
  • Basidio/Spores: 12-14 (17) by (6) 7-8.5 (10.8) µm, elliptical and smooth, brown. Spores are not discharged as prints and must be extracted by centrifuge to concentrate samples for microscopy.

Habitat: Dead tree ferns and other woody debris. Climate temperate.

Comment: Weraroa novae-zelandiae (Weraroa novaezelandiae) is a rare secotioid form of caerulescent Psilocybe known only from the North Island of New Zealand. In general, secotioid mushrooms appear to be lumpy, malformed mushrooms that never open up to expose their gills (or tubes in boletes). A cross section will reveal a convoluted mass of gills and sometimes a stem. Since the cap never opens up, the spores are not forcibly discharged and the mushroom must rely on animals or insects to eat and disperse them. Slugs seem to be especially attracted to Weraroa novae-zelandiae and most specimens are found to have slug damage. If not eaten, the mushrooms can persist for months before slowly succumbing to decay. Weraroa novae-zelandiae was first described in detail by Cunningham in 1924 (as Secotium novae-zelandiae). In 1958, Singer made the connection between Weraroa novae-zelandiae and the bluing Psilocybes based on similar spore types and blue staining. He further speculated that Weraroa was the probable ancestor of the Strophariaceae (the family containing the genera Hypholoma, Psilocybe and Stropharia). Singer didn't mention any hallucinogenic properties and no one will for almost 50 more years.
In 2005 Internet postings about the recreational use of Weraroa novae-zelandiae for its hallucinogenic effects were noticed by New Zealand mycologist Peter Johnston. The postings prompted molecular work (currently unpublished) by secotioid expert Ross Beever which reveals that Weraroa novae-zelandiae is very closely related to Psilocybe subaeruginosa, which appears to be synonymous with Psilocybe cyanescens. Cultivation experiments also support this close affinity with Psilocybe cyanescens and other temperate wood-inhabiting Psilocybes. Weraroa novae-zelandiae now appears to be only distantly related to other species of Weraroa such as Weraroa erythrocephala and Weraroa virescens.

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