This photo was courtesy of Damon Tighe, it is Psilocybe cyanescens fruiting body


An organism can undergo adaptations, which increase its potential for survival to its environment. Adaptations, which are the result of evolution, occur in every organism that has ever lived! There are multiple adaptations that P. cyanescens has undergone, so let's take a look at what has occurred.

To  be able to understand and garner appreciation for the adaptations of "The Potent Psilocybe" you  need to understand its morphological structure.

Fungi are not able to move or change locations in order to defend
themselves, therefore a different type of defense is necessary in order to deter predation and guarantee reproductive success through evolutionary changes in morphology. The most prominent adaptation that Psilocybe cyanescens has developed is its incorporation of two different psychoactive compounds, psilocybin and psilocin, which can be toxic to some predators that attempt to consume them. After predators ingest the psilocybin compound found in the mushroom fruiting body the alkaline phosphates are digested through the bodily functions of predators, which leave a hydroxyl compound form known as psilocin. This is the chemical that causes the hallucinogenic effects that  Psilocybe is known for.

                                                                                                                                                Flickr Creative Commons, 2009


Psilocybe cyanescens is rooted in one permanent location, therefore creating a necessary defense system is paramount to avoid immense predation. The fungus has been able to develop a prominent defense mechanisms in the form of two compounds. These compounds will affect various organisms differently, including humans.

 The psilocybin compound can aid humans to some extent, by
alleviating symptoms of depression in the proper dosage. However, other organisms can have more severe reactions to the compound, which inevitably deter the organism from consuming the fungus in the future. When predatory insects inject the compound, it paralyzes their nervous system, which results in the death of the organism. The compound is seen to the right, and is an alkaline phosphate group that gets broken down in the body, into the simpler form psilocin, which has hallucinogenic properties.                                                                       
                                                                                                                   Wikimedia Commons, Jan 9, 2006                

 The hydroxyl compound psilocin is the potent aspect of the
 defensemechanism that the genus Psilocybe has developed
through evolutionary practices, and also serves as themain reason mammalian organisms actively seek out the fungus. Once the compound has entered the body it can produce a varying degree of effects, including nausea, stomach cramps, and vivid hallucinations when consumed in a high enough dosage. This is not necessarily completely  negative however, as the effects of the compound can alleviate symptoms of chronic depression and help increase in satisfaction, caused by the sense of "loss of reality" that many organisms in the kingdom Animalia experience
when consuming the compound.
                                                                                                                 Wikimedia Commons, Oct 3, 2010

Therefore, it is necessary to discuss the implications that this can have overall, as the mushroom is still sought after by a small population. The compound known as psilocin is shown to the right, and is a hydroxyl group that is digested through bodily processes. Although it can be toxic in some cases, overall it is safe to consume in moderation for human use without producing any negative side effects at all.


Along with the other species in the order Agaricales, P. cyanescens has developed gills on the bottom of the mushroom cap. As I mentioned previously, this allows for an exponentially increased surface area for the mushroom cap, which can then create millions of basidiospores to stimulate the growth of other mushrooms in the future.

The gills for the mushroom are incredibly interesting because
they have the potential to position themselves sothey are always parallel to gravity. Therefore, as the mushroom begins to lean in any direction, as a result of an elongated stem, the gills are still able to release the basidiospores into the external environment. If P. cyanescens did not possess this adaptation, the spores would not be able to release effectively. This would result in basiospores ending up lodged into other gills, thus limiting the potential for reproduction in the future. Thankfully, P. cyanescens has been able to circumvent this issue, and therefore the spores are able to be carried by the wind to reproduce at extraordinary capacity.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Wikimedia Commons, Dec 14, 2007

The most fascinating adaptation that has evolved occurs throughout the entire fungi kingdom. This would be the adaptation in which the mushrooms are able to produce an exoenzyme, which actually digests material before ingesting it. After the organic substance is completely digested, then the fungus is able to ingest it, and receive the adequate nutrients to survive. This adaptation permits fungus to consume a larger variety and quantity of organic substance, when compared to other kingdoms' potential to consume. This in turn permits fungi to consume a larger variety of substance, and in turn thrive in habitats that other organisms wouldn't be able to survive in. To view the complete lifecycle of P. Cyanescens see the life cycle page!

To see what P. Cyanescens consume, view my page on Nutrition!