The Blue Meanie mushrooms: a towering force coming in a diminutive package. Also known by the scientific names Panaeolus cyanescens (sometimes abbreviated as Pans or Pan cyans), Copelandia cyanescens (“Copes”), or as simply Hawaiians, this shriveled fungus is well known to be multiple times stronger than its similarly psychoactive counterparts in the Psilocybe family*. With a name clearly alluding to the antagonists of The Beatles’ psychedelic animated film Yellow Submarine, Blue Meanie mushrooms have a fitting moniker in two senses: one is that they are, in fact, damn mean, with a reputation for intense effects post-ingestion, and the other is that the high levels of psilocybin and psilocin contained within cause the Blue Meanie mushroom, when bruised, to turn a distinctive shade of blue. But why is that? Why do Blue Meanies turn so characteristically blue? And why do mushrooms turn blue (when picked or handled) at all?
It has been known for some time that mushrooms containing psilocybin display a distinctive blue hue along their stalks and caps when the fresh fungus is cut or handled enough to be bruised. The widespread nature of this knowledge is clear even in the species’ scientific naming: Panaeolus cyanescens and Psilocybe azurescens being prime examples. While this is a feature required to identify many species [RJ1] of psychotropic mushrooms, it is necessary but not sufficient; other mushroom species, such as Boletales, bruise blue but are occasionally poisonous, and Lactarius indigo will bleed a bright blue latex (in addition to being blue, unbruised, itself). But these are not the same blues as those of psilocybin-containing mushrooms.
While Lactarius’ blue colour is due to a derivative of guaiazulene, and Boletus’ to pulvinic acid or other compounds, recent (2019) research into the mystery of psilocybin mushrooms’ “bluing” has answered the long-standing question of how this process works.
According to this research, the process involves two enzymes named PsiP and PsiL. When a psilocybin-containing mushroom is damaged, PsiP acts on the psilocybin in a mushroom to release psilocin. (Psilocin is the compound which is released as a result of metabolic activity from psilocybin when ingested by humans; it’s responsible for psilocybin mushrooms’ hallucinogenic properties, in a similar process to this one.) The released psilocin is then acted on by PsiL to cause the psilocin to fuse into larger groups, some of which have a blue colour.
What does this mean for the Blue Meanie mushroom? Well, the Bluer the Meanie, the more psilocybin it previously contained – since the blue pigments made up of groups of psilocin are the product of broken-down psilocybin, it might indicate that the specimen in question had a high content of psilocybin prior to being bruised. But the blue bruises on a mushroom are proportional to the amount of psilocybin oxidised – thus the mushroom’s potency may be accordingly reduced.
Perhaps not so psychoactive, but certainly very pretty. The Blue Meanie mushroom is a perfect example of this interesting phenomenon amongst so-called “active” species of mushrooms, and due to the legality (or lack thereof) of cultivated specimens** of these species, research into such facets of psilocybin mushrooms has been limited until very recently. We are lucky to see the Blue Meanie mushroom, amongst its fungal fraternity, brought to light in more detail; a tickle of joy on the blue belly of the universe (just don’t scratch it).
* Note: the Blue Meanie mushroom discussed in this article, Panaeolus cyanescens, is one of two mushroom species known by the Blue Meanie nickname: the strain of Psilocybe cubensis which is known as Blue Meanie is largely not distinguished from the Pan cyan, and a lack of information exists on the subject. We can only hope for the research of these fascinating organisms to continue as their complexity is further explored.
** SporesWorldwide does not endorse, or participate in, the cultivation of any species of “active” mushroom which, when cultivated, contains or may contain psilocybin and/or psilocin. Any mention of cultivation or requests for cultivation will result in you being banned[RJ2] .