Paul Stamets has his very own psychedelic mushroom named after him. After decades of contribution to the mycology world, recently discovered Psilocybe stametsii will forever own a home in the genus Psilocybe.
Psilocybe stametsii was initially discovered over ten years ago in the cloud forest of Ecuador’s Los Cedros Biological Reserve. The new species of magic mushroom was found for the first time by Dr. Bryn Dentinger and a colleague from the University of Utah in 2011. After that, the mushroom was not seen again until 2022, when Giuliana Furci, the founder of the Fungi Foundation, musician Cosmo Sheldrake, and author Robert Macfarlane discovered it in the same location.
Furci co-published the discovery with the Index Fungorum tool hosted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The index contains several different fungi at varying ranks, allowing scientists to e-publish new information regarding fungal species. This innovative method bypasses the challenges of traditional scientific journal publications in naming new species, therefore expediting the process of species discovery.
According to Dr. Dentinger, P. stametsii appears to grow in solidarity. It has only been observed twice in scientific history. The mushroom is no larger than a matchstick and consists of several brown tones, allowing it to camouflage into the forest floor environment of soil and leaves. No wonder it has taken so long to rediscover it!
Similarly to its close relatives, P. stametsii has a tip at the top of its cap. However, it is unique due to the sharply pointed tip compared to the traditional, somewhat rounded one. The newly discovered fungus is “evolutionarily distinct from the other closely related known species of Psilocybe described from Bolivia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.” Phylogenetically, the DNA of this species is most similar to an environmental sequence from soil found in China.
Giuliana Furci expressed her immense pleasure in commemorating Paul Stamets with a newly discovered mushroom species. She acknowledged Stamets’ contribution to the global appreciation of fungi” and admits that she is among many people who have been inspired by his “relentless dedication to advancing mycology.”
Stamets says he is “honored by this recognition – and excited to go on a field expedition to see this species in its natural habitat.” He notes, “To be recognized like this is the greatest honor that a mycologist can receive, and that two renowned mycologists co-authored this discovery deepens my appreciation. I also feel a keen responsibility to further protect the mycodiversity of fungi in all their wondrous forms. They are truly fantastic!”
For over forty years, Paul Stamets has been a pioneer in the field of mycology, paving the way for new discoveries and changing the way everyday people perceive fungi. This isn’t the first time Stamets has been celebrated for his knowledge. He was recently featured in the 2019 Netflix Documentary ‘Fantastic Fungi’ and even inspired the character Lieutenant Stamets in the Star Trek: Discovery series.
Stamets links his interest in mycology to his older brother, John, who sparked his fascination with magic mushrooms. When he was eighteen, Stamets tried psychedelic mushrooms for the first time and ended up stuck in a tree during an intense storm. Despite his danger, he recalls a profound sense of beauty in the experience, feeling connected to the earth and the universe. Stamets credits this experience to curing his childhood problem of stuttering, which lead to his interest and dedication to studying the potential of psychedelic and other mushroom species.
While in college, he wrote his first book, “Psilocybe Mushrooms & Their Allies,” as a guide to spread better knowledge regarding psychedelic mushrooms and prevent unintentional poisonings from misidentification. In 1979, Stamets completed his bachelor’s degree in mycology. Outside of his degree, all of his knowledge as a mycologist is self-taught. Stamets has discovered several species of mushrooms and even named some himself. One was Psilocybe azurescens, which he named after his son Azureus. The other was Psilocybe weilii, named after Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known integrative medicines expert. Both are listed in his 1997 comprehensive magic mushroom field guide titled “Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World.” Even though Stamets could have named the mushrooms after himself, the honor of someone else naming one after him is the ultimate compliment. His years of hard work and experience are forever immortalized in the mushroom’s name.
Stamets published a study in 2021 that used data from a public application called Microdose.me to find the impact that microdosing can have on an individual’s mood and mental health. The community samples included microdosing and non to non-microdosing adults to compare the two groups and analyze the impact microdosing could have. The results of the study found that microdosing individuals saw a substantial improvement in overall mood, cognition, and emotional well-being while also reducing levels of depression and anxiety (1). The information gathered by Stamet’s study is groundbreaking, as there have not been many large-scale studies of the effects of psilocybin mushrooms on human subjects. Much of our current information regarding psilocybin either comes from a synthesized version of the compound or testing done on animals instead of people. Studies like this will help expand the scientific knowledge of how psilocybin impacts our brains, leading to more acceptance of using it as a novel treatment for mental health conditions.
The news of Stamet’s mushroom was announced on February 28, 2023, the same day his new patent was finally published, six years after filing. The patent claims that species of psilocybin mushrooms and their mycelium can be combined with nicotinic acid and the active compounds, erinacines and hericenones, found in lion’s mane mushrooms. This combination has been found to improve symptoms of mental health conditions, resolve neuropathy, and stimulate neurogenesis, which can help with cognitive function and repair damaged brain cells.
Scientists have discovered around 120,000 species of fungi, and up to 2,000 new species are found every year. Nonetheless, we have only found around five to ten percent of the almost four million fungi estimated to exist. Discoveries such as P. stametsii are incredibly significant to our understanding of how mushrooms can revolutionize our current sciences and medicines, especially in the realm of psychedelic therapy.