Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Gymnopilus Sp. - Gym

Family: Strophariaceae [E-flora]

Local Species

"THIS is a clearcut group of rusty-orange-spored mushrooms formerly divided among Pholiota and the defunct genus Flammula. The fruiting body is typically reddish-brown to rusty-orange to yellow, and a veil is often present. The vast majority of species grow on wood but at times may appear terrestrial. Pholiota and Cortinarius are the genera most often confused with Gymnopilus. Pholiota. however, usually has a viscid cap and duller (brown to cinnamon-brown) spores, while Cortinarius grows on the ground. Gymnopilus species are found primarily in the woods, but sometimes turn up on cut stumps, wood chip mulch, and in nursery flats and flower pots. They are quite common, but rarely fruit in the large numbers typical of, say, Hebeloma. Cortinarius. and Inocybe. About 75 species of Gymnopilus are known from North America and over 25 from California. Several are quite striking but none are good edibles. A few-specifically G. spectabilis, G. va/idipes, and G. aeruginosus-are "pupil-dilating" (hallucinogenic)." [MushDemyst]


Gymnopilus aeruginosus - Magic Blue Gym

"Summary: distinctive features are scaly cap with tinges of blue-green, pink, vinaceous-red, and/or other colors, yellowish gills, growth on wood, and rusty orange spores; estimated to be moderately active as hallucinogen; found at least in BC, WA, OR, ID, Hesler(2) studied material from WA, ID, CA, MI, NC, PA, TN, collections from BC at Pacific Forestry Centre and University of British Columbia (some as Pholiota aeruginosa), Stamets(1) gives also OR, OH, central to northern Europe, and Japan" [E-flora-1]

Habitat/Range: "in groups or clusters on stumps, logs or sawdust of hardwoods and conifers, (Arora), on hardwood and conifer wood (sawdust, timber, logs, stumps), (Hesler), "in tufts on logs or stumps on hardwoods and conifers", May to November, (Phillips), spring, summer, fall" [E-flora-1]

Similar Species: "Gymnopilus luteofolius has dark red or red brown cap that becomes pinkish or pale red to yellowish, and red cap flesh that becomes purple then lavender or yellow, but is microscopically similar, (Hesler); Gymnopilus punctifolius also has bluish gray-green, pinkish and reddish brown colors, but among other differences, G. punctifolius has nearly bald cap, no veil and smaller spores" [E-flora-1]

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Gymnopilus aeruginosus; "EDIBILITY: Hallucinogenic. The blue-green tones are indicative of psilocybin and/ or psilocin, as in Psilocybe. COMMENTS: The tendency of the cap to exhibit a blue-green tinge when young (often variegated with pink, vinaceous-red, and/ or other colors) plus the scaly cap, yellowish gills, rusty-orange spores, and growth on wood make this species quite distinctive." [MushDemyst]

Gymnopilus bellulus

"Summary: distinctive characters are small stature and small elliptic to oval spores, other features include brown to orange-brown or red-brown, bald to minutely scurfy cap, adnate to notched, narrow, yellow gills that often discolor brown on the edges, reddish brown stem that is scurfy to pruinose at the top, absent veil, bitter taste, growth on wood, and microscopic characters; a member of the Gymnopilus sapineus group but no veil; material examined from WA, OR, ID, CA, CO, CT, MA, ME, MI, NY, TN, and distribution given as northern United States, Tennessee and Canada, (Hesler), collections from BC at Pacific Forestry Centre in Victoria" [E-flora-2]

Habitat / Range: "on conifer stumps and logs, sometimes cespitose [in tufts], (Hesler), several to many on conifer stumps and logs; June to January, (Miller), summer, fall, winter" [E-flora-2]

Similar Species: "Gymnopilus picreus has much larger spores, (Hesler); Gymnopilus liquiritiae is somewhat larger ( 2-8cm across), and has larger spores 7-10 x 4.0-5.5 microns, (Miller)" [E-flora-2]

"Gymnopilus includes small to large mushrooms that mostly are bright yellow, yellow-brown, or orange-brown, have bright orange-brown to yellow-brown spores, and occur on wood or woody debris. These types are fairly easy to recognize as gymnopiluses. However, some species are differently colored, and some occur on non-woody substrates such as among mosses or grasses. If a veil is present, it usually is a quick-disappearing fibrillose one, but occasionally is more membranous and forms a skirt-like ring. The spores usually are roughened, similar to those of cortinariuses. Gymnopilus bellulus is a small to mediumsized species with an orange-brown to yellow-brown, smooth cap with slightly striate edge. The gills are bright yellow to dull yellow then rusty yellow as the spores mature, and sometimes have rusty spots and brownish stains. The stipe is red-brown with a yellowish apex and whitish longitudinal fibrils on the lower portion. It does not have a noticeable veil, and the taste is somewhat bitter. Gymnopilus bellulus has been reported from Europe and North America on conifer logs and stumps." [????]

Gymnopilus Sp.

Gymnopilus junonius (Big Laughing Gym) " The smell of this mushroom is not unpleasant, but it has a very bitter taste and so is unlikely to be consumed for its psilocybin content. Consumption may result in uncontrollable laughter, nausea, abdominal pain, convulsions, or death (Benjamin 1995, Craw 1995)." [EPMW Hall];

G. sapineus; "Edibility: Unknown; the small size and bitter taste are deterrents." [MushDemyst]

Gymnopilus luteofolius; " EDIBILITY: Unknown, but the closely related G. aeruginosus is said to be hallucinogenic." [MushDemyst]

"Gymnopilus penetrans (Fries) Murrill Gymnopilus penetrans is a medium-sized typical gymnopilus that is common and widespread on conifer and hardwood stumps, logs, wood chips, and sawdust. The cap is smooth to slightly scaly and brownish orange-yellow to reddish yellow or pale red-brown, usually with a lighter edge when expanded. The gills are yellowish and often become red-spotted with age. The stipe is whitish to yellowish and typically becomes reddish brown below; often there are whit-ish veil fibrils on the surface. The veil is whitish to pale yellowish and usually disappears as the fruitbody develops, although some specimens retain a slight fibrillose ring. The flesh is very bitter, and white cords often extend from the stipe base into the substrate. Some mycologists have separated several very similar species from G. penetrans, including G. sapineus, with a scalier cap, and G. hybridus, with a fibrillose ring and spotted gills." [Trudell MPNW]

Gymnopilus spectabilis; " EDIBILITY: Inedible due to the bitter taste. Forms in Asia and eastern North America apparently contain psilocybin and/ or psilocin and are hallucinogenic (hence the Japanese name, "Big Laughing Mushroom"). On the west coast, however, it is apparently "in- active.".... COMMENTS: This species "complex" is easily recognized by its overall yellow-orange to rusty-orange color, rusty-orange spores, robust size, bitter taste, and frequent presence of a ring formed by the veil. Several Pholiota species are similar, but have duller spores and viscid caps; the honey mushroom (Armillariella mellea) is also somewhat similar, but has white spores and whitish or flesh-colored gills, while the jack-o-lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus) have white or yellow-tinted spores, lacka veil, and grow only on hardwoods. "Typical" G. spectabilis grows on both hardwoods and conifers and has. a somewhat fibrillose veil." [MushDemyst]

"Gymnopilus subpurpuratus is known both from Pinus and cloud forests only in Mexico. It is probably a hallucinogenic species since its basidiomata stain blue-green when bruised (Guzmán-Dávalos and Guzmán, 1991)." [Watling TM1]

"Gymnopilus ventricosus (Earle) Hesler Several very large gymnopiluses have bright yellow-orange to rusty orange, minutely fibrillose-scaly caps; thick, yellow, bitter flesh; yellow to rusty orange gills; and large, thick, orange-yellow to brownish stipes with a distinct membranous ring. These often grow in clusters and can be very spectacular, sprouting from rotting logs, snags, or stumps. Two such species occur in our region. The more common one is Gymnopilus ventricosus, which has caps reaching the size of dinner plates and very thick stipes that are enlarged in the middle and have a prominent, often spore-covered, membranous ring. The less common species in our region, G. junonius (= G. spectabilis), occurs on both conifer and hardwood substrates and typically is somewhat smaller with a thinner stipe. These large gymnopiluses share the common name big laughing gym, for their assumed hallucinogenic properties. Gymnopilus ventricosus apparently is not psychoactive, though G. junonius may be (specimens from Japan and eastern North America are reportedly hallucinogenic, but European populations are often inactive). More study is needed to ascertain the distribution of these species and determine their toxic properties. These large gymnopiluses could be confused with large cluster-forming pholiotas, but consideration of their yellow-orange color and bright spores should lead to the correct genus." [Trudell MPNW]


14 species in Gymnopilus have been reported as containing psilocybin. [Ramawat NP]

"Species from genera Psilocybe, Conocybe, Panaeolus and Gymnopilus may contain psilocybin in amounts as high as 2000–16 000 mg kg−1 dry weight, and a second psychoactive component, psilocin, in amounts ranging from 0 to 10 000 mg kg−1 dry weight (Faulstich, 2005); the average is 5000 and 5000 mg kg−1, respectively. The quantity of toxins in the mushrooms can vary widely, depending on species, phase of growth, mushroom size and drying conditions (both psilocybin and psilocin are temperature-sensitive)." [BCIF Gilbert]

"Moreover some species of Conocybe, Copelandia, Gymnopilus and Pluteus turn blue, because they contain psilocybin,..." [FDE Misra]


Hallucinogen: "Species that contain psilocin, psilocybin, baeocystin and nor-baeocystin and cause the psilocin–psilocybin syndrome (species that belong to the genera Psilocybe, Gymnopilus, Panaeolus, Copelandia, Hypholoma, Pluteus, Inocybe, Conocybe, Paneolina, Rickenella, Agrocybe, Galerina and Mycena)" [Sofia PFHD]

"Gymnopilus spectabilis, now considered a synonym of Gymnopilus junonius requires a dosage of 4 to 8 fresh ounces (112-224 gm fresh). According to mycologist Roy Watling, the Australian `form' is probably Subs. pampeanus. However, this mushroom is very bitter and it is most likely not consumed in Australia for recreational use." [MMANZ Allen]

"Dosages for Psilocybe australiana Guzmán & Watling, Psilocybe eucalypta Guzmán & Watling, Psilocybe kumaenorum Heim, Psilocybe tasmaniana Guzmán & Watling and Psilocybe makarorae Johnston & Buchanan are unknown at the present time. However, according to several people who have bioassayed some of these new species, reports indicate that they are just as potent as Psilocybe cyanescens (the most potent of species commonly found in the Pacific Northwest United States; British Colombia, Canada; Great Britain and Europe) and the suspected hallucinogenic properties of Panaeolina foenisecii (a common lawn mushroom sometimes considered as hallucinogenic) remain doubtful, as does the appearance of Psilocybe collybioides in Australia. [MMANZ Allen]

"Gymnopilus spectabilis (Fr.) Smith (=G. junonius (Fr.) Orton Documented Locations: Victoria; Australia. Because this species is very bitter and has a most foul and acrid taste, and requires an alleged dosage of at least 4 to 8 fresh ounces (112-224 gm) of mushrooms for its desired psychotropic effects, it is unlikely that this species is collected in Australia. This species can be found fruiting on dead tree stumps. According to several mycologists, this Australian species is probably Subs. G. pampeanus but recent classification now describes this species as G. junonius and is widespread, at least in NSW, Qld, SA, and Victoria. According to some experts, this species is not psychoactive and various other species of psychoactive Gymnopilus may have been misidentified as G. spectabilis. See next entry on Gymnopilus purpuratus." [MMANZ Allen]

"Gymnopilus purpuratus is an agaric identified from the austral floral zone and was first collected in Chile. This species blues easily, taste very bitter and is probably hallucinogenic. 1992 chemical analysis of collections from Germany by Dr. Jochen Gartz of the University of Leipzig and others have demonstrated high levels of psilocin and low levels of baeocystin. Dr. Gartz reported that "since 1983, this species has been observed on heaps of pig dung and woodchips in the district Rostock, Northern G. D. R. (East Germany). It seems that this species was introduced (into Germany) with grain from Argentina used for pig forage." Gartz also noted that this species stains blue when handled and was found to be exempt of other tryptamines, muscarine, and urea. Recently, this species was reported by Australian mycologists Shepherd and Totterdell (1990) as gregarious on rotted wood." [MMANZ Allen]

"Even though Gymnopilus junionius is one of the largest-sized species of mushrooms (with stems that have been observed to grow up to 24 inches [60 cm] tall), there are no known European cases of intoxications caused by Gymnopilus species. The extremely bitter taste typical of some Gymnopilus species is an effective deterrent to their ingestion as table mushrooms, anyway." [MMAW Gartz]

"In light of the discovery of psilocybin as an active ingredient in a South American Gymnopilus species, numerous historic accounts also appear in a different light. Jesuits of the 17th and early 18th centuries who had travelled to the western Amazon (Peru) reported that the Yurimagua Indians habitually prepared a potently intoxicating potion derived from a tree-dwelling mushroom. The mushrooms appeared on fallen trees as a kind of reddish growth with a spicy taste. The potion was said to be so potent that nobody who swallowed three mouthfuls of the brew was able to resist its effects. The mushroom was considered to be Psilocybe yungensis Singer & Smith. However, since Gymnopilus species are reddish in color (see description of Gymnopilus purpuratus, above) and tend to colonize dense tree trunks, those strange tree-dwelling mushrooms were most likely a Gymnopilus species. The Psilocybe species, after all, grow almost exclusively on wood sprigs and tree bark debris. On only one exceptional occasion did we discover a specimen of Psilocybe bohemica growing on a thoroughly rotted, wet tree trunk (see p. 31, top right). Most likely, the reddishcolored tree-dwelling species was closely related to Gymnopilus purpuratus. The discovery of psilocybin in a mushroom of the Gymnopilus species marked the first time this substance had ever been found in a member of the family Cortinariaceae." [MMAW Gartz]


"Next we examined a Gymnopilus spectabilis, which is known for its bitter taste. Jerry took a taste and made a terrible face when spitting it out: “Nailed that baby down. Nothing to this ID.” " [Fine MT]

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Page last modified on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 9:29 AM