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CANNABIS INDUSTRY 

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SA Citizen Scientists Discover Two new Species of Psychedelic Mushrooms

SA Citizen Scientists Discover Two new Species of Psychedelic Mushrooms

South African citizen scientists and researchers scored a double whammy, discovering two new psychedelic mushrooms! One species might even hold clues to traditional healing practices

Ivor Price, co-founder of Food For Mzansi.

10 July 2024 at 06:00:00

This report first appeared in Food for Msanzi on 9 July 2024


Buckle up, bushveld explorers! Two brand new species of wild mushrooms have just been discovered right here in Mzansi! These ain’t your braai-side button buddies, though. These funky fungi belong to the Psilocybe family, known for their mind-bending effects.


That’s right. We’ve got six other wild Psilocybes in Africa, but these two new discoveries add to the collection, even though these guys are superstars in the world of trippy mushrooms, with over 140 known types.

Who are the heroes behind this epic find? A crack team of citizen scientists with eagle eyes for fungi and some clever researchers from Stellenbosch University. They’ve named the new shrooms Psilocybe ingeli and Psilocybe maluti.


Citizen scientists score with funky fungi


Psilocybe ingeli was chilling in some KwaZulu-Natal pastures in 2023 when Talan Moult, a citizen mycologist with a serious shroom obsession, spotted it.


Psilocybe maluti was hiding out on a Free State property in 2021 when Daniella Mulder thought it looked a bit sus. She sent pics to our very own South African shroom legend, Andrew Killian, to get the lowdown.


Both these funky fellas then got sent to Stellenbosch University for some high-tech DNA detective work. Breyten van der Merwe, a top-notch mycologist and the lead researcher (who’s also a super brainy postgraduate student!), cracked the case in Professor Karin Jacobs’ lab.


Lesotho healers may hold the key


Now, here’s the truly wild part: the study reckons some traditional healers in Lesotho might be using Psilocybe maluti in their practices. This could be the very first time anyone’s documented trippy mushrooms being used in traditional African medicine.


Citizen scientist Cullen Taylor Clark teamed up with a Mosotho healer named Mamosebetsi Sethathi to find out how they use Psilocybe maloti, known locally as koae-ea-lekhoaba.


This is just the beginning. Breyten van der Merwe, a post-graduate student in chemical engineering at Stellenbosch University, thinks there are probably way more wild Psilocybe species out there waiting to be found, and citizen scientists are the secret weapon.


“These two species were sent to me by citizen scientists. It would be impossible for a single researcher to cover a fraction of an area these mushroom enthusiasts have access to. This is the only way we will be able to further studies in African mycology,” he says.


Jacobs agrees: “There are only a handful of mycologists in Africa documenting local biodiversity. Considering the vast mycological diversity on the continent, it is a daunting task.


“Collaborating with citizen mycologists is therefore hugely beneficial. In addition to more material, collaboration also opens avenues for conversation and exploration, which can lead to documenting mycophilia (the love of mushrooms) on the African continent.”

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