Who knew that some great breakthrough came as a result of “a happy mistake”? I wonder what the world would be like today if we did not have penicillin or saccharin or even worse chocolate chip cookies. As cool as happy mistakes may be, the Penis envy strain is the exact opposite of a mistake as its cultivation took years of intentional effort. We explore its history and a little more detail.
As common as this strain is, one would assume that its history would be fairly straightforward but this is not the case as its origin is surrounded by myths and legends. In fact, it was not until 2021 that the true story as recorded by acclaimed scientist and journalist Hamilton Morris was revised, after it was revealed that he had been intentionally misled by John Allen (a popular mycologist known as Mushroom John). Want to know how to grow magic mushrooms? If you want to grow your own magic mushrooms in a psilocybin magic mushroom grow kit check out the ZoomBag Magic Mushroom Grow Kit which we sell here!
This initial story was published in VICE in 2009 and quickly caught on as the de facto legend. The revised story however, shows that the initial story did not point to the actual cultivator of the PE strain. For as many who are avid followers of Morris, you would have already known this fact since the youtube video was not uploaded until April, 2022. During this podcast session, Morris was able to interview the actual cultivator and pioneer and provides some context that may or may not seem like myth for the unique name that is Penis Envy.
Why Penis Envy - Effects, Characteristics and Varieties?
For us to delve into its history, what differentiates this strain from other magic mushroom strains?
Effects and Characteristics
The effects of Penis Envy may be generally compared to those of any other magic mushroom, as is the case with all psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Despite users anecdotally describing various subjective effects of various varieties, there is not yet enough research to correlate subjective psychedelic experiences to various varieties, particularly given the importance of elements like context and environment.
Nonetheless, the heightened potency of Penis Envy appears to be supported by evidence. According to Oakland Hyphae's Psilocybin Cup statistics, the average potency of Penis Envy variations may be 50 to 100 percent greater than the usual Psilocybe cubensis variety. However, like with other produced magic mushrooms, potency varies significantly, most likely due to factors such as growth circumstances and post-harvest preservation practices.
Here’s a quick rundown of three of the more popular varieties:
Albino Penis Envy
Instead of the golden-colored caps seen in other strains, APE's caps are white with bluish tones that dry to a lovely silver blue. When it comes to producing APE, don't expect massive yields because this strain is difficult to cultivate consistently. Though some believe that this fungus is more potent than the original Penis Envy, there is currently insufficient evidence to support this claim.
Melmac is said to be the first variety discovered by Rich Gee while working for Homestead Mushrooms. Before the firm went out of business, these mushrooms were frequently marketed with their grow kits. It's unclear who changed the name to Melmac, but it's most likely a reference to ALF, the Alien Life Form from the 1980s sci-fi comedy of the same name.
Penis Envy Uncut
These magic mushrooms have a unique physical trait in that their caps do not open at all, even when they are mature. Furthermore, the caps are noticeably darker than "normal" Penis Envy. They are also reported to be the most powerful of all Penis Envy strains.
Now, Let’s talk History
Before we get into the discrepancies between the old and revised story, let’s lay down the story up until where they diverge.
It all starts in the early 1970s, with Terrence McKenna exploring through the Colombian Amazon where he encounters a healthy, thriving patch of Psilocybe Cubensis. Now bear in mind that it was the 1970s and magic mushrooms were illegal in most countries thanks to the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances.
Nonetheless, this does not deter McKenna as he found a loophole (still used today!) in the fact that spores are not illegal as they do not contain any psilocybin or psilocin (the main psychoactive component found in magic mushrooms). As a result, McKenna was able to bring back spore prints to his home in Colorado. Now everything we know so far in both accounts is the same up until here. Speaking of spore prints, checkout our magic mushroom grow kit here. You'll be happy you did. I mean, if you were wondering how to grow magic mushrooms... Or you can buy mushrooms that have already been grown right here.
From here on out, we have the divergent accounts:
First account: After getting back from the Amazon, McKenna then distributed the spore prints to his friend and colleague Steven Pollack - a medical doctor and shroom enthusiast - who then refined the culture over several years until a particular mutation of Magic mushroom was developed.
Sadly in 1981, Steven Pollack was murdered and the case was never solved. Legend even has it that Pollack had a Penis Envy mushroom clenched in his hand when he was found. Afterwards, spore prints made their way to Richard Guitierrez RIch Gee - a mycologist based in Washington) who kept the strain alive. Thus, credit goes to Steven Pollack as its progenitor and Rich Gee as its custodian.
Second account: In his 2021 podcast, Morris interviewed Rich Gee in person where a different story emerged. Other characters were introduced as he came into possession of spore prints from Terrance McKenna’s Amazonian collection through his friend Jules Stevens. Stevens got the spores from a “plug for schrooms” who got them from McKenna directly.
Gee was readily able to purify the spores using his laboratory skills, producing a clean culture that was utilized to grow mushrooms in the aquarium system Gee had created. Gee saw three strains develop from this culture, with one in particular exhibiting a mutation that prevented the cap from standing up and produced an abundance of immature mushrooms that failed to reach their full size. Tired of contamination and failure? Maybe you know how to grow mushrooms, but let us handle the sciencey and risky stuff. Try our grow kit, the ZoomBag magic mushroom grow kit, it is super easy to use, and get 2-4 ounces of dry mushrooms.
Gee used this mutant strain and kept cloning it until a mushroom that appeared to be fairly normal emerged; this mushroom was then cloned once more. Gee chose huge mushrooms to clone this time that displayed a bright blue colour when destroyed, which is now recognized as a reliable sign of potency. The superior cow manure compost formula Gee created increased the size of these mushrooms as well. Gee contends that the phallic shape was purely accidental and not a particular trait that was chosen for.
Regarding the mysterious post Gee received from Pollock shortly after his tragic death in 1981 labelled “Penis”, Gee called the entire tale "baloney from the very beginning" and that Pollock never even knew where he lived.
For context, Richard Guitierrez has a background in genetics, cloning, and manipulating yeast cells at the University of Washington. Furthermore, he authored two books: How to Identify and Grow Psilocybin Mushrooms and Cubensis Aquarium Gardening with the former published in 1977 and written with his friend Jules Stevens while the latter was a solo publication in 1995. The second publication verified earlier photographs of the Penis Envy mushroom before it was even named.
With regards to the naming of this strain, Gee accredits this in his interview with Morris to an encounter with strippers in 1977. He reluctantly showed them a sizable bag of his mushrooms, known at the time as "Amazons," to which they laughed and called "donkey dongs" when they first saw them. After which Gee asked the strippers, "Do you have penis envy?". The name got renamed after that with the new name catching on.
Which Story do you believe?
Now, there may obviously be doubt at which account to believe but Gee clarified during his interview that he had no intention about taking credit but simply wanted to clarify on the initial story as it had “got to the point of ridiculousness that it needed to be straightened out.” Gee possesses little internet presence and shows no interest in being acknowledged for his contributions to the field of mycology.