Conocybe is a genus of at least 243 agaric mushrooms from the Bolbitiaceae family with only four members known to contain the psychoactive hallucinogenic compounds psilocybin and psilocin.
C. kuehnerina, C. cyanopus, C. smithii and C. siligineoides. The latter being known for its use in shamanic rituals by the Mazatecs of Oaxaca.
The epithet Conocybe, which is from Greek origin translates to “cone head”, referring to their conic or bell-shaped caps also commonly called dunce caps.
The type-specie is Conocybe tenera, a small cinnamon brown inedible mushroom that has the typical “little brown mushroom” morphology with long, thin, fragile stems and small, slender fruit bodies.
Of a saprotrophic nature, they grow on a wide variety of habitats including grass, dung, soil, humus, and less commonly wood or moss.
While some authors consider Pholiotina as a sub-genus part of Conocybe, genetic analyses have shown that the three clades that have been placed in the former genus are more closely related to other genera than to Conocybe.
Pholiotina is a small genus that branched from Pholiota and was listed because of one notorious deadly member: Pholiotina-Conocybe filaris, formely known as Pholiota filaris, also called “the deadly ringed cone head”. Common in Europe and in the Pacific Northwest, P. filaris was found growing dangerously close to Psilocybe baeocystis, Psilocybe cyanescens, Psilocybe pelliculosa, and Psilocybe Stuntzii. Because P. filaris grows from decorative woodchips used in landscaping techniques, this deadly species is spreading worldwide.To recognize P. filaris, Psilocybe expert Paul Stamet warns amateur mycologists to always beware of the rusty brown spores and the ring on the stem.
Also easily mistaken with some deadly Galerinas, Conocybe-Pholiotina cyanopus, similar in appearance to its parent Conocybe-Pholiotina smithii, is a rare midget psychedelic fungus with a remarkable potency for its size. As P. semilanceata, C. cyanopus is amongst the rare strains to produce a sclerotia; it is also said to contain trace amounts of the rare compound aeruginascin.
Eventhough Conocybe and Pholiotina can be differentiated microscopically by a central zone called mediostratum that is absent in Conocybe, we will merge these genera from their respective families Bolbitiaceae and Agaricomycotina, under the epithet Conocybe-Pholiotina.
As technology evolves, so does our knowledge and information on the organism’s evolutionary relationships may affect genera classifications accordingly.
Insufficient taxonomic investigations, the lack of literature, high macromorphological similarity and variability between the fruit bodies of different taxa, have made that taxonomic concepts are always in a state of flux and will continue to change as a new definition of the genus evolves.
It is therefore most likely that some species will be moved again in a near future.