As more and more folks turn to growing mushrooms, one thing that often bewilders new growers is the amount of choice offered by online vendors when it comes to strains, cultivars, or even different species. Whether it’s Golden Teachers, B+, or Penis Envy, for those getting started, there’s a lot to take in and understand—not everyone has a degree in mycology, after all. Add to this some of the wilder claims from the more “marketing-focused” vendors around variations in effects like euphoria, introspection, or induced spiritual epiphanies, and it’s easy to see why many new growers can often be faced with decision paralysis when choosing which spores to start. In this article, we’ll try to simplify the science and demystify the marketing so you make the most informed choice possible and answer the question, “what’s in a strain name?”
Golden Teachers: Choosing Which Kind of Spores to Grow
The first challenge in choosing which spores to grow is understanding the difference between terms like species, strain, and cultivar. These terms, along with others like variety and isolate, often get thrown around interchangeably by some vendors and those with less experience, but each term actually has a precise definition.
The easiest of these to understand is species. Species are distinct genetic lineages that usually cannot interbreed and although there are exceptions to the interbreeding rule that give us hybrids like the liger (lion + tiger) or the mule (horse + donkey), we’re not currently aware of any hybrids of psychedelic mushroom species. Most of our current understanding of the differences between species are related to their specific genetic composition, which can be determined in the lab and used to make comparisons between the degree of genetic similarity between species. However, even at a species level, there’s still lots to learn about genetics and potency, with reclassifications of species names or conflicting reports on alkaloid content still appearing in the literature.
When spore shopping, it’s always helpful to first look for the Latin name, which will usually be Psilocybe cubensis, the most commonly cultivated magic mushroom. For the Latin naming system, the format goes genus (e.g. Psilocybe) followed by species (e.g. cubensis). If you’re looking at spores and the Latin names are different, then you know you have separate species. Remember, just as you could never cross a fly with a human (sorry, David Cronenberg), you couldn’t naturally cross Psilocybe cubensis with Psilocybe mexicana—though if you manage to prove us wrong, please publish your results in your nearest scientific journal.
Once we move beyond species, our grip on knowledge and certainty begins to loosen slightly. Terms like strain and variety are concepts that even modern-day scientists argue over, with each discipline of biology having their own preferred definitions. On top of this, some vendors add to the confusion by straight-up inventing new strains and cultivars without properly explaining why they’re so distinct. Generally speaking though, strains should all originate from the same species (usually Psilocybe cubensis) and can interbreed freely. A good example of this is the deliberate interbreeding of the strains Penis Envy and B+, which gave rise to the Tidalwave strain, noted for winning the April 2021 Oakland Hyphae Psilocybin Cup (but more on this later).
Deliberate interbreeding of strains by skilled growers can give rise to albino and sporeless versions of Psilocybe cubensis, among other mutations. It’s important to point out here that a truly distinct strain should display stable characteristics that can be reproduced in every grow project. Just because you grew a funky-looking shroom doesn’t mean you’ve really isolated a new strain, unless you can prove that you can grow the same characteristics repeatedly. This is why strains can only really be maintained through cloning: Once you take the spores from a mushroom and grow these up, you shake up the bag of genetics and the mycelium you pull out may no longer be identical to the parent mushroom it came from.
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This brings us nicely to cultivars, short for “cultivated variety.” Rather than being a genetically identical clone, these are usually grown from spores. As each individual spore contains a random mix of half the parent mushroom’s genetic material, any mycelium produced from the spores of a defined strain will develop their own distinct genetic characteristics. Repeat this process enough times, taking spores from each successful grow in turn, and your mushroom genetics can “drift” away far enough that the defined characteristics of the original strain may end up being lost. This isn’t always a bad thing; it can give rise to new and interesting mutations when you feel like growing mushrooms is getting boring (though it’s not happened to us yet!). It is possible to stabilize cultivars through multiple rounds of selective breeding, by taking spores from each generation and deliberately selecting for specific characteristics such as growth rate, substrate preference, and with enough testing, even potency. However, keep in mind that, unlike true strains that have been grown through cloning, cultivars will usually show more variation between generations.
Penis Envy vs. Golden Teacher
When choosing between Penis Envy vs. Golden Teacher, there are a few things to consider from both a cultivation and dosage perspective. While some would consider Penis Envy to generally be stronger than Golden Teacher, it’s important to note that there is a lot of variation in the potency of both varieties. These variations are likely due to differences in growing conditions and how the mushrooms have been handled after they’ve been harvested. If in doubt, start with a lower dose to see how it affects you, then adjust accordingly. If you’re looking to approach this more scientifically, however, you may want to consider a psilocybin potency test kit.
From a cultivation perspective, both mushroom varieties are derived from Psilocybe cubensis and so are very similar in their growth requirements. Though some have reported longer colonization times when growing Penis Envy, others have found they grow just as quickly as any other variety. Differences in growing time can be down to the genetics within each variety, as well as differences in growing conditions. Penis Envy trends to form clumps of malformed mushroom tissue (so called “blobs”), especially in earlier flushes, leading to some growers preferring to use a casing layer to encourage full mushrooms to form. Most other varieties, including Golden Teacher, don’t show such a quirk and can happily be grown without a casing layer.
The most noticeable difference between Penis Envy and Golden Teacher is in their appearance. Golden Teachers look a lot more like the Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms you might find growing in the wild. Penis Envy on the other hand, has been subject to decades of selective breeding and looks a lot different than it’s wild grown relatives—think of the difference between a purebreed French bulldog and a wolf. One of the side effects of this is that Penis Envy produces far fewer spores from its tiny gills, which can make taking prints quite difficult. By contrast, Golden Teacher will happily dump a thick carpet of purple-black spores, making it a good choice for those wishing to make prints.
B+ vs. Golden Teacher
Golden Teacher and B+ are two varieties that share a lot of similarities across a range of characteristics, including growth requirements and potency. Both mushroom varieties have a long and mostly forgotten history, likely going back much further in time than the online fungal cultivation forums that emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although B+ was once rumored to be a cross-breed of Psilocybe cubensis and the wood loving Psilocybe azurescens, this is now considered a myth due to the low genetic likelihood of getting these two different species to interbreed.
Due to their long and widespread cultivation, Golden Teacher and B+ are highly recommended for new growers looking for a starter variety—though this may simply be due to how long their spores have been circulating within the growing community. Both species grow well on grain-based starter substrates and bulk substrates such as coir and manure. As most growers start with spores, there can be a fair amount of variation in appearance of both Golden Teachers and B+, which can sometimes overlap to the point that even experienced growers can’t tell them apart. One exception to this is the recent surge in a B+ mutation that causes the mushrooms to grow little “hats”—fuzzy outgrowths of mycelium on the cap. If these appear in your grow, there’s little to worry about, as it’s completely harmless.
Golden Teacher Mushrooms—Strain, Cultivar, Variety, Species—What’s the Impact on Potency?
How does all this affect potency?
Although breeding unique growth characteristics into your mushrooms might look pretty, what most shroom-folk tend to be interested in is potency. It’s important to point out here that genetic characteristics tend to be independent of each other, so while some growers might tell you that more potent mushroom strains are always albino, there’s currently not any evidence that this is true.
When it comes to species, the little we know about differences in potency (not only concentration of psilocybin, but of other alkaloids, as well) comes from the small amount of early scientific studies that have been added to by more modern research as renewed interest in psychedelics has grown. Thanks to this data, we can say with a fairly high degree of certainty that Psilocybe azurescens is one of the most potent naturally-occurring species currently known. In addition, scientific data has compared wild and cultivated species, and shown that potency can vary by a factor of four and ten, respectively.
Until recently, very little was known about potency between strains. Many mushroom connoisseurs stated that Penis Envy was one of the most potent strains, but this was from anecdotal self-experimentation with no research-grade analytical data to back it up. However, in April 2021, the mushroom community’s understanding of stain potency took a huge step forward, thanks to Reggie and his team of scientists at Oakland Hyphae. The team put on the first “Psilocybin Cup,” a community-led citizen science approach to quantifying psilocybin and psilocin in over 60 strains supplied by growers. The findings are relatively preliminary, but their methods are strong and add important data to back up anecdotal potency claims. Across all the strains submitted, psilocybin content ranged from as low as 0.14 percent, up to 2.26 percent dry weight in the winning Tidalwave strain (TW2) grown by Magic Myco. Enough samples were submitted that some general potency trends between strains have started to emerge, with average potency shown in the graph below. If you need a little more help interpreting this, the number of samples collected for each strain are shown next to the strain names along the bottom, and the little line above each bar gives an idea of how variable the potency measurements are for each strain.
With information like this just coming out, our understanding of potency between strains still has a long way to go, but open source-data from teams like Oakland Hyphae are a great resource for both new and experienced growers.
Golden Teacher Dosage
Golden Teacher and other Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms contain around 90 percent water. As such, it’s important to understand how this can affect dosage calculations. Compared to freshly harvested mushrooms, you’ll need much less dried material to feel the effects. Likewise, the difference of a gram or two might not be a big deal with fresh mushrooms, but with dried it can be a lot more significant.
If you’re looking for precise dosing, use a scale that can weigh in grams and is accurate to about 0.5 grams—or about 1/56 ounce if you’re determined to use the imperial system. However, it’s important to keep in mind that—just like you wouldn’t listen to someone telling you the “right amount” of beers to drink—preferred dosage is an entirely subjective choice. So no matter what emphatic statements you might read online, we recommend the old adage “start low and go slow”, and find the dose that works best for you.
Golden Teachers Dried
The potency of Golden Teachers is similar to most other varieties of Psilocybe cubensis, containing around 0.6-0.7 percent psilocybin by dry weight. A noticeable dose, where you start to feel some psychedelic effects, begins around 1 gram dried. Though many advocate for larger doses (from 3.5-5 gram dried), many starting to explore magic mushrooms have found this a little overwhelming for their first time. For those wishing to microdose, a good guide for this is around 10 percent of an active dose, or around 0.1-0.5 gram dried. Additionally, it’s worth nothing that some drying methods can cause a degree of potency loss. While this isn’t guaranteed, it is a possibility that should always be taken into account if your chosen dose doesn’t get you where you expected to go.
Fresh Golden Teachers
For fresh Golden Teachers, you can increase your preferred dosage by a factor of 10. If you prefer a more mild psychedelic experience, then 10 grams is a good starting point, whereas wilder rides then occur in the 35-50 grams range. As with microdosing fresh Golden Teachers, the same 10 percent dosage reduction advice applies—in this case you’d want a dose between 1-5 grams.
Golden Cap Mushrooms: Growing Your Own
So what does all this mean if you’re looking to pick spores to start a grow project of your own? Hopefully, this article will help inform you of what to consider when picking a strain or species to start with. If you’re just starting out, sticking with any Psilocybe cubensis strain is a good choice, as most are easy to grow and have similar cultivation requirements (like temperature, humidity, and light). If you’re looking for potency, resources like those put out by Oakland Hyphae can tell you which strains will give you more bang for your buck, though be aware that super potent mushrooms can be harder to dose and could give you more than you bargained for. When shopping around, make sure you’re selecting trusted vendors with good reviews, and support those who can verify that the strains/cultivars they’re selling are legit!
Read: How To Grow Mushrooms
One of the biggest problems with mushroom strains, much like with cannabis, is knowing that you’re really getting what you paid for. As strain is a bit more of a fuzzy concept, there’s no tried and tested way to guarantee your Golden Teachers aren’t actually Mazatapec, or your B+ aren’t actually Ecuadorians. With unique-looking strains like Penis Envy it’s a little easier, but ultimately strain is usually applied a little subjectively, and mushroom appearance can vary wildly depending on growing conditions. This is why if you’re not shopping for potency it’s often helpful to just pick based on a feeling, rather than scouring the internet and worrying endlessly if you’re making the right choice.
If you’re a more experienced grower, you can try other species like Psilocybe mexicana, Panaelous cyanescens, or any of the many wood-loving Psilocybes, as each has their own unique challenges in terms of growth parameters. If you’re shopping off the Psilocybe cubensis menu, more exotic species might be harder to find, and unscrupulous vendors might send you the wrong species deliberately or by mistake. As always, look at reviews and support the vendors who’ve earned your trust. So while Golden Teachers do exist, as with most things mycological, once you scratch the surface you realize there’s a lot more to understand when it comes to picking out Psilocybe cubensis strains!
How Long Do Golden Teachers Take To Grow?
As with other varieties of Psilocybe cubensis, the time from spores to mushrooms can depend on the growing method you choose and the temperature of your cultivation environment. If you do everything else right, an optimum temperature range of 75-80°F (24-26.5°C) should give you results in around one to two months. In the earlier stages of the project, this will mostly be waiting time, so if you’re planning on a trip away keep this in mind.
How To Dry Golden Teacher Mushrooms
A quick look online will result in all kinds of advice on best temperatures and complicated setups for how to dry your mushrooms. Although you can buy dehydrators to control the temperature and speed up the process, the most low-tech solution is to place your fresh mushrooms somewhere in your house that’s warm but out of direct sunlight, with a fan nearby wafting them with a gentle breeze. We found a clean airing cupboard is perfect, though keep in mind that as your mushrooms dry out, they’re more likely to be blown away by the fan. Test your mushrooms for dryness by bending them—perfectly dry Golden Teachers should snap and not bend. For long-term storage, place your dry mushrooms in an airtight jar with a baggie or two of unscented silica desiccant, and store at room temperature until ready to consume.
*Note that consuming and cultivating psilocybin mushrooms is only decriminalized in some regions. Always consult the law in your region before cultivating or consuming psilocybin.