In the past few decades, interest in all things fungal has exploded. Scientists worldwide are researching fungal spores, mycelia, and fruiting bodies.
Psychedelic mushrooms in the Psilocybe genera are no exception, as professional and amateur scientists take a closer look with microscopes.
Spore microscopy is essential to many different fields including, biology, anthropology, and medicine.
The classic use of light microscopy and Psilocybe spores is the identification of different species. Many manuals and guides have been written dating back to the 1970s on how to distinguish various Psilocybe spores properly.
A constant use for spore research is for various types of biological research like ecology. One new interesting study found that a parasitic fungus uses psilocybin to drug cicada insects.
Once the cicadas are infected, they spread the spores by continuing to mate and fly around.
Psilocybe spore research is also an essential part of anthropology. Anthropologists can gain insights into old cultures and civilizations by taking a look at the microscopic environment.
Through microscopy, scientists can discover if humans were using hallucinogenic mushrooms in the past.
Mushroom microscopy is extremely rewarding and can help you differentiate and identify mushrooms found in the field. It can also help you confirm the presence or absence of contaminants within a suspension or spore sample.
Remember, Psilocybe spores are incredibly small, measuring around 11.5-17 x 8-11 μm (micrometers). To get a decent view of individual spores will require proper magnification.
Luckily, light microscopes are relatively inexpensive, but you’ll need one with at least 400x magnification. You’ll also need:
- Psilocybe spore print or spore syringe
- Glass slide (and slide cover)
- Immersion liquid
- Lens paper
- Stains (optional)
First and foremost, you’ll need to prepare your Psilocybe spores by getting them onto a glass slide. That depends on how you have your spores.
If using a spore print, take a razor blade and scrape the paper or foil lightly. Tap the razor blade on the center of the glass slide, add a bit of water and then place the slide cover over it.
Tap gently on the slide cover with a pencil eraser or something soft to evacuate the air bubbles. If you have a spore syringe, simply flick the syringe a few times, place a few drops on a glass slide, cover, and remove the air bubbles.
Now your slide is ready for viewing.
Set your glass slide onto the microscope stage and have your lens set to the lowest magnification. Move the stage controls until your sample is centered and in view, and then use the coarse focus knob to bring the sample into focus.
At this point, everything is likely still far away, so you’ll need to move to a higher magnification. Switch to 40x magnification and find a clump of Psilocybe spores you want to look at.
To move to higher magnifications, you’ll need to use immersion liquid. Place a drop of immersion oil on top of the slide cover and then switch the lens to 100x magnification or more.
At this power, you’ll need to use the fine focus knob only. Individual Psilocybe spores should come into view. To view individual spores in detail, you’ll need 1000x magnification power.
Don’t forget to use immersion oil, and remember to clean your lenses only with lens paper.
Psilocybe spores can take on a few different shapes. However, you’ll likely find smooth, ellipsoid-shaped spores.
You will also likely see an apical germ pore which shows up as a lighter colored area. Often, people will compare Psilocybe spore morphology to that of blood cells.
If you’d like to view individual structures or view tissues easier, you can also stain your samples. When preparing your slides, you can add Phloxine–a red stain that gives the spores a little more detail.
Don’t forget to snap photos and measure your samples if you want to compare the differences between them. You can also experiment with other structures of a mushroom, including mycelium and fruiting bodies.
That’s all you need to know to become a Psilocybe spore microscopy expert.