Penis Envy: The World’s Trippiest Mushroom

By Justin Cooke Last Updated: November 23, 2022
Last Updated: November 23, 2022
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Penis Envy shrooms are among the most famous and controversial mushrooms in existence. Many regard them to be the strongest strain of Psilocybe cubensis currently known. 

“Roger Rabbit” — an infamous amateur mycologist and respected member of the online Shroomery community is famous for saying, “Cubes are cubes, with the exception of Penis Envy.”

Penis Envy is just one of several hundred strains within the greater Psilocybe cubensis species. And P. cubensis is just one of nearly 200 species of psychoactive fungi

Here, we’ll explore what makes this strain so popular, dive into the bizarre history and folklore surrounding this mushroom, and cover some tips on where to find Penis Envy spores and how to cultivate them at home. 

What Are Penis Envy Shrooms?

Penis Envy mushrooms (PE) are a potent psychoactive strain of Psilocybe cubensis.

The most notable characteristic of the Penis Envy mushroom is its exceptional potency. The 2021 Psilocybin Cup (hosted by Oakland Hyphae) posted that the average Penis Envy mushroom in the competition had anywhere from 50 to 100 percent more psilocybin than the average Psilocybe cubensis strain. Only one sample from a strain called Tidal Wave had higher psilocybin levels. Tidal Wave itself is a cross between B+ and Penis Envy genetics.

Another distinction of this strain is its notable phallic shape. The cap on Penis Envy mushrooms remains close to the stem, and the stem is thicker than average — making the shrooms look a lot like a circumcised penis.

Today, dozens of variations and offshoots are derived from the original Penis Envy cultivar.

Image Source: Blue Goba

Penis Envy Specs

PotencyVery Potent
CultivationIntermediate
SpeciesPsilocybe cubensis
Substrate RecommendationRye Grain
Cost$$
Sold ByRalphsters Spores, Sporeworks, Sporeslab, Spores 101

Strains vs. Species: What’s The Difference?

A strain is a genetic sample that produces an observable and repeatable set of traits or characteristics. Two strains of the same species have clear differences in growth habits or chemical makeup. 

Species refer to a group of organisms that share the same genetic makeup.

The term “strains” is used when two samples of the same species elicit clear phenotypical differences but are genetically identical. The differences in growth habits and chemical makeup result from epigenetic responses to the environment rather than differences in the genome (which would make each sample a distinct species). 

Strains are present throughout the plant and fungi kingdoms — but are especially common among species used frequently by humans. Some common examples include cannabis (such as “Sour Diesel” or “Northern Lights”), kava (such as “Melo Melo” or “Pouini Ono”), or kratom (such as “Red Maeng Da” or “Green Bali”).

There are hundreds of distinct strains of Psilocybe cubensis, each one differentiated by subtle phenotypical contrasts (different chemical and physical growth characteristics). Some strains have higher psilocin, others have more psilocybin, and many elicit unique growth characteristics (such as albinoism, stem size, cap size, disease resistance, etc.). 

The Mysterious History of the Penis Envy Mushroom

There’s a surprising degree of mystery and controversy surrounding the origins of this magical mushroom strain. 

Many believe the original sample of Penis Envy was taken by Terence McKenna on his trip to the Colombian Amazon in the early 1970s with his brother, Dennis McKenna.

The original story, as reported by Hamilton Morris (a renowned psychedelic journalist and host of Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia), was that a spore print of the mushroom somehow made its way from McKenna’s collection to another infamous mycologist by the name of Steven Pollock. Pollock then further developed the strain into the Penis Envy we know and love today. It was Morris’ reporting of the mushroom, along with mentions of its characteristically strong psychoactive properties, that has led to the widespread popularity of this mushroom today. 

Here’s where the story gets interesting — Pollock died under extremely mysterious conditions. He was reportedly shot in the head and robbed in his San Antonio pharmacy in 1981. Morris reported in Harper’s Magazine that he was able to get his hands on a tape recording involving two alleged police officers who were in some way involved with Pollock’s murder.

Two suspects were eventually named in the murder and suggested to be methamphetamine addicts who were supposedly customers of Pollock — but the charges were dropped, and all evidence in the case was destroyed for unknown reasons.

After his death, officers discovered 1,753 jars of psychoactive fungi growing in his Pollock’s greenhouse — all of which were destroyed. Somehow, after Pollock’s death, a sample of the Penis Envy strain made its way to another mycologist in Washington named Rich Gee (Richard Guitierrez). Gee successfully cloned the mushroom and began distributing the spores to other growers around the United States. Today, Penis Envy is widely available from most spore vendors in the United States, Canada, and Europe. 

With all of that said, the authenticity of this story isn’t clear. 

A follow-up of the original reporting done by Morris involving an interview with Rich Gee himself suggests that Gee came in possession of the original sample of Penis Envy spores not through Steven Pollock but through one of the co-authors of Gee’s book How to Identify and Grow Psilocybin Mushrooms, Jules Stevens. Stevens reportedly got the sample from another friend who obtained it from McKenna. Gee then used selective breeding techniques to make the strain stronger by only propagating samples that showed the strongest blueing reaction (an indicator of psilocybin content in magic mushrooms). 

Gee also credits the name of the strain to an experience with a group of strippers in 1977. Upon seeing the mushrooms, which Gee was planning to name “Amazons,” the strippers remarked they looked like “donkey dongs.” Gee says he responded by asking, “do you have penis envy?”

Of course, none of this can be verified. While Gee is a skilled mycologist with plenty of experience with the Penis Envy mushroom (and other strains), some of Gee’s other claims make his reports unreliable (in the same interview, Gee claims to have telekinetic powers and the ability to communicate with animals). 

Penis Envy Variations & Genetic Relatives

Penis Envy has been around for decades and has been used as the starting sample for a variety of other mushroom strains — many of which share the exceptional potency of the original Penis Envy sample they were derived from.

1. Penis Envy #6

Penis Envy #6 (PE6) is a cross between Penis Envy and the Texas strain. The growth patterns of this mushroom resemble PE, but have larger caps and slightly lower potency. 

2. Penis Envy Uncut

Penis Envy Uncut (PEU) — AKA Uncut Penis Envy — are phenotypically similar to PE and have similar potency. The distinction of this strain comes from the tendency for mature mushrooms to maintain an intact veil (a thin covering that protects the spore-producing gills of the mushroom until the shroom is mature).

3. Albino Penis Envy

Albino Penis Envy (APE) is a genetically isolated, non-pigmented strain of the popular Penis Envy mushroom. The lack of pigment gives this mushroom a bright white appearance.

This strain is popular for experienced mushroom growers for its unique appearance and strong potency. Still, it isn’t recommended for beginners as it’s reportedly more prone to aborts (mushrooms that start forming but stop before reaching maturity) than the original PE strain. 

4. Melmac

The origin of Melmac isn’t clear, but it’s widely reported to be a genetic offshoot from the original Penis Envy strain. It boasts similar potency but faster colonization speed. Some sources claim the Melmac strain is the same strain as the Homestead strain. 

5. Tidal Wave

In the 2021 Psilocybin Cup, a Tidal Wave sample was reportedly the only submission with a higher tryptamine and psilocybin content than Penis Envy. Unsurprisingly, Tidal Wave is thought to be a genetic progeny of Penis Envy and B+ strain. 

B+ is another exceptionally strong strain that’s suggested to be a cross between Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe azurescens (contested). 

Where to Buy Penis Envy Spores

Most magic mushroom spore vendors carry Penis Envy — it’s one of the most popular and bestselling mushroom strains right now — on par with other legendary strains such as Cambodia, Golden Teacher, and Koh Samui. 

If you’re in the United States, check out vendors like Spores 101, Ralphsters, or Mushroom Prints

If you’re in Canada, you can pick up Penis Envy from Sporeslab

If you’re in Europe, Viking Spore and The Magic Mushrooms Shop carry Penis Envy genetics.

How to Grow Penis Envy

Penis Envy mushrooms aren’t the easiest to cultivate, but most people with a couple of grows under their belt can cultivate this strain without much trouble.

Related: How to Grow Magic Mushrooms.

There’s always a tradeoff when selecting desirable traits. Penis Envy mushrooms are powerful but less resistant to contamination, have a higher abort rate, and colonize their substrate about 20% slower than popular “beginner” strains like Golden Teachers

You’ll need to be extra cautious about cleanliness and contamination when growing these mushrooms and allow them a few extra days to colonize before moving them into the fruiting chamber.

Penis Envy grows well on all substrates, including brown rice flour and vermiculite (BRF tek), rye grain, wild bird seed, and manure. 

I’ve had the most success with rye grain and a pH-balanced casing mixture without manure. I have also seen these strains perform well on BRF cakes, but expect to have a relatively high number of aborts and do your best not to touch the cakes for any reason with your hands once the mushrooms start forming. 

Other Potent Magic Mushroom Strains

Penis Envy is regarded as one of the most potent mushroom strains available, but it isn’t the only strain that deserves some attention. 

Here are some of the best mushroom strains to consider if you’re purely looking for something potent: 

Final Thoughts: Penis Envy Mushroom Strain

Penis Envy is one of the most popular mushroom strains in the world, and for a good reason — it’s stronger than most strains you’ll find, sometimes by as much as 100%. They also physically look like a penis, with small caps remaining close to a thick (sometimes quite long) stem. 

The origins of this mushroom are mysterious and hotly debated. Still, the current theory is that it came from a sample of Terence McKenna’s stock obtained from the Colombian Amazon, which either Rich Gee or Steven Pollock later developed. 

You can find spores for Penis Envy mushrooms from most, if not all, the major spore vendors in the United States, Canada, and Europe.