How Mushroom Time-Lapses Are Filmed: A Glimpse Into the Pioneering Time-Lapse Cinematography Behind the Netflix Documentary Fantastic Fungi

Mushrooms are having a moment, thanks in part to pioneering time-lapse cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg’s documentary Fantastic Fungi.

Now streaming on Netflix, the film has given rise to a bumper crop of funghi fantatics, who sprang up like, well, mushrooms, to join the existing ranks of citizen scientistsculinary fansweekend foragersamateur growers, and spiritual seekers.




Schwartzberg, who earlier visualized pollination from the flower’s point of view in the Meryl Streep-narrated Wings of Life, is a true believer in the power of mushrooms, citing funghi’s role in soil creation and health, and their potential for remedying a number of pressing global problems, as well as a host of human ailments.

Fantastic Funghi focuses on seven pillars of benefits brought to the table by the fungal kingdom and its Internet-like underground network of mycelium:

  1. Biodiversity

A number of projects are exploring the ways in which the mycelium world can pull us back from the bring of  desertization, water shortage, food shortage, bee colony collapsetoxic contaminants, nuclear disasters, oil spills, plastic pollution, and global warming.

  1. Innovation

Mushroom-related industries are eager to press funghi into service as environmentally sustainable faux leatherbuilding materials, packaging, and meat alternatives.

  1. Food

From fine dining to foraging off-the-grid, mushrooms are prized for their culinary and nutritional benefits.

  1. Physical Health and Wellness

Will the humble mushroom prove mighty enough to do an end run around powerful drug companies as a source of integrative medicine to help combat diabetes, liver disease, inflammation, insomnia and cognitive decline?

  1. Mental Health

Researchers at Johns HopkinsUCLA, and NYU are running clinical trials on the benefits of psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms as a tool for treating addiction, depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideation.

  1. Spirituality

Of course, there’s also a rich tradition of religions and individual seekers deploying mind altering psychoactive mushrooms as a form of sacrament or a tool for plumbing the mysteries of life.

  1. The Arts

Director Schwartzberg understandably views mushrooms as muse, a fitting subject for photography, music, film, poetry, art and other creative endeavors.

 

With regard to this final pillar, many viewers may be surprised to learn how much of the 15 years Schwartzberg dedicated to capturing the exquisite cycle of fungal regeneration and decomposition took place indoors.

As he explains in the Wired video above, his precision equipment excels at capturing development that’s invisible to the human eye, but is no match for such natural world disruptions as insects and wind.

Instead, he and his team built controlled growing environments, where highly sensitive time lapse cameras, dollies, timed grow lights, and more cinematic lighting instruments could be left in place.

Set dressings of moss and logs, coupled with a very short depth of field helped to bring the Great Outdoors onscreen, with occasional chromakeyed panoramas of the natural world filling in the gaps.

Even in such lab-like conditions, certain elements were necessarily left to chance. Mushrooms grow notoriously quickly, and even with constant monitoring and calculations, there was plenty of potential for one of his stars to miss their mark, shooting out of frame.

Just one of the ways that mushrooms and humans operate on radically different timelines. The director bowed to the shrooms, returning to square one on the frequent occasions when a sequence got away from him.

Providing viewers an immersive experience of the underground mycelium network required high powered microscopes, a solid cement floor, and a bit of movie magic to finesse. What you see in the final cut is the work of CGI animators, who used Schwartzberg’s footage as their blueprint.

Netflix subscribers can stream Fantastic Fungi for free.

From October 15 – 17, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg is hosting a free, virtual Fantastic Fungi Global Summit. Register here.

You can also browse his collection of community mushroom recipes and submit your own, download Fantastic Fungi’s Stoned Ape poster, or have a ramble through a trove of related videos and articles in the Mush Room.

Related Content: 

John Cage Had a Surprising Mushroom Obsession (Which Began with His Poverty in the Depression)

Algerian Cave Paintings Suggest Humans Did Magic Mushrooms 9,000 Years Ago

The Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants: Discover the 1977 Illustrated Guide Created by Harvard’s Groundbreaking Ethnobotanist Richard Evan Schultes

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Brood X Cicadas are her mushrooms. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Evolutionary History of Fat: Biologists Explain Why It’s Necessary for Our Survival & Why We’re Biased Against It

The Fat Acceptance movement may seem like a 21st century phenomenon, rising to public consciousness with the success of high-profile writers, actors, filmmakers, and activists in recent years. But the movement can date its origins to 1967, when WBAI radio personality Steve Post held a “fat-in” in Central Park, bringing 500 people together to protest, celebrate, and burn diet books and photos of Twiggy. “That same year,” notes the Center for Discovery, “a man named Llewelyn ‘Lew’ Louderback wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post titled, ‘More People Should be FAT.’” These early sallies led to the founding of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) two years later and more radical groups in the 70s like the Fat Underground.

There would be no need for fat activism, of course, if there were no biases against fat people. This raises the question: where did those biases come from? They are not innate, says Harvard University evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman in the Slate video above, but are a product of a history that tracks, coincidentally, with the rise of mass marketing and mass consumerism. We have been sold the idea that thin bodies are better, healthier, more attractive, and more desirable, and that fat is something to be warred against. “However, as an evolutionary biologist, “says Lieberman, I’ve come to appreciate that without fat, we’d be dead. Humans wouldn’t really be the way we are. Fat is really life.”




A quick perusal of art history shows us that larger bodies have been valued around the world in much of human history. We now associate fat with poor health, but it has also signaled the opposite — a storehouse of caloric wealth and healthy fertility. “Our bodies have all sorts of tricks to make sure we never run out of energy,” says Lieberman, “and the main way that we store energy is fat.” Leiberman and other biologists in the video survey the role of fat in human survival and thriving. “Fat is an organ,” and scientists are learning how it communicates with other systems in the body to regulate energy consumption and feed our comparatively enormous brains.

Among animals, “humans are especially adapted to be fat.” Even the thinnest among us are corpulent compared to most primates. Still, the average human did not have any opportunity to become obese until relatively recent historical developments — in the grand evolutionary scheme of things — like agriculture, heavy industry, and the science to preserve and store food. When Europeans discovered sugar, then mass produced it on plantations and exported it around the world, sugar consumption magnified exponentially. The average American now eats 100 pounds of sugar per year. The average hunter-gatherer might have struggled the eat “a pound or two a year” from natural sources.

The over-abundance of calories has led to a type-II diabetes epidemic worldwide that is closely related to sugar consumption. It isn’t necessarily related to having a larger body, although fat deposits in the heart and elsewhere can worsen insulin resistance (and heart disease); the problem is almost certainly linked to excess sugar, the constant availability of high-calorie foods, and low incentives to exercise. Our hunger for sweets and love of comfort are not character flaws, however. They are evolutionary drives that allow us to acquire and conserve energy, operating in a food economy that often punishes us for those very drives. Dieting not only doesn’t work, as neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt explains in her TED Talk above, but it often backfires, making us even hungrier because our brains perceive us as deprived.

As scientists like Lieberman gain a better understanding of the role of fat in human biology, those in the medical community are realizing that doctors and nurses are hardly free from the societal biases against fat. Studies show those biases can translate to poorer medical care and bad advice about dieting, a vicious cycle in which health conditions unrelated to weight go untreated, and are then blamed on weight. Evolutionary biology explains the role of fat in human development, and human history explains its increase, but the question of where the hatred of fat comes from is a trickier one for these scientists to answer. They barely mention the role of advertising and entertainment.

In 1979, activists in the “Fat Liberation Manifesto” identified the problem as fat people’s “mistreatment by commercial and sexist interests” that have “exploited our bodies as objects of ridicule, thereby creating an immensely profitable market selling the false promise of avoidance of, or relief from, that ridicule.” Despite decades of resistance, the diet industry thrives. A Google search of the phrase “body fat” yields page upon page of unscientific advice about ideal body fat percentages, as though reminding the majority of Americans (7 in 10 are classified as overweight or obese) that they should feel there’s something wrong with them.

Blame, shame, and ridicule won’t solve medical problems, say the biologists in the video above, and it certainly doesn’t help people lose weight, if that’s what they need to do. If we better understood the role of fat in keeping us healthy, happy, and alive, maybe we could overcome our hatred of it and accept others, and ourselves, in whatever bodies we’re in.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Mattel’s Barbie Turns Women of Medicine, Including COVID Vaccine Developer, Into Dolls

The multinational toy manufacturer Mattel is encouraging youngsters to play doctor — not a euphemism — and honoring first responders with the recent release of three healthcare-themed “Career Barbies.”

The company is putting its money where its mouth is by donating $5 to the First Responders Children’s Foundation for every doctor, paramedic, or nurse Barbie purchased at Target through August 28.




Mattel has also identified six female healthcare pioneers whose efforts during the pandemic merit a one-of-a-kind Barbie who shares their likeness.

Vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert, who led the team that developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, describes this unexpected honor as “a very strange concept” (presumably as compared to being awarded a damehood or receiving a standing ovation at Wimbledon.)

The 59-year-old Oxford University professor added that she hoped the characteristically smooth plastic doll would be “part of making it more normal for girls to think about careers in science, although, to be honest, when I was a young girl I never believed that I wouldn’t have a career in science.”

If the doll falls short of inspiring girls to consider a career in STEM, Women in Science & Engineering (WISE), the nonprofit organization Professor Gilbert chose to receive a donation from Mattel on her behalf, can take up the slack.

One of the most compelling of the six custom-made Front Line Responder Barbies is based on veteran nurse Amy O’Sullivan, a heavily tattooed, queer mother of three, who cared for the first COVID-19 patient (soon to become New York City’s first official COVID death) in Brooklyn’s Wycoff Hospital.

Soon thereafter, she survived being put on a ventilator with COVID herself, eventually winding up on the cover of Time Magazine, in the same neckerchief, floral socks, eye catching surgical cap and woven bracelets her tiny scrub-suited doppelganger wears.

Surely Amy O’Sullivan is a better all around role model than the similarly inked Tokidoki Barbie or Totally Tattoo Barbie, or for that matter, the non-custom made First Responder Nurse, whose description on Target’s website seems a bit retrograde, given the events of the last year and a half:

Wearing cute scrubs featuring a medical-tool print top, pink pants and white shoes, Barbie nurse doll (12-in/30.40-cm) is ready make her rounds and check on patients!

The real life O’Sullivan, who was very involved in the creation of her custom doll, seems tickled by Mattel’s faithful recreation, telling The New York Post:

When I was younger I always felt like an outsider — nobody ever looked like me, talked like me, walked like me. I had no role model at all when I was growing up. So if I can be some little girl’s role model that feels like this, I would love that. 

Nurse O’Sullivan had stronger words for those who have aged out of the demographic, in a recent interview with Time:

I see these young people not wearing masks. And, you know, those are the people that COVID is affecting now, the younger generation. They’re becoming very sick. And it’s never going to go away until we get vaccinated and wear masks.

That might be a bit heavy for those on the younger end of Career Barbie’s recommended 3 and up age group (“especially those interested in caretaking and helping others!”), but hopefully her words will carry some weight with those responsible for protecting those children.

The other custom-made Barbies honor:

Dr. Audrey Cruz, who collaborated with other Asian-American physicians to battle anti-Asian-related bias springing from the pandemic

Canadian psychiatry resident at who battled systemic racism in healthcare a doctor in Las Vegas who is campaigning against racial bias against Asian-American physicians

University of Toronto psychiatry resident, Chika Stacy Oriuwa, whose activism includes creating initiatives to boost the number of Black students applying to medical school and create networks of support for scholarly and professional advancement within the Black community.

Biomedical researcher Dr Jaqueline Goes de Jesus whose team sequenced the SARS-CoV-2 genome within 48 hours of receiving samples from the first infected Brazilian patient, differentiating the variant from the one that caused infections earlier in the pandemic.

Dr Kirby White, founder of Gowns for Doctors,  an Australian initiative that addressed a nationwide shortage of personal PPE by delivering free, washable, volunteer-made reusable gowns to frontline staff.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.Follow her@AyunHalliday

 

Watch Beautiful Footage of the Rarely Seen Glass Octopus

First things first: the plural of octopus is not “octopi,” it’s octopuses.

Now, drop everything and watch the video above. It’s an extremely rare sighting of a glass octopus, “a nearly transparent species, whose only visible features are its optic nerve, eyeballs and digestive tract” notes the Schmidt Ocean Institute. “Before this expedition, there has been limited live footage of the glass octopus, forcing scientists to learn about the animal by studying specimens found in the gut contents of predators.”

Limited sightings did not stop the poet Marianne Moore from seeing something like this wondrous creature in her mind’s eye:

it lies “in grandeur and in mass”
beneath a sea of shifting snow-dunes;
dots of cyclamen-red and maroon on its clearly defined
pseudo-podia
made of glass that will bend-a much needed invention-
comprising twenty-eight ice-fields from fifty to five hundred
feet thick,
of unimagined delicacy.

Glass octopuses have green dots and do not live under “snow-dunes” but in the warm Pacific waters beneath the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) near Samoa, and elsewhere Schmidt Ocean Institute scientists captured rare footage and “identified new marine organisms,” writes Colossal, while recording “the sought-after whale shark swimming through the Pacific Ocean.”

We must admit, Moore got the sense of awe just right….

Marine scientists from around the world embarked on the 34-day expedition on the ship Falkor. Using “high-resolution mapping tools,” Ocean Conservancy writes, they surveyed “more than 11,500 square miles of sea floor” and observed “not one but two glass octopuses,” with a remote operated vehicle (ROV) called SuBastian.

See several views of the glass octopuses — the stars of the show — and dozens more rare and beautiful creatures (such as perennial internet favorite the Dumbo octopus, below, from a 2020 expedition) at the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Instagram. “We’re at the beginning of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development,” remarked chief scientist of the Falkor expedition Dr. Randi Rotjan of Boston University. “[N]ow is the time to think about conservation broadly across all oceanscapes, and the maps, footage, and data we have collected will hopefully help to inform policy and management in decision making around new high seas protected areas.” Learn more at the Schmidt Ocean Institute here.

via Laughing Squid

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Cicadas Return After 17 Years: Stunning Footage of the Brood X Cicadas

Sing, fly, mate, die.

The periodical cicadas in Brood X are emerging from underground, where they have spent the last 17 years as nymphs. They are making the final climb of their lives, intent on escaping their carapaces in order to make more cicadas. And as always they are doing it en masse.

Once free, they must quickly get the hang of their brand new wings, and make for the trees, where the males will sing (some say scream) in a bid for females with whom to mate.

The pregnant females drill cavities into narrow branches to receive their eggs.




By the time the larva emerge, some six weeks later, their mothers and fathers are long dead.

Instinct propels these babies to drop to the ground and burrow in, thus beginning another 17 year cycle, a process Samuel Orr, a time lapse photographer and filmmaker specializing in nature documentary, documents in macro close up in Return of the Cicadas, above.

His adventures with Brood X date to their last emergence in 2004, when he was a student at Indiana University, working in a lab with a professor whose area of expertise was cicadas.

While waiting around for Brood X’s next appearance, he traveled around the country and as far as Australia, gathering over 200 hours of footage of other periodical cicadas for an hour long, Kickstarter-funded film that aired on PBS in 2012.

Brood X has a way of ensuring that we humans will also observe a 17 year cycle, at least those of us who live in the states the Great Eastern Brood calls home.

Some celebrate with commemorative merch. This year, that means face masks as well as an ever burgeoning assortment of t-shirts, mugs, and other paraphernalia.

Also new this year, Cicada Safari, entomologist Dr. Gene Kritsky’s smartphone app for citizen scientists eager to help map the 2021 emergence with photos and location.

There are some among us who complain about the males’ lusty chorus, which can rival garbage disposals, lawn mowers, and jackhammers in terms of decibels.

Those concerned with the planet’s health can use the data from this and past emergences to discuss the impact of climate change and deforestation. Brood X is listed as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Some of us are moved to write poetry and songs, though we don’t always get the species right — witness Ogden Nash’s Locust-Lovers, Attention! (1936) and Bob Dylan’s Day of the Locusts (1970).

Inevitably, there will be articles about eating them. It’s true that they’re a hyperlocal source of sustainable protein, albeit one that’s rarely on the menu. (The Onondaga Nation celebrates — and ceremonially samples — Brood VII every 17 years, crediting the insects with saving their ancestors from starvation after the Continental Army destroyed their villages and food sources in 1779.)

Human nature is such that we can’t help but reflect on the twists and turns our lives have taken over the last 17 years.

A woman in Maryland planned a cicada themed wedding to coincide with Brood X’s 1987 emergence, having been born two emergences before, and graduated from Bryn Mawr during the 1970 emergence, as 50 miles away, Bob Dylan was having his fateful encounter on the campus of Princeton.

Most of us will find that our milestones have been a bit more accidental in nature.

Brood X’s emergence also serves as a lens through which to view 17 years in the life of our country. The Onion took this to the edge several years ago with an article from the point of view of Brood II, but it’ll be hard to top the 17-year chunk of recent history Brood X and the humans who have been living atop them since 2004 will have to digest.

Speaking of history, Brood X Mania has been around much longer than any of us have been alive, and probably predates a Philadelphia pastor’s description of the 1715 emergence in his journal (though we’ll give him FIRST!!! since no earlier accounts have surfaced).

Prior to the Internet, entomologist Charles L. Marlatt’s The Periodical Cicada: An Account of Cicada Septendecim, Its Natural Enemies and the Means of Preventing Its Injury (1907) was the go to source for all things cicada related, and it remains a fascinating read.

In addition to lots of nitty gritty on the insects’ anatomy, habits, diet, and habitat, he quotes liberally from other cicada experts, from both his own era and before. The anecdotal evidence suggests our obsession is far from new.

These days, anyone armed with a smartphone can make a recording of Brood X’s cacophony, but back then, experts in the field were tasked with trying to capture it in print.

Professor Charles Valentine Riley compared the sound early in the season, when the first males were emerging to the “whistling of a train passing through a short tunnel” and also, “the croaking of certain frogs.” (For those needing help with pronunciation, he rendered it phonetically as “Pha-r-r-r-aoh.”)

Professor Asa Fitch’s described high season in New York state, when a maximum of males sing simultaneously:

tsh-e-e-E-E-E-E-e-ou, uttered continuously and prolonged to a quarter or half minute in length, the middle note deafeningly shrill, loud and piercing to the ear

Marlatt himself worried, prematurely but not without reason, that the march of civilization would bring about extinction by over-clearing the densely wooded areas that are essential to the cicadas’ reproductive rituals while offering a bit of protection from predators.

Dr. Samuel P. Hildreth of Marietta, Ohio noted in 1830 that “hogs eat them in preference to any other food” and that birds were such fans “that very few birds were seen around our gardens during their continuance and our cherries, etc, remained unmolested.”

Dr. Leland Ossian Howard was erroneously credited with conducting “the first experiments of cicada as an article of human food” in early summer 1885. Marlatt reproduces the account of an eyewitness who seemed to fancy themselves a bit of a restaurant critic:

With the aid of the Doctor’s cook, he had prepared a plain stew, a milk stew, and a broil. The Cicadae were collected just as they emerged from pupae and were thrown into cold water, in which they remained overnight. They were cooked the next morning, and served at breakfast time. They imparted a distinct and not unpleasant flavor to the stew, but they were not at all palatable themselves, as they were reduced to nothing but bits of flabby skin. The broil lacked substance. The most palatable method of cooking is to fry in batter, when they remind one of shrimps. They will never prove a delicacy.

We leave you with the thoughts of Dr Gideon B. Smith of Baltimore, whose attempt to capture a mercurial month turns bittersweet, and all too relatable:

The music or song produced by the myriads of these insects in a warm day from about the 25th of May to the middle of June is wonderful. It is not deafening, as many describe it; even at its height it does not interrupt conversation. It seems like an atmosphere of wild, monotonous sound, in which all other sounds float with perfect distinctness. After a day or two this music becomes tiresome and doleful, and to many very disagreeable. To me, it was otherwise, and when I heard the last note on the 25th of June the melancholy reflection occurred. Shall I live to hear it yet again?

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Welcome back, Brood X Overlords! Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How Vaccines Improved Our World In One Graphic

In 1796, the British doctor Edward Jenner developed the first vaccine to fight a contagious disease–in this particular case, the smallpox virus. Since then vaccines have helped eradicate, or firmly control, a long list of diseases–everything from diphtheria and the measles, to rubella and polio. Designed by Leon Farrant in 2011, the infographic above reminds us of the miracles brought by vaccines, showing the degree to which they’ve tamed 14 crippling diseases. Before too long, we hope COVID-19 will be added to the list.

For the data used to make the graphic, visit this document online.

via @NeilGaiman

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Discover Tokyo’s Museum Dedicated to Parasites: A Unique and Disturbing Institution

Photo by Guilhem Vellut

Weary as we are of hearing about not just the coronavirus but viruses in general, shall we we turn our attention to parasites instead? The Meguro Parasitological Museum has been concentrating its intellectual and educational energies in that direction since 1953. Located in the eponymous neighborhood of Tokyo, it houses more than 60,000 species of parasite, with more than 300 on display at any given time. “On the first floor we present the ‘Diversity of Parasites’ displaying various types of parasite specimens with accompanying educational movies,” write directors Midori Kamegai and Kazuo Ogawa. “The second floor exhibits are ‘Human and Zoonotic Parasites’ showing parasite life cycles and the symptoms they cause during human infection.”

Photo by Guilhem Vellut

We’ve here included a few choice pictures from the museum, but as Culture Trip’s India Irving warns, “the real-life specimens are far worse than the photographs; some of the displays present preserved parasites actually popping out of their animal hosts.”




She names as “the most repulsive item on view” a tapeworm “roughly the size of a London bus — it is the longest tapeworm in world and is exhibited alongside a rope of the same length so visitors can get a physical feel for just how enormous it actually was.” What other parasitological museum could hope to compete with that? Not that any have tried: the Meguro Parasitological Museum proudly describes itself as the only such institution in the world.

Photo by Guilhem Vellut

“Some of the displays are merely disturbing, while others are slightly more ghastly,” writes Mental Floss’ Jake Rossen. “If you’ve ever wanted to see a photo of a tropical bug prompting a human testicle to swell to the size of a gym bag, this is the place for you.” Like many other museums, it did shut down for a time earlier in the pandemic, but has been open again since June. (If you happen not to be a Japanese speaker, guides in English and other languages are available in both text and app form.) If current conditions have nevertheless kept Japan itself out of your reach, you can have a look at the Meguro Parasitological Museum’s unique offerings through this Flickr gallery — which gets many of us as close to these organisms as we care to be.

Photo by Steven L. Johnson 

via Mental Floss

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants: Discover the 1977 Illustrated Guide Created by Harvard’s Groundbreaking Ethnobotanist Richard Evan Schultes

I mean, the idea that you would give a psychedelic—in this case, magic mushrooms or the chemical called psilocybin that’s derived from magic mushrooms—to people dying of cancer, people with terminal diagnoses, to help them deal with their – what’s called existential distress. And this seemed like such a crazy idea that I began looking into it. Why should a drug from a mushroom help people deal with their mortality?

–Michael Pollan in an interview with Terry Gross, “’Reluctant Psychonaut’ Michael Pollan Embraces ‘New Science’ Of Psychedelics”

Around the same time Albert Hoffman synthesized LSD in the early 1940s, a pioneering ethnobotanist, writer, and photographer named Richard Evan Schultes set out “on a mission to study how indigenous peoples” in the Amazon rainforest “used plants for medicinal, ritual and practical purposes,” as an extensive history of Schultes’ travels notes. “He went on to spend over a decade immersed in near-continuous fieldwork, collecting more than 24,000 species of plants including some 300 species new to science.”

Described by Jonathan Kandell as “swashbuckling” in a 2001 New York Times obituary, Schultes was “the last of the great plant explorers in the Victorian tradition.” Or so his student Wade Davis called him in his 1995 bestseller The Serpent and the Rainbow. He was also “a pioneering conservationist,” writes Kandell, “who raised alarms in the 1960’s—long before environmentalism became a worldwide concern.” Schultes defied the stereotype of the colonial adventurer, once saying, “I do not believe in hostile Indians. All that is required to bring out their gentlemanliness is reciprocal gentlemanliness.”

Schultes returned to teach at Harvard, where he reminded his students “that more than 90 tribes had become extinct in Brazil alone over the first three-quarters of the 20th century.” While his research would have significant influence on figures like Aldous Huxley, William Burroughs, and Carlos Castaneda, “writers who considered hallucinogens as the gateways to self-discovery,” Schultes was dismissive of the counterculture and “disdained these self-appointed prophets of an inner reality.”

Rather than promoting recreational use, Schultes became known as “the father of a new branch of science called ‘ethnobotany,’ the field that explores the relationship between indigenous people and their use of plants,” writes Luis Sequeira in a biographical note. One of Schultes’ publications, the Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants, has sadly fallen out of print, but you can find it online, in full, at the Vaults of Erowid. Pricey out-of-print copies can still be purchased.

Described on Amazon as “a nontechnical examination of the physiological effects and cultural significance of hallucinogenic plants used in ancient and modern societies,” the book covers peyote, ayahuasca, cannabis, various psychoactive mushrooms and other fungi, and much more. In his introduction, Schultes is careful to separate his research from its appropriation, dismissing the term “psychedelic” as etymologically incorrect and “biologically unsound.” Furthermore, he writes, it “has acquired popular meanings beyond the drugs or their effects.”

Schultes’ interests are scientificand anthropological. “In the history of mankind,” he writes, “hallucinogens have probably been the most important of all the narcotics. Their fantastic effects made them sacred to primitive man and may even have been responsible for suggesting to him the idea of deity.” He does not exaggerate. Schultes’ research into the religious and medicinal uses of natural hallucinogens led him to dub them “plants of the gods” in a book he wrote with Albert Hoffman, discoverer of LSD.

Neither scientist sought to start a psychedelic revolution, but it happened nonetheless. Now, another revolution is underwayone that is finally revisiting the science of ethnobotany and taking seriously the healing powers of hallucinogenic plants. It is hardly a new science among scholars in the West, but the renewed legitimacy of research into hallucinogens has given Schultes’ research new authority. Learn from him in his Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants online here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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