Ask any biologist and he’ll tell you lichens are an intriguing bunch.
They exist only because of a symbiotic relationship between algae (or cyanobacteria) and fungi. The fungus creates a network that sustains, hydrates and protects the alga, which in turn provides sugars through photosynthesis. So, while they exhibit plant-like characteristics, they are not plants. They are composite organisms. This makes the case of the psychedelic lichen even more interesting.
It would be another three decades before the lichen’s DNA was analyzed, showing that it was indeed a new species.
In 2014, a team of researchers led by Michaela Schmull christened the Psychedelic lichen Dictyonema huaorani and used a technique called liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to determine the chemical compounds existent in its tissue. Tests showed the presence of psilocybin, tryptamine, 5-MeO-DMT, 5-MeOT (5-methoxytryptamine), 5-MeO-NMT and 5-MT.
This composition makes D. huaorani a very interesting specimen, in the sense that this specific cocktail of substances has never been found before in any plant, fungus or animal.