Intoxication at Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew have been running their Intoxication season, all about psychoactive plants, and last weekend I was invited to speak on the cultural history of the magic mushroom.

Aside from the weird and wonderful plants in its collection, there's something Sergeant Pepperish about Kew, so it was a doubly appropriate place for such an event.

The aim was to draw people's attention away from drugs, per se, back to the plants from which they're derived, and to make the point that people around the world have conceived these plants and their effects differently.

For example, plants that are seen as sacred by some indigenous cultures are regarded by ours as so dangerous that they can only be displayed in cages.

Others, meanwhile, remain quite legal...

...but all came with a warning...

My talks consisted of a condensed version of Shroom and I'm pleased to say they went down well. Other speakers included Bryn Dentinger talking about the mycology and taxonomy of Psilocybe species; Monique Simmonds on Kew's advisory role to the Police on plants and drugs; and the indefatigable David Luke on mushrooms and psychic abilities. It was all held together by curator, Mike Jay. Huge thanks to everyone involved for creating such an excellent and vibrant weekend.

Demand was such that on Sunday we were moved to a bigger venue. Two hundred seats proved insufficient and I'm told at least another hundred people were turned away. Here's part of the, ahem, 'kew', which stretched around the building.

What's clear is that despite the pariah status of the magic mushroom, and psychedelics more generally, interest in the subject grows unabated.


  1. such a shame that our government is unwilling to acknowledge the benefits and sacredity of some of these illegal plants... let alone our freedom to explore alternate realms of our minds...
    good thing that many are still interested and willing to learn. :)



Featured post

Shroom: ten years on

I find it hard to believe but it's exactly ten years since my book Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom was published. Thou...

Popular Posts

Twitter Updates