The Allure of Fungi

AU$ 49.95

Alison Pouliot

Although relatively little known, fungi provide the links between the terrestrial organisms and ecosystems that underpin our functioning planet.

The Allure of Fungi presents fungi through multiple perspectives – those of mycologists and ecologists, foragers and forayers, naturalists and farmers, aesthetes and artists, philosophers and Traditional Owners. It explores how a history of entrenched fears and misconceptions about fungi has led to their near absence in Australian ecological consciousness and biodiversity conservation.

Through a combination of text and visual essays, the author reflects on how aesthetic, sensate experience deepened by scientific knowledge offers the best chance for understanding fungi, the forest and human interactions with them.

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The Allure of Fungi is an interdisciplinary exploration of fungi, their role in nature and relationships with different cultures. Alison’s engaging personal anecdotes take readers on a journey of discovery into the world of fungi and fungus enthusiasts. Evocative text and stunning macrophotography are combined in an amalgam of history, science and art.



Chapter 1: An introduction to entangled worlds

Beyond mushrooms to mycelium
Thinking, un-thinking, re-thinking fungi
Fungal places – from Down Under to the Swiss Alps
Seeking fungi
What’s inside?
Photo essay – The mycelial matrix

Chapter 2: Meeting mushrooms

First fungal acquaintances
Describing the undefinable
Biological umbrellas
From goblets to lattice balls
Lichenised life on the edge
Extremist specialists
What fungi do – alliance as norm
Rethinking parasites
Fungal rotters
Photo essay – Endless forms most bizarre

Chapter 3: Life in the subterrain

Different hemispheres, different fungi
Undesirable dwellings – dirt, litter and dung
In not on
Litter and literacy
Disco in a cow pat
A cargo of the uncanny
Displaced fungi
Retreating underground
Photo essay – Fungal grub and fungal havens

Chapter 4: A stubbly bun skirmish

Mushrooming from shady obscurity
From moushrimpes to mucerons
Of toads and toadstools
Articulating fungi
Idiomatic mushrooms
Ergonomic fungi
A meander of mycelia
Words to conserve
Metaphorical mushrooms
Re-chanting the fungal lexicon
Photo essay – Biological umbrellas

Chapter 5: Wicked wild mushrooms – a morality tale

Thievish and voracious beggars – origin myths
Rotting and disgusting – unsettling traits
Fairy cakes and trompettes de la mort
The death cap arrives in Australia
Sniffing out safety – toying with toxic mushrooms
Indeterminate and morphologically bizarre
Trouble from elsewhere – conservation and invaders
Photo essay – Recycling worlds

Chapter 6: Organising fungi

The last of the natural historians
The desire to divide
Bounded and boundless – individuality and plurality
Why names matter
Naming and claiming – scientific and vernacular names
Tallying fungi
What makes a mushroom?
Photo essay – Undersides

Chapter 7: Knowing fungi otherwise

A farmer’s way of knowing
Aboriginal knowing
Feeling like a mushroom – sensory knowing
Fine-tuning to fungi
Fungal olfaction – reigniting smell
Getting back in touch
Slow motion mushrooms
Photo essay – Collecting

Chapter 8: Foraging and foraying

Train-stopping mushrooms
Fungologists seeking funguses – foraying for fungi
Strange and new-fangled meates – foraging for fungi
On morel grounds
High altitude hunting
Wild desires and treacherous gratifications
Rethinking fungal expertise
Photo essay – Lichenised lives

Chapter 9: A call for fungal wisdom

Fungi in a changing world
A fiscal fungal fantasy
Lists and the list-less
Reassessing biodiversity
Looking with the heart – from managing to caring
Re-enchanting the fungal imagination



“Pouliot’s passion shines like a luminous ghost fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis) as she takes us from the Swiss Alps to the Australian outback… unearthing the bizarre and the beautiful with a writing style that would make this an entertaining read for even the most nervous fungiphobe.” – Simon Webster, Organic Gardener, 2018

“When it comes to fungi, natural historian, ecologist and photographer Dr Alison Pouliot’s captivating knowledge and expertise is guaranteed to immediately pique your interest for this most fascinating subject… a worthy addition to a bookshelf.” – Gail Thomas, Good Fruit and Vegetables, 27/8/18

“Love them or hate them, fungi are essential organisms for supporting our planet’s ecological functioning… Beautiful photos and interesting stories make this a must-read for those keen to know more about some of the most fascinating organisms on Earth.” – Carole Gridley, Gardening Australia, October 2018

“Alison Pouliot uses the interconnectedness of fungi to look at plants, animals, fungi, indeed ecology, in a profoundly different way. This is a quite extraordinary book. It is about fungi but it is also about the living world, the inanimate world, history, literature, culture (both horti and arty), gardens and taxonomy, among other things.” – Max Bourke AM, Australian Garden History 30(3), January 2019

“Alison’s extraordinary photographs reflect her research on the ecology and conservation of fungi. In this book she documents a forgotten corner of the natural world that is both beguiling and fundamental to life.” – Gail Thomas, Geelong and Surf Coast Living Magazine, Autumn 2019

Product details

Published September 2018
CSIRO Publishing
Paperback, 280 pages, full colour photographs throughout.
ISBN: 9781486308583


Alison Pouliot is a natural historian who is passionate about fungi. She moves between northern and southern hemispheres to have two autumns each year, guaranteeing a double dose of fungi. Her extraordinary photographs reflect her research on the ecology and conservation of fungi. In this book she documents a forgotten corner of the natural world that is both beguiling and fundamental to life.

Additional information

Weight 0.7 kg
Dimensions 245 × 170 × 15 mm

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