The Allure of Fungi

December 2018
More details
  • Publisher
    CSIRO Publishing
  • Published
    21st December 2018
  • ISBN 9781486308576
  • Language English
  • Pages 280 pp.
  • Size 6.625" x 9.625"
  • Images color photos throughout

Although relatively little known, fungi provide the link between 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 the combination of engaging text and stunning photography, 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.


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


Alison Pouliot

Alison Pouliot is an ecologist and environmental photographer with a focus on fungi. She is active in Australian and international fungal conservation and her writing and images appear in both academic and popular literature. Alison’s fungus forays, which she conducts across both hemispheres, attract a range of people from foragers and philosophers to rangers and traditional owners. Her recent book The Allure of Fungi poses fundamental questions about human-fungus liaisons.