CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

The Allure of Fungi

By Alison Pouliot
2018, CSIRO Publishing
Paper: 280 pages
ISBN: 9781486308576
AU$49.99 at publisher’s website
$39.95 many sources in USA

Fungi offer a metaphor for connectivity, unpredictability and spontaneity. They provide a way to attune to the dynamism of natural systems and move beyond ideas of individual entities, balance and control. My hope lies in the belief we find the curiosity and imagination to rethink fungi. This will be not just for a more sensitive coexistence, but as a model for an enriched understanding of all life.” So begins the last chapter in a wonderful new book by Australian author, and international forager, Alison Pouliot. This new book is a fun and educational read. Although more specific to the mycology scene in Australia, readers in North America will definitely enjoy seeing the parallels between attitudes and perceptions towards fungi on both continents. Populated initially by predominantly mycophobic settlers, we all are experiencing a fairly recent awakening to mycology—both from the standpoint of foraging for wild mushrooms as food, as well as studying fungi scientifically. (Well, as far as foraging goes, the Aussies seem to be lagging behind us—morels are wellknown there but not yet popular. Apologies to my Aussie friends who are about to be inundated with Yanks once the word gets out!) The very first Australian mushroom to receive a scientific name (in 1792) was Aseröe rubra; little changed until British cryptogamist Miles Joseph Berkeley kick-started the study of Australian fungi in 1836.

Pouliot has done a tremendous amount of research in unearthing a trove of mushroom lore and myth, most of it European of course. But she also provides very up-to-date natural history and ecology information on fungi as well. What I liked most about this book is the conversations with so many people about their attitudes towards fungi (mostly mushrooms of course), as well as uses (and fears) of them. The Allure of Fungi presents fungi through multiple perspectives—those of mycologists and ecologists, foragers and forayers, naturalists and farmers, aesthetes, artists, and philosophers. Pouliot 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 (with lots of great, full-page photos), 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.

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi