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Fungi, more than just mushrooms

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By Meg Kennedy

It may be crushed under our feet and not given a second glance, but a local expert’s new book explores why fungi is so vital to the global ecosystem.
Local environmental photographer and ecologist Alison Pouliot studies fungi around the world, and her new book ‘The Allure of Fungi’ focuses on the various fungi of 12 countries – including Australia – presented in a series of text chapters and photo essays.
Although she spends half the year in Switzerland “chasing autumn” in the northern hemisphere, Ms Pouliot said the local Wombat and Lerderderg forests of Moorabool have “a great range of fungi that grow in the many and varied habitat types of these environments.”
Moorabool is also home to what could be “Australia’s rarest fungus”, the Auriscalpium ‘Blackwood’.
Ms Pouliot said the rare fungus has “only ever been found growing on a single tree, a narrow-leaved peppermint (Eucalyptus radiata), near Blackwood.”
“It was first found in 2005 and so far, has not been recorded anywhere else,” she said.
‘The Allure of Fungi’ was launched recently in Daylesford (pictured) and was attended by almost 100 people.
Ms Pouliot hopes attendees discovered that “fungi underpin pretty much every terrestrial ecosystem on the planet.”
“Although fungi have been largely overshadowed by flora and fauna in Australia…their vital ecological functions create architecture in soils, support plants and animals, and give our forests and gardens health and resilience,” she said.
“Hence, it is important that we do everything we can to support these organisms by caring for our soils and environments.”
Ms Pouliot’s advice for those in Moorabool who want to get involved in fungi exploration is to pick up ‘Fungi of the Wombat Forest and Macedon Ranges’, which documents over 100 of the local species.
As the autumn weather falls on the Southern Hemisphere, it means Ms Pouliot is back in Australia for the time being.
During her stay, Ms Pouliot will be conducting various workshops, forays, seminars and other events in the local area, and looks forward to spreading awareness of the importance of fungi to Australian biodiversity.
“It has been an exciting time for me to have observed how interest in fungi has dramatically grown in recent years,” she said.
“From gardeners to farmers to foragers, people are recognising the importance of the fungi to our environment and to our lives. That gives me hope.”
‘The Allure of Fungi’ by Alison Pouliot is out now through CSIRO Publications, and is available to purchase for $49.99 at www.publish.csiro.au/book/7790/.
More information on Alison’s workshops and seminars can be found on her website at www.alisonpouliot.com.
‘Fungi of the Wombat Forest and Macedon Ranges’ is available through Wombat Forestcare at www.wombatforestcare.org.au.