A recent guided walk with the Great Dividing Trail Association (GDTA) to the Charlesford mine and water races was an enjoyable winter excursion. For me, one of the most astonishing features of the walk was the number and variety of fungi we found in the forest around Basalt. Many of these looked intimidating but very few were identified with any authority. The most frequent responses from my accompanying walkers were “It might be… ummm…” or a shrug of the shoulders and an “I dunno…” Occasionally I was offered a bite of one or another which offer I invariably declined.
At this time of year, many locals will also have noticed this abundance of fungi in local parks, gardens and woodlands. The cool, wet conditions of autumn and early winter are best to promote a great variety of fungi.
We collected a number of wonderful photographs on our walk which are included in the gallery below but I was reluctant to try to publish these without some authoritative identification. Who better to turn to for help than Alison Pouliot. Alison is well known in the GDTA for her wonderful photos of the Grampians published in her book, Gariwerd, with essays by GDTA President, Gib Wettenhall, and for her photos in the award winning Goldfields Track Walk or Ride Guide. But Alison is also known nationally and internationally as a mycologist, or a biologist who specialises in the study of fungi.
Alison completed her doctorate at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at ANU in Canberra where she is currently an Honourary Fellow. She shares her time between Daylesford and Bern, Switzerland. Her research and teaching take her to places such as the Kew Gardens in London, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and The Rachel Carson Centre of Environment and Society in Munich.
Alison has a passion for our local environment and for her beloved Wombat Forest. “My favourite thing about Daylesford is that it is surrounded by forest, creeks and rivers,” said Alison. “I’ve spent the last 25 years getting to know them and their inhabitants but there’s always more to explore and discover.”
Alison is the author of numerous articles about mushrooms and mushrooming. Her published books combine her love of nature and her exquisite skill as a photographer. In 2018, she published The Allure of Fungi, which explores the relationship between the forest and fungi and the fungus-fearing attitudes of humans. Her most recent book is Wild Mushrooming: A Guide for Foragers, co-authored by Royal Botanic Gardens principal researcher, Tom May. The book includes advice on how to find and collect fungi, provides a guide to distinguishing edible from poisonous fungi and includes a selection of recipes.
Alison has also produced a series of eight videos about fungi – The Forgotten Kingdom. The videos are informative and presented at a level that the average viewer will appreciate. Alison’s informative tour is accompanied by stunning photography. The videos are available on Alison’s website.
Alison always has projects on the go and the pandemic hasn’t slowed her down. “Other than a few cancellations and delays, my travel and work haven’t been restricted,” she said. “I’ve had a wonderful autumn running workshops and forays in Vic, NSW and the ACT and have just arrived back in Europe for the summer/autumn and another dose of fungi.” Alison has a number of projects on the go including developing a new course on ‘seeing nature’, working on a couple of short films and various writing projects. “Mostly,” she said, “I try and spend the best part of every day in the forest.”
Each year, Alison holds a number of workshops and events in regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne. Her dinner and conversation events are well subscribed and you need to move quickly to reserve a place. While her local events for this year have concluded, Alison will be back in 2022 for more. See her website for details as they become available.
Alison’s recently published books about mushrooms and fungi are available for purchase through her website or from Paradise Books in Vincent Street, Daylesford.
Tim Bach is a local resident and a committee member of the Great Dividing Trail Association. He is a co-editor of The Wombat Post.