Underground Lovers: Encounters with Fungi

Alison Pouliot

Underground Lovers: Encounters with Fungi
NewSouth Publishing
1 March 2023

Underground Lovers: Encounters with Fungi

Alison Pouliot

In the gloom of the forest floor, fallen branches are sheathed with fungal stripes of yellow and purple. But beneath the colourful surface, the fallen litter is alive with the clandestine workings of fungi.

What can we learn from the lives of fungi? Underground Lovers brings us to our knees, magnifier in hand, to find out.

Fungi offer a way to imagine life differently. In Underground Lovers Alison Pouliot reaches down to earth, and deeper, to dwell with fungal allies and aliens, discover how fungi hold forests together, and why humans are deeply entwined with these unruly renegades of the subterrain. Told through first-hand stories — from the Australian desert to Iceland’s glaciers to America’s Cascade Mountains — Alison Pouliot shares encounters with glowing ghost fungi and unearths the enigma of the lobster mushroom. Melding science and personal reflection, she explores the fungi that appear after fire, how fungi and climate change interact, the role of fungi in our ecosystems, and much more.


Some people chase the sun, or the snow, around the world each year; Alison Pouliot follows autumn. Splitting most of her time between Victoria and Switzerland, she roams far and often in pursuit of fungi and its close collaborators. Climbing glaciers, exploring grasslands and deserts, and closely observing forests of every kind, she treads lightly, carries a camera, and meets fellow fungi enthusiasts everywhere – along with the occasional champagne-sharing goth.

Pouliot’s enthusiasm for fungi is remarkable. More surprising yet is how contagious it is, and how little thought many of us give to this underappreciated lifeform. A natural historian, ecologist, photographer and writer, Pouliot is a born storyteller, able to conjure fungi and friends of fungi alike in memorable colour. Having just described an aptly named stinkhorn, Pouliot moves on to the next forest find which is ‘conjuring images of an illicit invertebrate banquet furnished with ouzo and liquorice.’

From fungi-seeking trip to local conservation effort and abroad again, Pouliot observes mycologists, gourmands, conservationists, and opportunistic Instagrammers, and delves into history to explore the role of fungi in mass witch-hunting hysteria, gendered scientific clubs and the life of Beatrix Potter. She traces past knowledge and advocates for new, more sophisticated research, encouraging support for Indigenous knowledge reclaiming, and for a rethinking of Western scientific paradigms in response to groundbreaking research that has revealed the limitations of conceptualising the natural world as primarily competitive. The complex relationships among fungi and other living creatures, and the crucial role of fungi in ecosystem health is inadequately understood, and Pouliot stresses the dangers of environmental decisions made without considering the full picture. By the end of Underground Lovers, you’ll be convinced of the importance of even the smelliest, most parasitic forms of fungi.

This item is in-stock at 6 shops and will ship in 3-4 days

Our stock data is updated periodically, and availability may change throughout the day for in-demand items. Please call the relevant shop for the most current stock information. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.