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Fungi Forage

Kurt Jackson (2014)

Mixed media and collage on wood, 60cm x 60cm.


Dr Sarah Watkinson: Research

Dr Sarah Watkinson is an Emeritus Research Fellow in Fungal Biology at the Department of Plant Sciences, where she researches the biodiversity of fungi in soils.

Her work explores cellular and physiological mechanisms of lignocellulose depolymerisation by basidiomycete fungi. She is also a poet and the inaugural Writer in Residence at Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire.

Dr Sarah Watkinson: Response


with lines from Robert Frost and John Donne


You think, as the leaves

go down into the dark decayed

and the woods drip with winter

the world's whole sap is sunk.

But buried isn't dead. You only need


a child's small microscope to see

inhabitants of this fermenting compost;

arthropods, larvae, snails and tardigrades

grazing fungal threads. A seething crowd

inhabits dark horizons underground - 


layer on layer on layer of leaf-fall.

In November woods, you might hear

as if there's somebody there - 

a scuffle in the litter. It's only a blackbird

tugging up a worm by one end. Think of his body


as the apex of an upside-down food-chain

ascending from the cold furnaces of fungi.

Down in the earth, their filaments melt fallen trees,

break and reclaim the woody architecture

of daylight and photosynthesis.