A BEAUTY spot in Halesowen which is home to one of the richest collections of rare brightly coloured mushrooms in the country will be protected for future generations.

Natural England has declared The Leasowes as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) - just weeks after the News reported of the possibility.

The 63-hectare nature reserve, owned by Dudley Council, is home to 28 species of the brightly coloured waxcap mushrooms, making it the fourth richest grassland in England for such fungi.

The citrine waxcap, which is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's global red data list - a list of species at threat of extinction - was recorded at Leasowes in 2017.

Ballerina, blackening, butter, crimson, goblet, golden, honey, meadow, intermediate, oily, scarlet, snowy, slimy and parrot waxcaps have also been spotted at the site off Mucklow Hill.

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Antony Ravenscroft, senior warden for The Leasowes, said: "We are delighted that Leasowes has been granted this special status, which will protect the site for future generations.

"The bright colours of this fungi in full bloom really does make it a sight to behold, and it is one of the richest collections of its kind not just in the region, but the whole country.

"They grow in very old undisturbed grasslands which have never been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides and have never been agriculturally improved.

"There has been a 95 per cent loss of this habitat in the British Isles since World War Two, so to have it (SSSI status) is very good.

"Natural England has worked with Dudley Council on several of its reserves over several decades and this designation has secured another nationally important site within the borough.”

Emma Johnson, West Midlands area manager for Natural England, said: "It is a great example of how urban sites can hold nationally significant habitats, providing a wonderful place for both people and nature.

"The designation is a timely recognition of all the management and conservation work that has gone into the site by wardens, volunteers and community groups over many years.

"We see the designation as an important step in making sure the place is enjoyed and thrives well into the future.”

The council has also been working closely with Dr Gareth Griffith, of Aberystwyth University, who has used DNA sampling to discover additional species in the soil at the site.