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Information & resources about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld
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WELCOME to Queensland's gateway to gardening - a collection of news, information, resources and ideas of interest to gardeners, especially residents of Queensland, Australia

News for Gardeners

News about plants and gardens in Queensland, plus other interesting horticultural news from around the world.

New works for Mt Coot-tha

Brisbane City Council has allocated funds toward a new visitor centre and other refurbishments at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens and Mt Coot-tha Reserve. "The new centre will provide a more formal entrance and dedicated facilities for the Volunteer Guides, with a gift shop, to provide a fitting welcome to Queensland’s premier botanic gardens." Part of the $3.4 million construction cost will come from a $700,000 donation from a Brisbane resident. Source: LM delivers $6m boost to Mt Coot-tha precinct (June 2015)

Water returns to Brisbane fountains

Brisbane City Council have allocated funds to restoring water to fountains in EE McCormick Place in Upper Roma Street, Emma Miller Place in Roma Street and Mooney Memorial Fountain at Queen and Eagle Streets. They had been decommissioned in response to drought conditions. The Lord Mayor also wants a new water feature somewhere in the CBD. Source: LM to bring back fountains and beautify Brisbane (June 2015)

Flies outperform bees in mango pollination

A study of pollinators visiting mango flowers in the Mareeba region of Queensland has shown that native flies are more important than bees. Overall, 44 different insects were observed. When it came to amount of pollen transferred to a single mango flower, a native bee and several fly species were more effective than the honeybee. It is hoped that effects on mango crop yield can be investigated in future work. Source: Native flies leading the charge to help pollinate mango trees in new UNE study (June 2015)

Kershaw comes back after Marcia

Rockhampton's Kershaw Gardens are in the process of recovering after Cyclone Marcia. In May, the waterfall was turned back on for the first time, and fallen trees have been converted into some 3000 cubic metres of mulch so far. However, it is possible that rubbish may have contaminated the site. Soil testing underway will help managers determine which parts of the Gardens can be reopened to the public and which must be remediated. Sources: Kershaw Gardens waterfall marks recovery milestone, Council continues to clear, salvage and make safe (June, 2015)

Bamboo popularity raises concern

The increasing popularity of bamboo for landscaping could have an unexpected consequence The phenomenon of bamboo mass flowering (also known as masting) leads to massive seed production, which can go on for 18 months. Consequently, booms in rodent populations have been observed in Asia and South America associated with these events. Now, there is a concern that widespread landscape planting of bamboo in North America could lead to population booms of deer mice which can carry a potentially fatal human disease. Recommendations include eradication of agressive running bamboos on public land and evaluation of varieties' flowering abilities and seed platability before import. Source: WSU ecologist warns of bamboo fueling spread of hantavirus (May, 2015)

Veggies in urban soils - how dangerous?

A study measuring uptake of various pollutants suggests the risk of growing vegetables in contaminated urban soils may not be as high as previously thought. Root crops remain a slight concern but were considered a minor risk at normal levels of consumption. Good horticultural practices and thorough washing of produce is also helpful in reducing risk. Read more: Gardening in a polluted paradise (May, 2015)

Pollen makes another kind of seed

Pollen particles in the atmosphere were previously thought to be too large to nucleate clouds and that they would settle out too quickly, annyway. However, it's known that pollen grains can break up into fragments which cause allergenic responses in sensitive people. When the affect of moisture on pollen grains was tested, it was found that these can rupture readily into pieces small enough to seed clouds. So, it's possible that a tree's pollen could help make the rain that keeps that tree alive. Source: Pollen and clouds: April flowers bring May showers? (May, 2015)

Fighting plant disease with nanoparticles

Silver nanoparticles are an emerging new anti-fungal treatment for plants. Researchers in the USA have found that silver nanoparticles prepared with an extract of wormwood (Artemisia sp.) are effective against Phytophthora. They say that it works on all stages of the pathogen's life cycle without affecting plant growth. The multiple modes of action means developement of resistance is unlikely. Source: Researchers Find a "Silver Bullet" to Kill a Fungus That Affects More Than 400 Plants and Trees. (May, 2015)

Rosewood bottle tree on the move

A Queensland Bottle Tree (Brachychiton rupestris) which has outgrown its current Rosewood address has been donated to the nearby Cobb and Co Heritage Park. The approximately 60-year old tree is expected to live hundreds of years more in its new location. This iconic species will enhance the heritage theme of the park while providing visitors with shade and beauty. Source: Rosewood tree to be given new lease of life (April 2015)

Genetic insights into Citrus evolution

A large study of chloroplast DNA from 30 species of has confirmed that a single common ancestor gave rise to all Citrus fruit, although hybridisation occurred frequently during evolution of the genus. Furthermore, two genes believed to help the Australian species adapt to hotter and drier climates were identified. Source: Most comprehensive study to date reveals evolutionary history of citrus (April 2015)

Posh trees

A study has looked at the the number of trees and income levels in seven U.S. cities. The findings? "Simply put, wealthier neighborhoods, regardless of their ethnic makeup, are more likely to have more and denser trees." Source: Boise State Economist Gets to the Root of Urban Tree Cover (April, 2015)

Another award for Gumbi Gumbi Gardens

Gumbi Gumbi Gardens at the University of Southern Queensland has won overall champion at Toowoomba Regional Council’s inaugural Gold Leaf Awards for Excellence, representing the most outstanding entry across the fields of urban design, heritage and environment. The Gardens tell the story of the country's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customs, rituals and practices. They feature a fire pit, basalt grinding stone, yarning circle and meeting place, with plants traditionally used by local peoples and work by local Indigenous Australian artists. A smartphone App that provides a guided tour of the approximately two-hectare Gardens can be downloaded for free. Source: Gardens take 50,000 years to establish (March 2015)

New plantings to welcome Buderim visitors

The major entry points to Buderim are in the process of being enhanced with specially-designed landscape plantings. The Mooloolaba Road entry is based on the dry eucalypt type of vegetation in this area, with the entry sign itself enhanced by banksia, bottlebrush, lomandra and grass trees. The planned Crosby Hill Road entry will incorporate local native plants including lilly pilly, grey myrtle, tree ferns and golden penda. Source: Buderim makes an entry statement (March 2015)

Origins of the bisexual papaw

Analysis of papaya (papaw) chromosomes, in particular the male chromosome and the altered form of the male chromosome which gives rise to hermaphrodite (bisexual) plants, has indicated that hermaphrodites arose about 4000 years ago. Papaya has been cultivated for more than 6000 years, and no hermaphrodites have been found in wild populations (Central America). It seems that this trait was selected during domestication of the crop, possibly by the Maya people. Source: Cultivated papaya owes a lot to the ancient Maya, research suggests. (March, 2015)

Skills grow in Ipswich prison

An agreement Ipswich City Council and Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre will see plants for the council's free plant program being produced by prisoners. This is part of horticultural training, overseen by a TAFE teacher, designed to give inmates meaningful activity and new vocational skills. Source: Prisoners grow plants for Ipswich (February 2015)

Help stop Gold Coast plant crimes

City of Gold Coast is calling for help in stopping theft of plants from its gardens and public lands. This includes a large staghorn fern donated by a resident, stolen from the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens on Saturday 22nd February 2015. "If residents see anything suspicious, they should report it immediately to police", urge Council. Anyone with information about stolen plants should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Source: Valuable plants stolen from City’s parks and gardens (February 2015)

Illegal Kaffir lime leaves pose threat

An importer has been been charged with illegally importing kaffir lime leaves infected with Asian Citrus Canker. Leaves had already made their way into retail outlets prior to the discovery. Source: Kaffir gaffe lands fine for importer (February 2015)

Sweet potato leaves nutritious, too

Tissue analysis reveals the vitamin B6 content of sweetpotato leaves is comparable with other produce such as broccoli, carrots, avocados and bananas as well as being a valuable source of other vitamins. Source: Sweet potato leaves a good source of vitamins (January, 2015)

Into Horticulture Issue 17 online now

This online newsletter is aimed at the expert amateur gardener plus professionals in the nursery and garden industry, especially in Queensland. View the latest online edition here: Into Horticulture - Issue 17. To find out how to subscribe to the email edition (it's free!) or view archived online editions, go to Newsletters.

Origins of the peach

In spite of their popularity worldwide, or perhaps because of it, nobody has ever been sure where the crop was first domesticated. Radiocarbon dating of ancient peach stones found in the Lower Yangtze River Valley in Southern China indicates that selection for larger fruit size was going on there at least 7500 years ago. Its likely that people selected for other characteristics such as flavour and productivity, too. As peaches have a relatively short time to fruiting from seed this would have been quite feasible, but early orchardists would have probably also developed methods of vegetative preproduction (like grafting) to multiply the improved forms. The researchers think it took about 3000 years of breeding for the peach to be developed into the fruit that we recognise. Source: It's the Pits: Ancient peach stones offer clues to fruit's origins September 2014

UQ investigates office greenery

A collaboration between the University of Queensland and several international universities has studied the effects of plants in offices. The results suggest that increases in worker happiness and productivity will make the investment in office greenery worthwhile. Source: Leafy-green better than lean (September 2014)

For healthier people, plant trees

A US study has estimated that trees save the lives of more than 850 Americans and prevent some 670,000 acute respiratory incidences per year by removing air pollution. These positive health effects were valued at nearly $7 billion annually. Source: First national study finds trees saving lives, reducing respiratory problems: Air pollution modeling reveals broad-scale impacts of pollution removal by trees (July 2014)

Sound as pest control

Test plants exposed to recordings of feeding vibrations later showed greater production of mustard oils when fed on by actual caterpillars. Other types of vibrations did not increase these chemical defences. Besides revealing new ways that plants interact with their environment, the research points to ways that natural defences might be stimulated by growers. Source: Plants Respond to Leaf Vibrations Caused by Insects' Chewing, MU Study Finds (July 2014)

Axinaea stamens an unusual bird treat

An unusual form of bird pollination has been described in the genus Axinaea from Central and South America. Instead of the more usual nectar, the stamens carry bulbous appendages which provide birds with a food reward. However, the structures incorporate a "bellows" action which eject pollen on to the bird in the process. Most of Axinaea's relatives in the family Melastomataceae are pollinated by bees. The researchers speculate that the strategy adopted by Axinaea may be an adaptation to growth at high altitudes , where bird pollination may be more efficient. Source: Flower's bellows organ blasts pollen at bird pollinators (July 2014)

Some roses tested for salt tolerance

18 popular rose cultivars promoted by Texas A&M University under the Earth-Kind® brand for their pest tolerance and landscape performance have also been tested for salt tolerance. The cultivars varied, with 'Sea Foam' being one of the best and 'Cecile Brunner' one of the worst. Source: Earth-Kind roses analyzed for salt tolerance. (June 2014)

Acacia seeds tough it out

Two wattles planted at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney represent the durability and future potential of the genus for deployment in extreme conditions. One (Acacia pycnantha), was grown from seed that survived the microgravity and ionising radiation of 2800 Earth orbits in space, the other (Acacia obtusata) was grown from seed stored since 1899. Source: Wattles - to infinity and beyond (June 2014)

New hope for late blight resistance

The centre of origin of potato late blight, Phytophthora infestans has been genetically tracked to a valley in central Mexico. The cause of the devastating Irish Potato Famine and a serious and costly crop disease worldwide today co-evolved with relatives of the potato in this valley, from where it spread repeatedly. The discovery presents tremendous opportunities for finding resistance genes. Source: Tracking potato famine pathogen to its home may aid $6 billion global fight (June 2014)

Ornithophily at least 47 million years old

The oldest known example of ornithophily (the pollination of flowers by birds) has been recently described. Even though structural features of bird fossils had previously suggested a such relationship, pollen found in the stomach contents of a bird from the Messel Pit (Germany) has confirmed that it goes back at least 47 million years. So far, there are no plant fossils of this age suggesting ornithophily, but typical indicators like red flowers of lack of scent are not preserved by fossilisation. Source: Age-old: Relationship between Birds and Flowers- The world's oldest fossil of a nectarivorous bird has been described (May 2014)

Antioxidant roses
Rosa canina
Rosa canina. Photo by Valentina Schmitzer

A Slovenian study in which several rose species and modern cultivars were compared, showed differences in levels of phenolic compounds, Among those tested, Rosa canina leaves exhibited high and varied content of the antioxidants. This could be an underlying reason for the popularity of this species in traditional medicine. On the other hand, the modern cultivar 'Schwanensee' had the lowest levels of those tested, which might explain its susceptibility to disease. Differences in phenolic makeup of indigenous rose species and modern cultivars (May 2014)

Help preserve Picnic Point history

Toowoomba Regional Council are researching the century-old Picnic Point Parklands are are appealing to the public for photographs (copies), stories or information so that its history can be preserved for future generations. The insights gained will also guide preservation and management of the park into the future. The area under consideration includes Picnic Point Lookout, Lions Park, the waterfall, the flagpole island, Tobruk Memorial Drive, Heller Street Park and the Tourist Road memorial avenue. More information at the Council's website: Share your memories of Picnic Point (May 2014)

Please mow the footpath, asks Bundy council

Bundaberg Regional Council is urging residents to mow the own footpaths outside their own homes to keep Council maintenance costs down and improve the look of the region. Source: Footpath maintenace slashes Council costs (May 2014)

New nickel collector

A new plant species has been discovered in the Philipines that can accumulate nickel in its tissues at levels up to 1000 times higher than other plants, without being poisoned. Only about 450 species worldwide have exhibited nickel hyperaccumulation, a property which could be used for phytoremediation of contaminated soils, or even phytomining. Source: New species of metal-eating plant discovered in the Philippines (May 2014)

Temperature effects on plants can be complicated

In cold climates, warm temperatures might be assumed to increase growth. However, a study on two shrub species on an island south of New Zealand showed that episodes of activating warmth during winter are actually detrimental. Elevated respiration, especially by the roots, depletes plant reserves. If this were to occur repeatedly over many years, it could affect on the survival of these species. This indicates one of the unexpected consequences that a warming climate could have on plant life. Shrub growth decreases as winter temps warm up (May 2014)


Exposed complex mixture of plant aromas in a greenhouse of tomato plants, confused whitefly had trouble feeding in a UK study. The effect was temporary (no more than 15 hours), but could point to ways to delay attack until plant defenses can be activated. Source: Whitefly confused by cacophony of smells (April 2014)

Plants in glass houses

Glass formed naturally in the extreme heat of a comet or asteroid impact in what is now Argentina has been found to contain plant matter. This has preserved detail down to the micron level, Scientists think that looking at impact glass on Mars could pould potentially reveal signs of former life if it existed there. Source: Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years (April 2014)

Lignin biotechnology may revolutionise paper production

North American scientists have engineered poplar trees with modified lignin that makes processing for paper and biofuel easier and more environmentally friendly. Importantly, the strength of the trees was not adversely affected. Attempts to reduce the lignin content of trees by gene suppression have resulted in stunted or weakened trees in the past. Poplars are a useful species for growing on land not suitable for food crops. Sources: Poplars "Designed for Deconstruction" A Major Boon to Biofuels and Researchers design trees that make it easier to produce pulp (April 2014)

Sugar dominant in branching mechanism

A new study in which scientists from University of Queensland were involved has challenged the long-accepted theory that auxin is the key regulator of apical dominance. Instead, demand for sugars appear to be primarily responsible. Tracking the movement of sugars with the radioactive C11 isotope (applied as carbon dioxide which was converted into sugars via photosynthesis), it was found that decapitation of the plant produced a rapid increase of sugar delivery to previously dormant buds. The sugars move about 100 times faster than auxin. which the researchers now believe plays a secondary role. The demand for sugar by growing apical shoots, limiting availability, may be what suppresses growth of lower buds. Source: Tracking Sugar Movement in Plants (April 2014)

New plant protection rules in Qld

Following a review of the management of protected plants, the Queensland Government has introduced a simplified "risk-based approach" it says will reduce compliance costs and create new opportunities for harvesting and trade in native plants. Meanwhile, the state's most threatened species will still be protected via "tangible conservation outcomes". Anyone seeking more information should check the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection website. Source: Protecting native plants in a growing Queensland (April 2014)

Plan for koalas

University of Queensland researchers have studied how tree cover and roads affected koala gene flow patterns across eight local government areas in SE Queensland. They found that "genetic connectivity" dropped rapidly once forest cover fell below 30 per cent. The presence of highways also had a dramatic effect. The findings indicate that forest cover and incorporation of habitat underpasses and bridges can help urban planners accommodate the needs of koalas. Source: Better urban planning can save koalas (March 2014)

Plants too, fight in the mating season

Examination of an Oxypetalum species (Apocynaceae) from South America has revealed horn-like structures on the pollinia (pollen sacs) with which appear to have no other function except to prevent the hooks which the pollinia attach themselves to pollinators becoming entangled with rival pollinia. Researchers think this is the first example in the plant kingdom of males physically fighting over a mate in a way comparable to many animals. Source: First evidence of plants evolving weaponry to compete in the struggle for selection (March 2014)

Ipswich tough on mossie breeders

A local business owner has been taken to court by Ipswich City Council for failure to comply with directions to clean up mosquito breeding sites. Source: $550 fine is a warning to others (March 2014)

Some older news items of continuing interest have been moved to an appropriate subject page at www.calyx.com.au. Check the Guide to Pages.

The editor would like to hear from anyone who has news to share on the topic of plants or gardens. Contact Details


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The SEQ garden in June

Jobs to do, things to watch and other highlights of gardening in SE QLD

Other Months

NB: These notes are under ongoing development. At present, the following applies to the greater Brisbane region only. It's hoped to expand on these notes in future updates, adding more details and (eventually) more regions.

Naturally, this is a general guide only and will vary depending on local conditions, weather, plant variety etc. Ongoing water availability is also a big concern these days, so take this into consideration too, especially if planning new gardens.

With cold temperatures and short days, growth in the garden is particularly slow this month and there isn't a lot to do as far as seed sowing and pruning is concerned. Take advantage of this down time to get those repair jobs, maintenance and hard landscaping projects done. While there's plenty of cold weather ahead, the winter solstice means that by the end of the month, days are already starting to get longer. This is a reminder that spring isn't really that far away!

Physical labour is also a lot more pleasant in this weather than the summer months. Think about:
  • preparation of new garden beds or soil improvement
  • repot patio plants, if necessary (Container gardening)
  • transplant established shrubs (also a good time because the plants are relatively dormant at this time) For more about transplanting see Advanced Plants
  • consult an arborist about questionable trees, have dangerous ones removed or pruned
  • maintenance of lawnmower and other Garden Tools. Keeping mower blades sharp will avoid the tearing and shredding of grass leaf blades that can increase the chances of disease entry and increase water loss. For more information, see Lawn Mowing and Lawn Care.
  • compare features and make an informed choice for new purchases like lawnmowers, shredders, compost bins etc.
  • installation, repair or cleaning of paving, retaining walls, water features, gazebos etc, or hire a landscaper to do it

On the other hand, if it really is too cold and dark to get out there, cosy up indoors and work on some new garden layouts, research any new plants you may be interested in, browse garden catalogues and do some shopping for springtime supplies. The internet means there's a whole world of gardening information and inspiration available in an instant.

One group of plants that are quite active now are, unforunately, the cool season weeds. As with all weeds, prompt removal (whether by hand weeding or spraying) will prevent multiplication and bigger problems in subsequent years.

Don't forget that weeds are also discouraged by good gardening practices - minimise exposed soil with mulches or cover crops and encourage strong growth of garden plants or lawn grass to outcompete weeds. Pay attention to drainage and soil pH. Selective cutting back or thinning out of trees and shrubs to encourage stronger growth of sun-starved lawn or groundcovers could be part of your strategy.

Dead or dying foliage of flowering perennials can be cut back (unless you expect frost), but for the sake of aesthetics you may prefer to delay pruning summer-flowering shrubs and tropical foliage plants until closer to spring when they'll take off again quickly. Just trim dead flowers and stray branches to keep them looking tidy.

Frangipani are losing their leaves, which will almost certainly be carrying the rust fungus. Picking up these leaves and putting them in the rubbish will not prevent the disease entirely but will reduce the potential for re-infection next season.

Spring-flowering shrubs should definitely not be pruned now - you'll be cutting off those developing flower buds. See also Shrubs

It's the season for planting bare-rooted rose bushes. Hopefully you'll be getting yours from a quality grower who has not dug them too early. If you haven't ordered them in advance and are relying on supplies in garden centres now, you'll have to take your chances and make your purchases asap to get the best pick. See also Roses.

Sasanqua camellias are in bloom around April/May, while the Japonica varieties are typically at their peak in June/July. Visit Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha to view the camellias during these months, and keep an eye on the Events Diary for the Queensland Camellia Society's annual exhibition at the gardens. Make a note of any you especially like for planting in your own garden, although you may have to seek out a camellia nursery for the less common varieties.

While bougainvilleas can flower throughout the year in SEQld, depending on the variety (genetic background), weather variations and the treatment they have received by gardeners. However, they are generally at their most floriforous in winter. As you drive around the suburbs, appreciate the jewel-like colours, which look especially brilliant under the clear blue skie we get at this time of year. Take note of the various ways in which they are grown. Larger types may be growing rather wildly up trees, but may also be trained onto fences, verandas or arches. Others may be trimmed into hedges or trained as tree-like specimens. Large gardens might accomodate stand-alone shrubs. Dwarf forms can be grown in containers. The success of any such application application will depend on selection of a suitability of a suitable variety, but it may give you come ideas for how you migth incorporate bougainvilleas into your garden.

The Vegetable Garden

Many veggies are happy growing in the cool conditions of the SEQ winter, but if you didn't get plants started off in autumn, you might find that seed germination will be poor in the coldest months. If you have spaces left to fill, try starting seed off in pots and trays in a warmer pot such as a patio or indoors, (provided they aren't starved of light after emergence), or save time with some seedlings from the garden centre. The exception is those that are normally sown direct, like beans and peas.

In June, try sowing broad beans peas, lettuce, English spinach, silverbeet and beetroot, carrots, onions and garlic, cabbages, broccoli, kohlrabi and turnip. In frost free areas, also regular beans, tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, zucchini, squash, cucumber.

If growing unusual vegetables, consult the seed packet.

Meanwhile, vegetables sown in autumn should be coming along. Keep up the water if there is no rain (winter is traditionally our dry time) and apply regular supplemental feeding with liquid fertilsers.

Strawberries will be starting to fruit. Mulch around the plants with a loose dry mulch like sugar cane to keep fruit clean and dry off the ground. Chiken wire or vegetable garden nets might also be necessary to keep the local wildlife from getting to your fruit before you do.

See also: Vegetables, Seed raising,

Fruit Trees

Sorry, I haven't prepared any monthly notes for fruit trees yet. In the meantime, you can try the main page dealing with this subject and check the links for the type of fruit tree you're interested in, here: Fruit Trees

The Flower Garden

Why not bring some cheerfulness into the garden with flowers? We're lucky to be able to grow many spectacular tropical flowering trees, shrubs and vines as well as the more traditional English-style perennials and bedding plants.

The cultivation of annual flowers, or even herbaceous perennials, is not as popular as it once was, but with our water problems eased at at moment, why not give it a go? If you don't have much space in the garden, you can still create eye-catching displays in pots and planters and brighten up balconies, patios, and paved areas.

While it's too late to plant most spring annuals from seed, in frost-free areas you can can still sow some for later flowering. A few varieties that are readily available in seed packets to try now include alyssum, nasturtium, pansy, viola, johnny-jump-up (heartease), amaranthus, celosia, lobelia, cleome, salvia, coleus, verbena, petunia, dianthus, californian poppy (eschscholtzia), snapdragon.

Seed of perennials can be started just about any time if you can care for them, especially keeping them away from frost at this time of year, but germination will be slow in cold weather.

If you sow into smaller pots or seed trays you can get them started in a warmer place indoors, as long as you check them regularly and bring them out into the light at the very first sign of emergence (or before) and harden them off to the sun gradually.

An alternative is to buy seedlings from the garden centre, which will save you effort plus several weeks growing time. More advanced plants already in flower are more expensive but the way to go for colour immediately prior to a special occasion like a party or garden wedding.

See also: Annual Flowers and Bedding Plants, Seed raising

Garden shows, open gardens

See what's in the Events Diary for June.

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