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Results tagged “habitat”

Oct 16, 2012: Larix lyallii

Today's write-up and photographs of Larix lyallii are courtesy of Bryant, BPotD work-study student. He writes:

These subalpine (or alpine) larches were photographed on the northeast face of Mount Frosty in British Columbia's E.C. Manning Provincial Park. Larix lyallii is one of my personal favorites for its unusual characteristics and its ability to survive higher altitudes and harsher conditions than most other conifers. Larix is one of the few genera of deciduous conifers (other deciduous conifers). In early/mid-September through early/mid-October in British Columbia, this species changes colour from green to a stunning golden-yellow. Larix lyallii grows in upper montane zones that would otherwise be considered alpine tundra (usually above the treeline of evergreen conifers), as well as on exposed rock outcrops. Its native range follows high alpine environments in southern (primarily southeast) British Columbia, southwestern Alberta and northern Washington, Idaho and Montana (distribution map).

Although trees of Larix lyallii are stunted by the long and harsh winters they endure, their trunks typically remain straight and upright (compared to displaying characteristics of Krummholz formation often seen among subalpine evergreen conifers). This is largely due to the deciduous characteristic, which helps to reduce the effects of winter desiccation and snow loading. The extreme hardiness of this species has helped it to become one of the longer lived species of conifer, with the known record holder being an individual 1,917 years old in Kananaskis, Alberta as of 2012!

Morphologically, Larix lyallii can grow up to 31m tall with a diameter at breast height of 215cm. As one might expect, larger specimens are generally found at lower elevations. The needles are quadrangular and grow in bunches of 30-40 atop abaxially keeled short shoots. They tend to grow in moist immature/rocky soil that is well drained. Plants grow at elevations between 1,900 and 2,380 metres, with slightly lower elevations in the North Cascades (1,830 to 2290m). Larix lyallii may also grow in association with Pinus albicaulis (whitebark pine), Abies lasiocarpa (subalpine fir), and Picea engelmannii (Englemann spruce) at the upper limits of their elevational distributions.

Oct 4, 2012: Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park

I was asked in the comments recently if I had time to photograph autumn colours. Last week, I was in the Alberta and British Columbia Rockies hoping to do just that, but because of the hot and dry autumn, colours were overall poor. In fact, many trees had crisped brown leaves instead of any sort of colouration. This photograph is from my 2011 trip. It's a good example of how photographs can omit--the split stream flows through a triangular piece of land bordered by roads (which you can see via the Google Map).

The yellow-leaved trees are young black cottonwood or Populus trichocarpa while I believe the conifers in the foreground are Engelmann spruce, Picea engelmannii. The other possibilities for the conifers are Picea glauca (white spruce) or the hybrid between the two species.

Mar 26, 2012: Ranunculus triternatus

If it isn't too much to have two similar-looking buttercup family representatives in a row, here are some images from just over a week ago.

Ranunculus triternatus (syn. Ranunculus reconditus) is an almost-endemic to the Columbia Gorge area of Washington and Oregon. A single location near Elko, Nevada and another in southeastern Idaho have also been reported. However, there is little information about the latter two reports online that I can find--most seem to be derived from the Flora of North America account for Ranunculus triternatus. Two common names are in use for the species, obscure buttercup and Dalles Mountain buttercup (the latter referring to the area where it is found near in Washington and Oregon).

Most research and conservation monitoring work has been done with the Washington and Oregon populations. According to the Center for Plant Conservation, ten occurrences of Ranunculus triternatus are known in these states: "In WA, 8 occurrences known since 1987. Populations range from "100+" to "several hundred." One other occurrence was reported in 1938, but the location data is not complete. Either it cannot be re-located, or it has been extirpated (WNHP 2000). 2 occurrences are currently known in Oregon with population numbers ranging from 50 to 800 (ONHP 2000).". I suppose that puts the number of individual plants worldwide at around 3500 +/- a thousand or so. I observed about seventy in flower during my brief visit to the area on a cloudy late afternoon.

As noted by Paul Slichter on his page for Ranunculus triternatus (includes additional photos!), the species "is found primarily in fairly undisturbed grasslands or areas of mixed grasslands and sagebrush. Plants are generally found in deeper soils among bunch grasses rather than in the thinner rocky poorer soils which are frequently found on the hillsides".

Additional photographs are available via the Oregon Flora Image Project (Ranunculus triternatus) and a scan of a specimen collected by Thomas Howell is available via Oregon State University Herbarium: Ranunculus triternatus.

I also had a request from a BPotD reader to include a bit of a photographic information from time to time. For these photographs, and for most photographs of buttercup flowers, I often find it necessary to underexpose the image. A camera-metered exposure will often blow out the yellows or introduce white spots on the petals due to the petals' high reflectivity (you can see the white spotting beginning to occur on the last photo). A polarizer can also be useful, but it is perhaps more important to make the photographic attempt on a cloudy day. I had also photographed some Ranunculus occidentalis this day, but I've thrown away most of those images because they were taken in the sun and no detail was left in the flower petals (I kept a couple for reference to remind me that it was out in bloom in the region on that date).

Feb 17, 2012: Forest in New Brunswick

Forest in New Brunswick

This photograph is from two autumns ago, when it was a later-than-usual year for autumn colours in eastern North America. Fortunately, one small stretch of Highway 215 near the New Brunswick-Québec border was nearing peak in late September, though I only discovered it on my last day in the area. It's not really a "Natural Landscape" (how I've categorized it), as the shrubs and herbaceous plants in the foreground are trimmed low from time to time (they are along the roadside). It's not really an intentional cultivated landscape, though.

Feb 16, 2012: Quercus agrifolia

Quercus agrifolia

Thanks to Damon Tighe@Flickr for submitting his photo of Quercus agrifolia from Oakland, California (via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Damon's photostream on Flickr has quite a few recent botanical images from California.

A photograph of the acorns and foliage for coast live oak or California live oak is available from a previous Botany Photo of the Day entry, Quercus agrifolia. In trying to track down the meaning of "live oak" when it is used in a common name, my conclusion so far is that all live oaks are evergreen and North American, but not all evergreen North American oaks are known as live oaks. Also, the live oaks belong to different taxonomic groupings within Quercus. Five species, in Quercus Section Quercus, or the white oaks, are native to southeast and south-central North America. Four species given the common name live oak are native to southwestern North America. Three of these species are in Quercus Section Lobatae, the red oaks, and one is in Quercus Section Protobalanus, or the intermediate or golden-cup oaks.

Calphotos has many images of this iconic Californian tree species: Quercus agrifolia. Quercus agrifolia can also be found in Baja California.

Jan 25, 2012: Dryopteris marginalis

Dryopteris marginalis

While planning a group trip to the Carolinas and area for this spring, I've been revisiting some of my photographs from last year. This is a tentative identification for the subject fern in this image. If someone wants to assert that it is instead a species of Athyrium from the area (see A Natural History of Pearson's Falls and Some of Its Human Associations for a species list), I could be swayed. Unfortunately, the foreground stream along with considerations for the rental car (wet shoes) and the property (Pearson's Falls) precluded a closer look.

Dryopteris marginalis is endemic to eastern North America, extending southwest from the southern tip of Greenland to Kansas and Oklahoma. According to the Flora of North America for Dryopteris marginalis, it is a species of "Rocky, wooded slopes and ravines, edges of woods, stream banks and roadbanks, and rock walls". It appears to me that this plant is periodically submerged by the stream during periods of high waterflow.

The etymology of the specific epithet is explained by HardyFernLibrary.com (Dryopteris marginalis): "Marginalis means margined, referring to the position of the sori". A photograph illustrating the location of these spore-producing receptacles on the frond is also available on that site, or on the Ferns and Fern Allies of Wisconsin: Dryopteris marginalis.

Jan 24, 2012: Shell Creek Road

Shell Creek Road

Here is another photograph from a favourite area of mine in California, taken on April 5, 2010 (the same day as this photograph). Instead of identifying the plants when photographing these areas, I tend to just spend my limited time behind the camera. Fortunately, others who have the opportunity to spend more time with the plants have added some documentation, so I think it is relatively reasonable to use resources like Nature Alley to assign some names.

The small yellow flower that dominates the image is certainly a Lasthenia, or goldfields, but I would feel very uncertain assigning it to species. The purple inflorescences belong to a Castilleja, probably Castilleja densiflora. Resources for the area suggest that the remaining white and yellow coloured blossom is almost certainly the broadly-distributed Layia platyglossa.

Oct 20, 2011: Salix bebbiana (tentative)

A tentative species identification today, as making a positive identification of a willow is usually a non-trivial matter involving a wide-ranging suite of characteristics. In this case, I have some close-up photographs that more clearly show the leaf shape (obovate), the not-glaucous nature of the branches, and what appear to be yellow buds against the reddish-branches. Combined with the habitat, the known species from the area, and the habit (a small shrub not forming a colony), and I reached the conclusion of Salix bebbiana--but I am entirely willing to be corrected! For more on willow identification, see A Guide to the Identification of Salix (willow) in Alberta (listed in the references).

Assuming the yellow-leaved plant in the photographs is Salix bebbiana, then this is a representative of a species native to much of North America north of Mexico, with the exception of the southeast USA. Bebb's willow or beak willow is also found in far eastern Russia and Siberia. Like the Betula glandulosa from a few days ago, this is an important browse species (though not this particular individual, given its precarious location).

There are somewhere in the vicinity of four hundred willow species, in addition to a number of naturally-occurring hybrids. The majority of these are native to the temperate and arctic northern hemisphere. Unfortunately, when a few species were introduced into Australia for erosion control, they eventually became invasive.

Oct 17, 2011: Betula glandulosa

It seems like the prehistoric plant series was well-received while I was on vacation; on behalf of Alexis, thank you for the comments and emails.

My trip to Jasper National Park a couple weeks ago didn't quite meet my hopes for autumn colour. It seems like heavy winds had already hit some of the trees and shrubs, so plants ranged from fully-defoliated to still-green, with not a lot in the middle (much of what had turned had abscised with the winds). Still some pleasant pockets of colour, but it would have been a more showy display of yellows and oranges had I arrived a few days earlier.

On the other hand, there was a different set of colours to be found with the dwarf (or bog) birches. I now wish I had spent more time making photographs like the vertical one, as I like the effect of the out-of-focus leaves in the background. Fortunately for me, Betula glandulosa is widely distributed in western and northern North America (including much of British Columbia), so I needn't travel as far for such images in the future.

Also present in this less-frequented area of the park were numerous ungulate hoofprints. I presume these were moose, as Betula glandulosa is the preferred browse plant of a moose's summer forage diet in Jasper National Park. In the winter, the buds are eaten by ptarmigan and grouse. Important to keep in mind for next time, it seems that in the central Canadian Arctic, "Grizzly bears...constructed their dens under bog birch cover more than any other plant species. Bog birch was present at 84% of 52 den sites, and it was the highest in percent cover around den entrances. Bog birch roots formed ceilings of several dens studied". I imagine these would more typically be found in rocky slope areas as opposed to the more boggy region where today's photographs were taken. On the topic of animals and plants, I think perhaps that will be the next BPotD series, so if you have photographs of a mammal using a plant in some way (food, shelter, etc.) with both the mammal and plant identified, send me a note.

Additional photographs of Betula glandulosa are available via the Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (follow links at bottom of page).

Sep 28, 2011: Aloe dichotoma

Aloe dichotoma

Thank you to occasional BPotD photo contributor Amir Auerbach of Israel for sharing today's photograph via email. I'm making the assumption based on the file name of what he submitted that today's photograph was taken in the Richtersveld area, a high desert landscape in the Northern Cape province of South Africa.

Aloe dichotoma, the quiver tree or kokerboom, is endemic to this area of South Africa (and neighbouring Namibia with its Namib Desert). Its common name of quiver tree is due to the species being used by the indigenous peoples for the production of quivers. These arrow-holding tools were constructed by hollowing out lengths of mature branches, then covering one end with a piece of leather. Dead plants of this species are also hollowed out and used as natural fridges for meat, vegetables and water.

The South Africa National Biodiversity Institute has an always-excellent article on Aloe dichotoma for additional reading.

Sep 22, 2011: Loch Maree, Scotland

Loch Maree, Scotland

It's been one of those kind of weeks at work, so apologies for too few entries. On the other hand, a nod of appreciation to boobook48@Flickr (aka Lorraine Phelan) for sharing this photograph of a serene scene from Loch Maree, Scotland. Thank you!

Wikipedia provides a well-rounded look at the historical and biological importance of Loch Maree, so that's worth a read.

Broadly distributed through much of Eurasia, the Scots pines of Loch Maree represent, I suppose, the northwestern present extent of the species, though there are a few populations further west in Portugal and Spain, and it is found further north throughout Scandinavia, Finland and Russia. It also previously occurred naturally in Ireland, but was extirpated there. The Loch Maree population is special; to directly quote The Gymnosperm Database entry for Pinus sylvestris: "Trees from the extreme west of the range, in NW Scotland (Loch Maree area, Wester Ross)...show resin chemistry and adaptations to oceanic climates not found in the rest of the species' range. These trees are thought to have survived the ice ages on nunataks off NW Ireland and/or W Scotland, or are possibly derived from Spanish populations (Forrest 1980, 1982; Kinloch et al. 1986); as yet there has been no research as to whether this small endangered population deserves taxonomic recognition."

May 26, 2011: Paeonia brownii

Another entry today compiled and mostly written by Alexis:

Today's photo was submitted via email by Liesl Zappler, who writes: "After reading The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest by Jack Nisbet, and finding out about the native Brown's peony, I was determined to find it this spring. It's been known to be in the Blue Mountains of Washington, as well as in northeast Oregon. Thanks to the rangers at the Pomeroy, WA and Pendleton, OR National Forest stations, I was able to find the peonies east of Athena, OR on Wild Horse Rd." Thanks, Liesl!

Paeonia brownii, a native to the western United States, is a fleshy leafy plant that usually has several clustered stems. Its leaves are deeply lobed and bluish-green in colour, while its solitary flowers (a single flower on each peduncle) are greenish and reddish-brown. Paeonia brownii habitats range from ponderosa pine forests to sagebrush deserts.

The licorice-tasting roots of Paeonia brownii were used by First Nations to make a tea for healing lung illnesses. In fact, the genus name Paeonia originates from the name Paeon (or Paean), who was the physician of the Greek gods.

Though some consider Paeonia brownii to be the only peony species native to North America (and divided into two subspecies), two species are recognized by the Flora of North America (representing the general consensus). Paeonia californica (image) is found in southern California to northern Mexico.

May 11, 2011: Cordylanthus palmatus

Today's photographs were shared via the UBC Botanical Garden forums by member mollymCA: Alkali Sink Vernal Pools, Livermore, CA. Thank you very much! Molly has also written a great account about this area, so I'll share her writings here. Molly writes:

The Springtown Vernal Pools should be especially spectacular this year of late rains. This area, enclosed by development, has so far been saved by the presence of the endangered (FE/SE: Federal and State) Cordylanthus palmatus, palmate-bracted bird's beak. It is in the Scrophulariaceae (Daniel -- now in Orobanchaceae) and thus a relative of Indian paintbrush, and like many in the family a hemiparasite on roots of other plants. It may be able to survive without a root association, but is said to develop more color in the bracts--the 3-pronged structures that clutch the stem--according to the extent of such a relationship (if true, this plant hadn't yet found a friend!).

The Cordylanthus is a salt-excreter and you can see the crystals on the rather succulent leaves and bracts. The flowers (like those of Indian paintbrush) are insignificant even when fully out -- on May 9, 2008 they were not quite fully extended from the bracts.

The white areas in the landscape photograph are dried vernal pools and stream areas, crusted with the salt that accumulates over years of leaching from the soil into the landlocked depressions (or nearly so: there is a rather feeble flow out from some of the streams). The bird's beak would be found on the edges of the salt areas.

The green plant growing with the Cordylanthus palmatus is Salicornia, also called pickleweed, and the dry stuff lying on the ground is dormant Distichlis spicata, both typical of salty or salty-alkaline swampy areas.

Botany resource link (added by Daniel): Botany Photo of the Day was featured in the latest publication of the Berry-Go-Round blog carnival over at Foothills Fancies: check out Issue No. 39 of Berry-Go-Round to see a great selection of recent plant- and botany-based writing around the web.

May 10, 2011: Cornus florida

Cornus florida

A bit of a silly common name for this small tree, flowering dogwood (all dogwoods of reproductive age have flowers...), but that shouldn't detract from its springtime elegance. Cornus florida is another native of the eastern USA, but also nudges into Canada at the extreme edge of southern Ontario. A subspecies, Cornus florida subsp. urbiniana, is only found in eastern Mexico.

Cornus florida is threatened throughout much of its range thanks to the introduction of a fungus in the mid-1970s, Discula destructiva. Fungal infection of these dogwoods causes the disease dogwood anthracnose. Infection may or may not be terminal for individual trees, but it also weakens the trees and makes them susceptible to insects or other diseases. Over a long period of time, as random events occur and accumulate, significant mortality may result and this seems to be indicated in Jenkins, M. and White, P. 2002. Cornus florida L. Mortality and Understory Composition Changes in Western Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society. 129(3): 194-206. Jenkins and White found that higher relative mortality occurred over the two or so decades from 1977-1979 to 1995-2000 with smaller trees, and in cove forests and alluvial forests.

Read more about Cornus florida via the Silvics of North America or see additional photographs via the USDA PLANTS database: Cornus florida.

Apr 26, 2011: Pinus contorta var. contorta

Pinus contorta var. contorta

A trip to the Shorepine Bog Trail in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve did not yield the hoped-for sighting of the introduced Darlingtonia californica (seen as recently as last year, and introduced over ten years ago). I'll excuse it on being too early in the season, given the hesitating spring. I am a bit curious as to why Parks Canada staff allow the plants to persist, given that they are non-native in many definitions of that term, but perhaps they are doing some long-term monitoring.

It was, however, an opportunity to enjoy the natural "bonsai" of the shore pines in the area. The boggy area is much smaller in extent than Burns Bog, so it is far more difficult to isolate individual plants from the background--I opted for a texture photograph of the landscape instead.

Pinus contorta has 3 or 4 varieties depending on the taxonomic reference. Variety contorta, the shore pine, is described in the Silvics of North America: "The thick-barked trees are relatively small, short-lived, and inherently branchy. Now mostly confined to marginal sites (muskegs, dunes, serpentine soils, rocky sites), this race pioneered forest succession in the Pacific Coast region at the end of the lce Age. Needles are short, rather narrow, and have more stomata per unit area than the leaves of inland races. Flowering is abundant, and female strobili tend to mature earlier than the male. The cones are reflexed and persistent. Cones usually open not long after they mature, but serotiny is increasingly common toward the interior. Seeds are small to medium-sized, and germination is slower than that of the interior races. Early height growth nearly always is faster than that of inland populations at the same latitude. Local variations include a chemically distinctive northern muskeg ecotype extending south to western Washington."

Pinus contorta var. contorta is one of the Great Plant Picks for local gardeners.

Apr 14, 2011: Olympic Peninsula Forest

Olympic Peninsula Forest

Today's entry was written by Claire:

This serene photograph of an enchanted forest on the Olympic Peninsula was submitted via the BPotD Submissions Forum by ferngirl42 of Seattle, WA.

If you are familiar with Pacific coastal forests in the continental northwest US, you'll know rainfall is one of the major factors in forest density and composition. The annual rainfall in some areas exceeds 350cm (~ 12ft.), permitting blanketing forests consisting mainly of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), western red cedar (Thuja plicata) and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). The vegetation cover is so dense, hardly any sunlight pierces through the canopy. Close to the shoreline, though, the forest stalls, and light penetrates to the forest floor.

Near the shoreline, the Sitka spruce are not only exposed to the light, but also to the constant salt-laced maritime breeze (and sometimes ravaging winds). The burls (or burrs) are wood deformations caused by a stress to the growing tips of the plant. Some hypothesize that the salt-laced wind is responsible for burl formation in these Sitka spruces, others suggest viral or fungal damage. In general, the largest burls are found further south on coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), but the first and second largest burls known are on display in British Columbia, at Port McNeill, with the largest weighing in at 30,481kg (69,200lb).

In the thread posting, ferngirl42 also makes mention of searching in this area for Polypodium scouleri, a fern commonly known as leathery polypody. Scouler's polypody (named for John Scouler), or leather-leaf fern, can be found across the western coast of North America. It is sometimes epiphytic, and ferngirl42 notes that she has found it growing on the burls of these huge conifers.

Mar 21, 2011: Echium vulgare

Claire compiled today's entry:

Steve H from Northumberland, UK submitted the close-up photograph of Echium vulgare flowers via the Botany Photo of the Day Submissions Forum. Thank you Steve! The second photograph of the plants growing in the dry ditch and forming a mosaic of blue was taken by Daniel mid-June in 2009, in Lower Nicola, British Columbia.

Viper's bugloss, blue-devil and blueweed are some common names for Echium vulgare. The species is a native of Europe and much of central Asia, but it has also naturalized in other parts of the world as well, including North America.

There are over 2700 species in Boraginaceae recognized worldwide (with most from Europe and Asia), though that number may change as the phylogeny of the group is resolved (see the Classification section from the link -- may be split into possibly 11 families!). Like Echium vulgare, many species in this family are herbs with prickly-hairy leaves. The coarseness of the hairs (caused by silicon dioxide and calcium carbonate deposits) can be quite an irritant to skin if plants are handled. Though the annual, biennial or short-lived perennial Echium vulgare is ornamental with its succession of blue flowers (caused by anthocyanin pigments) and height (to 1-2m, though sometimes shorter), it can also be a noxious, persistent weed in some regions. If interested in it for your garden, please take the time to research whether it is an appropriate planting for your area.

Other species of Echium are known to contain alkaloid compounds that can cause harm to livestock, even killing cattle, sheep and horses. Another member of the genus, Echium plantagineum, has been cited by the NNFCC (UK's National Non-foods Crop Centre) as being a useful oil crop (link to page with fact sheet).

Nov 22, 2010: Pachycereus weberi

Pachycereus weberi

Claire again wrote today's entry:

Thank you to sweller of the UBC Botanical Garden Forums for this photograph of Pachycereus weberi (via the BPotD Submissions Forum).

Pachycereus weberi is known as candelabro, or Cardón Espinoso (the common name being an obvious reference to the resemblance of plants to candelabras). Its distribution ranges across desert scrub and deciduous forests of the southwestern Mexican states of Guererro, Puebla and Oaxaca. The genus has a native range of southern Arizona to Central America, and also includes the tallest cactus species, Pachycereus pringlei (an individual grew to 19.2m/63ft). In Pachycereus weberi, plants "only" reach approximately 10m tall and as nearly as wide.

Pachycereus weberi only produces white or yellow flowers. These bloom at night, with bats being the pollinators (as is common in the genus). The edible fruit has spines which dehisce when the fruit matures, possibly a mechanism to prevent eating of the unripe fruit. These spines (modified leaves), extend from the thick stem in a beautiful pattern (see some close-ups via Google Image Search). The seeds of the ripe fruit of Pachycereus weberi can be harvested and ground into a flour.

Oct 13, 2010: Elaeagnus commutata

Elaeagnus commutata

It seems I was fortunate that my early October 2008 trip to Jasper National Park occurred at peak autumn colours, as that certainly wasn't the case this year. Most of the leaves had coloured and fallen by the time I arrived there on October 3. Still, with a bit of effort, there were photographs of plants to be had. This small landscape found at the end of the easily-accessible part of the Snaring River road intrigued me, as it isn't often I've encountered such a palette of colours.

Elaeagnus commutata, or silver-berry / wolf-willow, was the dominant shrub growing on the margin of the rocky stream, a typical habitat for the species. Native to much of the northern half of North America (and extending as far south as Utah in its native range), Elaeagnus commutata has been planted elsewhere on the continent for use as a shelterbelt or erosion control, and has subsequently naturalized. Its silvery foliage also makes it attractive as an ornamental plant.

Daniel Moerman's Native American Ethnobotany book provides reference to a number of uses of silver-berry by First Nations peoples, ranging from food to drugs and fibre to jewelry. As an example of the latter, Botanical Beads of the World has an image of the seeds of Elaeagnus commutata being used in a necklace. Fibre usages include cordage (rope making) to clothing (the inner bark) to mat-making.

Sep 21, 2010: Forest in New Brunswick

Forest in New Brunswick

On vacation, so only a photograph today! Taken last year, about 51 weeks ago.

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