Anyone ever have trouble with colored mulch?

eden72(7bAr)July 14, 2005

I bought and applied some beautiful red colored cypress mulch from a local nursery. I got it all spread out, and it looks gorgeous; then I thought about whether or not the coloring in the mulch will have an adverse effect on my soil!! A little late!! Anyone ever have trouble with it??

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Pandalou(9 California)

My husband spread the red stuff over an area in the front of our house. Some of our plants touch the mulch and we have had no trouble at all with the red mulch.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 10:39PM
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nope- I won't use the stuff. mulch is supposed to be a natural thing, and dip-dying it makes no sense to me at all.

however- I refuse to use it not only because I think it looks fake- but because I dye textiles, and understand WHY I wear mask, gloves, and long sleeves while working with the dyes, the mordants, and the neutralizers...

but I guess as long as it's not used on anything you intend to eat, it's no worse than anything else.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 9:28AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Hee hee, I'm afraid that I have to agree with chinacat! The trouble I have with colored mulch is that it hurts my eyes when I look at it. I find myself exclaiming, "Look at that red mulch", instead of, " Look at that gorgeous landscaping." But my opinion sure doesn't matter, and everyone should do whatever pleases them in their own yard.

One potential problem with these dyed mulches is that we don't know where the wood comes from. Much of it, at least initially, was recycled CCA (cromated copper arsenate) lumber. This, of course, makes it baaaaaaaaad stuff. The dyed color masks that it is treated lumber. This might be a worthy issue for you to explore, before using any more of this product.

Here is a link that might be useful: CCA information

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 1:11PM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

The trouble I have with it is that it looks so un-natural in the landscape...BUT, each to their own.

I recently found the following information for a friend who was inquiring about how it's made.

"Red mulch is composed of either mixed hardwoods or recycled wood waste, then dyed a red color to cover the wood impurities. One variety of red mulch is CCA Mulch that is created from chipped up wood by-products from demolished buildings, decks or other construction projects. CCA is a wood preservative, Chromated Copper Arsenate, that includes arsenic, a known carcinogen. CCA mulch has been dyed to cover up the inconsistencies, but not all dyed mulches contain CCA. To determine if the colored mulch you are purchasing does not have CCA treated wood look for the voluntary label by the mulch and soil council stating certified mulch."

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 5:06PM
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eden72(7bAr) doesn't look unnatural to me....more like a cherry wood's not on anything I will eat, so I guess it will be OK...thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2005 at 8:05AM
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To each his own but me personally I don't can't stand the look of the colored mulchs,looks too gawdy.I prefer a natural color mulch that doesn't distract the eye from the beauty of the flowers.But there again that's just my taste.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2005 at 10:48AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Red mulch around green plants looks rather like green peppers on a pizza without the cheese....
Discounting the artificial look and the possible harmful stuff in the looks awful because the colors are the same value.....would you wear a leaf green shirt with mulch red pants?...I don 't think so!...
And after a couple of years, the color deos wash where does it go??? Hmmmmm.....
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 16, 2005 at 2:27PM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Well said Linda.

I don't wanna beat a dead horse but there are controversial problems associated with dyed mulches that you should be aware of if you plan to use it. The information in the link below was taken from a Gardens Alive site. I cut and pasted this paragraph from there;

"Wood mulches can slow the growth of established plantsand yes, just plain starve new ones to deathÂby Âtying up the available food in your soil, a process known as "Nitrogen immobilization". Wood is carbon; carbon always looks for nitrogen to bond with so it can break down into new soilÂthatÂs the principle behind composting. Wood mulches take that nitrogen right out of the soil, out-competing your nitrogen-needy plants. And dyed mulches are the absolute WORST offenders; the wood in these old palletsÂchipped up and sprayed with dyeÂis the worst type for use around plants. Our favorite mulch expert, Ohio State Professor Emeritus Dr. Harry Hoitink, warns that dyed mulch is especially deadly when used around young plants or in brand new landscapes."

Just food for thought.......

    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 11:01AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

On the wood mulch thing.....
Not to worry about the "nitrogen immoblization"....when it breaks down it gives back the nitrogen it the first time you add mulch, add a little composted manure and it all works out...
It's the dye I worry about....and maybe the chemical treated wood.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 12:46AM
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"Wood mulches take that nitrogen right out of the soil, out-competing your nitrogen-needy plants. " It only takes away the nitrogen right on the surface of what it's contacting, so as long as your garden has adequate nitrogen to begin with, you're fine. If you're worried, as Linda C said, add a bit of composted manure or sprinkle a bit of blood meal or nitrogen slow release fertilizer or compost before mulching and you'll be just fine. (I use some of Gardens Alive stuff, but you have to remember that they are trying to sell you something . . . ) I've been mulching with wood chips, both green and dry, for years on both newly planted plants and established beds, and have yet to lose a plant due to mulching.

For a minute I was panicked reading about the CCAs in dyed mulch since a contractor put down dyed (happily just brown) chipped wood mulch at my school, but then I remembered that there was a luxuriant crop of fungus that first year, so I guess that I don't have to worry too much. I just get standard chips, let them decompose, and then remulch.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 8:22AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

I was recently in Anchorage, and I was amazed to see the "red mulch" stuff being used all over the city. All over downtown they used the stuff, and all of the shopping centers used it too. I had not seen it before, and personally I don't care to see it again. It just doesn't blend in like other mulches do. Just my opinion though.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 10:32AM
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Try this Black Mulch Dye.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 2:51PM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

-- would you wear a leaf green shirt with mulch red pants?...I don 't think so! --

Ummm... why are you making fun of me? My momma says I look handsome!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 3:53PM
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My roses have beautiful blooms but the leaves have been turning yellow and falling off. I have sprayed them for blackspot and they just keep loosing leaves. They look funny the blooms are still blooming but the leaves just keep falling off. How do I get them to come back. Do I need to prune them down and start over. I live in a hot climate and water them every morning. Am I watering them too much. Please help

    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 11:05PM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

Judy, did you mean to post to the rose forum?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 11:41PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Now I have seen it all!!....A jug of dyd to "refresh" the ugly dye on your mulch!!
Right up there with "our Lady of the Bathtub".
Linda C

    Bookmark   May 30, 2006 at 3:14PM
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I just use compost on the soil. I used to mulch everything but now the perennials have filled in so nicely that I don't have a lot of use or room for wood chips. And my compost is such a pretty color of natural black.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2006 at 9:30PM
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just because the dye isnt "natural" doesnt mean it is harmful or will be absorbed by the plants rendering them inedible. personally i think the colord mulch is ugly but is it dangerous? no.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2006 at 10:07AM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

I think perhaps we had too much fun in this thread. The original question was does the dye in red mulch harm plants and we took the query as an excuse to have some laughs.

Fair enough, but I doubt the asker of the question is amused.

I don't know if the dye is at all harmful, but I doubt it. The best info I can find is that the dyed mulch is (often) recycled wood pallets dyed with a vegetable based, non toxic dye. It shouldn't 'bleed' to the plants.

If you like the look of it then that is all that matters.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2006 at 2:58AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Unless the mulch has been dyed to hide the fact that it has been made with arsenic treated wood.
But then it probably wouldn't be harmful to the plants but only the people who breath the dust when laying or raking the stuff.
Linda C

    Bookmark   June 3, 2006 at 11:08AM
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I think I have had a horrible allergic reaction to the mulch referred to as 'black dye'. I was working in a garden where it had been spread and sneezed about 100 times - eyes and nose running and watering nonstop. Now I have an upper resperitory infection. Does anyone have more detailed info about this product? Online searches from the manufacturers all say it is "safe". I don't think I believe that.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2006 at 5:34PM
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transplant_taz(z5 Denver)

I have used a number of different mulches,natural and colored and have had no problems with any of my plants. For those of you who are concerned about the contents of colored mulches (or any mulches)then you can check out this link... Mulch & Soil Council. They have an approved list of mulch products that must meet testing and adhere to product standards. I was happy to see the products I have used (and yes I have used red) were on this list.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 11:51PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

There are lots of people who sell mulch from reclaimed and shredded wood. It isn't bagged or packaged, they just sell it by the cubic yard. I don't know if the national soil and mulch council would have any control over that.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 1:10PM
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You know, I posted this link about a year ago, and revisited it today on accident. It's amazing to me to look back at it and realize how rude some people can be. Personally, I like a bit of spice in my garden. I never asked for anyone's opinion, or tacky slam on my color consideration. I happen to have a beautiful home, and wardrobe, for that matter and don't need sarcastice comments about my color coordinating ability. I would venture to say my abilities in this area are quite good, especially considering all the comments I get from anyone who comes to my home about how beautiful everything is. I think the red mulch makes all the green and blossom colors pop that much more. It's vivid and interesting. I find some of the natural mulches to be drab and boring and average. But, again, that's my personal opinion.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 9:28PM
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Hi, I am an artist. I read all of responses and was really surprised how people react to the color. Most think red color of mulch looks artificial. I have to disagree. I did use natural color of mulch in my garden and found it boring. As soon as I used red colored mulch between my mostly green perennials - everything popped up and looks much better to me and people who complement my yard. Since I am an artist I know red color is complementary to green and looks great next to it. This is just my personal opinion. I still don't like Christmas colors - one dark rich green against strong deep red, but garden has so many different shades of colors, red mulch only makes them look better.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2006 at 4:32PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

It depends if you are featuring the mulch or the plants....
To each his own.
I don't consider it a compliment if someone would come to my garden and say "That new mulch you put down looks so nice". But perhaps some do.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 10:28PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Again, arsenic (CCA) remains an issue with some of these recycled woods. I'd think that that would be a concern.

I'm very glad to report that I see much less use of the brightly dyed mulches in my city, at least for residential use. I've noticed that retail establishments have begun to use it, probably so that passersby can spot their businesses a mile away, lol.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 6:18AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

But at least the red wood mulch will eventually rot, ubless it's been treated with arsenic. But red rock is forever...unless you spend an arm and a leg to get rid of it.
My daughter and her husband looked at a house that had red rock mulch all over....and gave it serious points off because of the cost of getting rid of it.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 5:19PM
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Hi. I work in the mulch colorants field.

The colorants are safe, at least those manufactured by the leading companies. They are as safe or safer than water based paints. We have done testing with outside laboratories to verify that.

The primary materials in the reds are iron oxides, which are versions of rust. The primary material in the black colorants is carbon black - the same stuff that rubs off of burnt charcoal, but more intense. The stuff is dirty, but it's safe as long as it's not a large airborne quantity getting in your lungs. The other materials in the formulas are also safe and are in small amounts.
The actual mulches may have some danger from CCA wood, as another person noted in a previous posting. The colored mulch industry has two primary types of company making mulch - land clearing companies that take the logs to lumberyards and grind the smaller wood into mulch, and wood waste recycling shops that take previously used wood - pallets, packaging crates, etc., and grind and color that stuff. If you buy from a land clearing company, there's virtually no chance of CCA wood being in there. If you buy from a recycler, there's a chance if they weren't careful that some CCA wood got in the mix. We warn our customers to be careful, but we can't guarantee that they are.

As for dangers to your plants, all mulch has some effect on plants, and different plants respond differently. Most do fine around mulch, but not all. Also, some red mulches have been shown to have effects on the yeilds of strawberries and tomatoes - something about the red light reflection having a different effect on those plants. You'll have to search for those on line; I read about those studies years ago.

Hope that information was helpful.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 4:23PM
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Lindac- I don't recall anyone saying that the "mulch" was what was complimented- the very point being made was that the reddish brown color showcases the "plant" better by making IT stand out more vibrantly. Good grief! All this talk about people's color schemes is ridiculous, to say the least. It's as if I would have the right to come into your interior home and criticize your choices of color in there. It's very snobbish- and closed minded. Gardening is an expression of one's personality like anything else and everyone is unique. I am POSITIVE that I could find PLENTY to criticize were I to see your garden, however, I wouldn't have the arrogant audacity to do so.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 3:58PM
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I wish I'd found this cool site earlier! I just bought a house after full-time RVing for 12 years and gardening is ALL NEW to me! I got a great deal on red-dyed mulch at Home Depot last month and promptly spread all 10 bags of it around my wonderful yard AND rhubarb/blueberry patch!! Now I will die of Arsenic poisoning. Oh well! Not supposed to eat rhubarb the first year anyway, so maybe the arsenic will have leached away by 2009. I did check the bag for any kind of warning -- none was found so maybe no harm was done. Thanks, all for the great forum. Just found it today and can't wait to see what else is on here.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 12:53PM
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After years of agreeing with most of you, that the red mulch looks too unnatural and should be avoided, this year I finally gave in to DH's repeated request for red mulch. We now live in a downtown area, with a small yard that is 80% shade, and I find that the red mulch does brighten it up a lot more than the natural bark did. The plants really contrast nicely against it, and the yard doesn't look as washed out as it did last year. However, if I had a larger, sunnier yard I would stick to natural mulch especially as I would be able to add color with more flowering plant options.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 8:29AM
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As a new forum member, I read this post expecting an answer to the question posted, not opinions about garden selections.

I used black dyed mulch in the front yard of my home to complement the color of my house and it looks great!

Thank you to those who actually answered the question.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 4:48PM
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I think people are going a bit overboard with the red mulch topic.

1) The red mulch I get from Home Depot says 100% Natural. That means the wood really is cedar and it's not recycled CCA. If you have a problem with cedar that's a different issue. Cedar is known to make hamsters and gerbils ill which is why it's not recommended for inside use.
2) I've never seen the dye leach from the wood. Wouldn't you see red grass and stained concrete from the run off if that were the case? I don't get it on my skin either when I spread it around. It does become faded over time but I suspect this has to do more with weathering and UV sunlight than anything (the chemical breaks down into a clear state--it doesn't leach--like paint on your house)
3) MULCH IS SUPPOSED TO KILL! Isn't that why you put it down? To kill the weeds??? Well, yeah, be careful with small plants but honestly, you shouldn't have ANY mulch that's within several inches of your new plants whether it's red cedar mulch, pine bark, pine needles, leaves, or whatever. Wait until they become established and then you can put the mulch up against it.

Nice comments but let's keep some sanity here... ;-)

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 7:41PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Your Home Depot mulch is only cedar if it says so on the label. Mulch made from true cedar won't be that bright red that is under discussion here. And it will be very fragrant.

And mulch does not kill weeds, but is supposed to help suppress their growth as they germinate in the soil. It's a physical process, not a chemical one. There are some tree by-products that contain allelopathic properties, cedar being one of them, but most are safe to use in close proximity to existing plants.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2008 at 12:53PM
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mehearty(So ME z5a)

I just found this thread during a search re: mulch, and though the reddish mulch isn't my personal preference, I'll say from where I'm sitting, the color is a lot more natural than the dark stuff. As I look out my picture window at the woods encircling my property, the pine needles and old leaves on the ground are most certainly an orange-brown color. It looks gorgeous & obviously quite natural IMO.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 8:32AM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Interesting.....where I live the ground is naturally dark brown....not black, nor red nor orange.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 1:06AM
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I found this thread because I wanted to know what is actually used to color the wood chips.

There are a lot of opinions here - some saying it's safe others saying it's not. Personally I'd like to see test results from an independent lab.

I really don't expect truthful information from the companies making it. What company would say: "This product contains toxins that are bad for the soil and groundwater. Use it if the environment is not important to you. Don't use it around edible plants because they could absorb the toxins and the fruits and vegetables could become poisonous."

Grass, shrubs and trees need to be pruned periodically. Instead of throwing this material away, it can be composted or shredded and used as a mulch that replenishes the soil with nutrients, reduces weed growth and helps the soil maintain moisture levels.

This takes time, of course. Buying a few bags of mulch is less work. Unfortunately gardening for many is perhaps a chore and not a joy.

While living in Germany I did some yard maintenance at a few homes and didn't feel I could charge the customers the time it took to shred all the clippings. Then I found the community had a composting company. I could take all my "waste" there in my little trailer and buy a trailer full of finished compost for very little money. The entire composting process could be seen by all. Nothing was added to the organic matter. Back at the client's home I spread the black compost around the plants. The greens contrasted very nicely with the black compost. It was all very natural. There were no bad chemicals to fear.

It really surprises me that a lot of people consider the red mulch attractive. I prefer to choose plants with leaves and flowers that are attractive rather than an artificially-colored mulch. Also, ground covers can be grown below taller plants to cover the soil and add even more beauty with their colors and flowers.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 11:50PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

I have a serious problem with colored mulch. I personally find it ugly.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 11:57AM
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butterflywings08(Zone 5 Westfield, NY)

Hey, hey, hey...... it's Albert, and not the adorable Bill Cosby of the 70's Albert.

No one asked you or anyone else here what their opinion was on red mulch. In fact I doubt the OP and certainly not me gives a rat's behind if you find it ugly or not. Let's get a view of your garden so we can open the mic up to more karaoke commentators.

So is that how it is on here? When someone comes on here feeling safe to ask a group of people who are expert gardeners a question about a plant or tree people are now supposed to comment on how UGLY their choice is? I am disgusted by the rudeness in this thread. The only explanation I can come up with is the littlest people puff themselves up on an internet forum because they aren't taken seriously offline.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 9:48PM
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I have been using the red mulch from a local bulk supplier. After my wife raised some concerns about its safety around the kids and plants I did some searches and found this thread... then I made some calls. The "pallet" company that supplies the business that I buy mulch at says they dont use treated lumber because it cost to much and is about as natural as you can get. It may have been heat treated, he did say it makes up 90% of the wood content, and I have read that the die is a simple iron mix that you will find in lots of natural products. Just wanted to share that.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 3:47PM
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I used red mulch on sale from Home Depot last year. It's still there, still fine, not as red, and nothing suffered. Go for it! i think it looks great.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 8:28PM
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wiringman(ZONE 4)

if i remember right the problem with uncomposted wood mulch is that it robs N (nitrogen) from the soil. it is hard enough to keep you N in the soil as it is. on the plus side they are high in carbon that is lacking in straight dung. on the other hand grass clippings are high in N and it looks natural.
Note: not all grass clippings are equal. if you use grass clippings from an institute such as school you should insure that the lawn has been sprinkled rained on after it has been treated.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 3:12PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

Since last year I'm using SCOTTS "Nature Scapes Color Enhanced Mulch, Sierra Red", which seems to be approved by , but then we have ASPARTAME and NEOTAME approved by USFDA as well.... Not sure, but the palm trees (windmills, sabal and pindos/butias) I used this mulch around started looking bad, drying out the relatively new fronds, yellowing, browning and also a lot of white fungus been growing on some of the mulch, including some bright yellow fungus recently. The bag says this mulch is safe for plants, but how come for no other good reason my palms started turning yellow, violet and brown a lot? I water right, spread the mulch right, without piling it up, not too thick and not too close to the trunk. What does SCOTTS use to dye their mulch with? I called SCOTTS today, but their voice recording says they are "temporarily closed for reasons not under their control".

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 12:25AM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

I forgot to mention that SCOTTS dyed mulch bag says to use gloves when handling their mulch and how does that go together with their "safe for plants" statement?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 1:03AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The suggestion that you use gloves is because most people don't want to walk around with red hands for as long as it takes for the stuff to wear off.

Again, the question about the dyed mulch should not be so much with the dye chemicals but in what kind of wood is used. The preservatives that might be in the wood could be another reason for using gloves.

Dyed mulch products are fast becoming a thing of the past in my community, thank goodness.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 5:05AM
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Oh I would not use wood mulch. I am into natural stuff like plastic resin. Now there is a good product and it comes in the best colors. Now wood, from reading this I would say you would need your has-mat suite to mulch the roses. Maybe a bio-tent for decontamination when you get through. IT'S- JUST- WOOD- PEOPLE!!!!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 3:27PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

C,mon, Curt...don't be silly. Everyone knows that lumber that has been chemically treated with preservatives shouldn't be used around edibles and shouldn't be handled with bare hands. It's reasonable to exercise some caution when using these dyed products IF the provenance of the wood is unknown.

I wouldn't be too alarmed at the chemicals they use to dye the wood as I 'think' that they are vegetable based or iron oxides or other natural ingredients.

Many companies (like Scotts) tell you on the label if their product is from waste wood (preserved) or a natural forest product (untreated). Some Scotts mulch products have herbicide added, to BE SURE to read the label! That would surely be another reason to wear gloves when handling. Yikes.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 1:36PM
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I just found this thread, doing a search on "mulch dye" and I must say, I'm rather alarmed with the rudeness on this forum!

The subject is "Anyone ever have trouble with colored mulch?" not "What is your opinion of colored mulch?"

Personally, the red mulch reminds me of redwood trees and makes me reminiscent of where I grew up. I like it. So, eden72, you just use whatever color you desire! Don't listen to these judgmental people!

Anyhoo, to the topic at hand... I saw a segment on Gardening by the Yard a while back and he was using the mulch dye (not the pre-colored mulch). He said that the products are safe and relatively easy to use.

I think that I would contact the seller and request a guarantee that it wouldn't harm my plants. And I should think that a reputable company would be willing to tell you what is in their product, if you are concerned about a certain chemical.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 4:04AM
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We picked the red mulch to go with our red roof and beige bricks. They are inexpensive, durable, good to smell, somewhat preventing weed growths, and adding contrast to green plants and grass.

Indeed red cedar mulch is the opposite of the "natural" look, which for me means a garden overwhelmed by crowded plants, disorganized weeds, hole-filled leaves and bald branches. Nah.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 2:30PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I don't think we are talking about cedar chips, daniel. The discussion is in regards to wood dyed a bright, bright red, or orange.

And we're just expressing our opinions about the color, not the benefits of mulch, overall.

Hey, all...check out the attached link. Maybe THIS will be the new trend.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 10:37PM
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When she asked if anyone has PROBLEMS with red mulch, I think she meant problems regarding the garden, not how you personally feel about it!

I love all the "it's so unnatural", "it hurts my eyes", (my favorite) "it's gawdy". Keep your opinions to yourself! That's not what she was asking!!

For those that actually posted something helpful, thank you. I was looking for some mulch advice as well and came across this. I didn't know people could be so judgemental about MULCH. SHEESH!!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 3:40PM
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Hi all,
This year my apartment complex began using "Red dye mulch." I began smelling a foul odor in my clothing after being outside for only 1/2 hour or so. I had no idea what was causing it. I asked many people many questions and they also agreed they never noticed it in the previous years. I called the environmental division or our local government and they came out but said they couldn't smell it in the air so they stopped their examining. I told them it is the clothes that collects the foul odor. He said he still can't smell it in his clothes, and refused to smell items I was presenting to him. They are really worthless.
I also work at at Golf Country Club, and noticed the smell in my clothes there. Finally, I determined the only thing common to the Country Club and my apartment complex was the new Red Mulch. I even smelled it through my spare bedroom window.
I moved all the mulch away from my apartment and now my clothes don't soak in that odor. I also moved all the mulch back from the area where I work at the Country Club, and noticed the toilet paper in the bathroom also doesn't have the odor anymore. So, I am persuing the source by contacting the Mulch providers tomorrow (Monday) and determine why it gives off that foul odor. I am going to determine what this is, because it may be harmful to breathe.
If anybody has the same problem please let me know. The mulch is from Pine trees then dyed red. They told me it isn't toxic, however I will make them smell the clothing and that should awaken their sense of fair play. If not, it's ending up in court. I'd appreciate any information anybody may have to offer.

Willard in Jacksonville, FL 32224

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 7:23PM
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The reason it is recommended to use gloves when you spread the mulch is to avoid getting slivers in your hands. Have you ever touched that stuff with out gloves? It's wicked!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 12:13PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Slivers from mulch? noooooo.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 1:39PM
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Hi everyone:
I am a Landscape Architect in Miami, Florida.
I have found many posts to be informative and amusing.
It is interesting that this started back in 2005, and still going, which says to me that after all this time, many people are getting more aware of the pluses and minuses of using any kind of mulch, whether red, black, natural, blue etc.
While I have made comments on other posts of this site on another subject, let's not forget that all of us have different taste in color and color makes people re-act differently. It is the perception of the beholder. But part of the usage of red mulch is about appearance.
As a designer, and this is my taste, my opinion I do not like the red mulch. Many of my clients likes it. So I specify it for them. Its what they like, and nothing wrong with that. I just believe the landscape should do the talking and not the mulch, as it will disappear in 2 months time do to decomposition.
Having said that, I have been trying for the last few years, asking precisely what the author of this post has asked.
Many of you have already provided answers which makes sense to me, but also raises more questions and it is our duty to research and find out, if it specifically hurts the environment and most importantly human contact.
Here are my findings:
1. Local stores such as Home Depot- safe to use. But I agree to read label for CCA.
2. I still don't know what the dye does to the plant or soil or aquifer once it leaches out into the soil.
3. Mulch especially 2-3 inches thick on top of a root ball depletes oxygen. It is detrimental to the plant materials.
4. Wood being a carbon will bond with nitrogen, yes it will decompose and return, and I like the suggestion by someone of adding slow release fertilizer before mulching.
However, U of Florida agriculture extension services recommends that on newly planted materials, that no fertilization is required since it comes that way from nurseries, and that if you want to use mulch apply only 1/2" thick for appearance sake.
Lastly and most importantly- remember everything starts from the ground up. Make sure you do soil testing to know what your home soil contains and what nutrients is actually deficient. This will then tell you what type of fertilizer to use and at what rate. This is logical.
Finally to share an experience on red mulch:
Yesterday, I visited a very large community to prepare an assessment of the conditions of their landscape and provide recommendations. They have over 4,000 trees and palms.
The first thing I notice was the red mulch which was thrown on top of all the tree trunks almost 3- 4" thick. But what really caught my eye was where the mulch was initially set as a holding area which was on a section of a parking lot.
The parking lot surface was completely RED, and I asked how long was it sitting there- response "5 days".
Now someone posted here that red mulch dye does not get into your hands or leach when applying it- well it does.
I am going to continue to do more research and what ever findings I get I will share with you all. Just give me some time. Thank you

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 7:32AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Mulch is important for many reasons, the least of which is aesthetics.

The large particle size of most mulches, which tend to be composed of either wood chips or bark chips, pose very few problems regarding nitrogen tie-up in the soil. The pieces are simply too large. It is not advisable to use fresh sawdust-sized mulch, as that WILL cause deficiencies. And, if using a triple-grind size, which amounts to compost...expect to be reapplying it within a few weeks.

Typical wood chips can be expected to last for several months before decomposing nicely into the soil. Fresh wood chips, straight out of the chipper, probably need to be replenished every year. Pine BARK chips (nuggets) can last much longer than that.

Why is mulch important? It conserves soil moisture; it allows rain or irrigation water to percolate properly; it prevents surface erosion and splattering; mulch buffers the soil against the heat and the cold; it helps create a good environment for essential and beneficial soil microbes; root systems develop like crazy under a layer of mulch.

It's recommended that 2-3 inches of material be used and maintained over the root system of our plants, in as generous an area as possible, but never piled up on the trunk. Newly installed plants benefit appreciably and noticably, but I've also seen well established trees regain their vigor with nothing but a healthy layer of mulch added under the canopy (and beyond).

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 12:11AM
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As a diehard landscaping guy, I�ve had a lot of experience with colored mulch over the years and can assure you the colorant is safe; for plants, pets and kids. And the other big advantage to colored mulch, compared to uncolored, is that the colorant actually helps preserve wood. My experience has been that the color lasts longer than mulch that isn�t colored. In areas that get direct sun, by the end of the summer, the uncolored mulch I was using before had faded and become drab and discolored. Not the case with colored mulch. It seems to keeps its vibrancy for much longer.

I also realize that some people feel colored mulch looks unnatural. Different individuals are certainly entitled to their own preferences. Be aware, however, there are color options available that look more "natural" (browns, tans, even black) and the colors don�t fade as quickly as uncolored. I have found uncolored mulch weathers more quickly, likely because of rain, sunlight and continuous exposure to outside elements.

So for any of you concerned about possible toxicity or harm to plants, animals or people, worry no more! Colored mulch is not only safe, but actually lasts longer than "natural" uncolored wood.

I also found this cool website that has a lot of good information about colored mulch. Check out There�s an app that I unloaded to help me calculate the amount of mulch I need for specific areas. Pretty cool!!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 2:28PM
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I didn't read any scientific data here supporting any of the speculated analysis! Want-a bee opinions.....basically worthless!
I have used the red mulch for years both when I lived in Seattle and now in SW Florida and never had any issues- (both with private wells tested anually-something most folks ignore totally)! You have a better chance of contamination being down wind from a nuclear plant because we all know the government or the operators would never inform you of a mishap short of dead bodies all over the place- ( and yes, there are mishaps, a friend of mine worked at one-they have more secrets than the CIA) To boot, I haven't seen the "tree huggers" protesting either and we all know how that goes!
I lived in an area of upstate NY in the leather region and yes, the dyes they used poluted the steams, rivers, and lakes until stricter guidelines were enacted but keep in mind, they used 1000's of gallons, far more than you have in your 5 cu yards of red mulch!!Also keep in mind, there are certain people wanting all of these guidelines removed for bigger profits)........imagine that...or not!
Just a lot of sabre rattling over nothing!! One of my neighbors always preached about organic, while all the rest had pest control companies and their landscapers spraying God knows what???

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 11:05AM
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darthtrader(10 SoCal)

Finally finished reading this insanely long thread. Wow...

I didn't even see the opinions shared as negative until the OP went on a mini-rampage about how offended she was. Depends on one's interpretation of tone, I guess.

Those making the "shame on you" type posts about opinions being shared in one breath, then in the next they go on to "MY red mulch in my garden" type comments and continue on with how nice their red mulch looks. That's not an unbiased opinion at all, is it? lol... How is that any different from the others? A few harmless jokes (which I actually found funny and kept me reading and interested) and these people with red mulch are all up in arms taking personal offense. I hope in the years since this thread's been around, these people have learned to lighten up.

The industry people who insist it's safe... C'mon... It's not like they're going to bite the hand that feeds them and say 'oh no...this stuff is bad... don't buy it. I don't need a paycheck.' My very favorite is Randy insisting it's safe, and in his next sentence telling us how remarkable colored mulch is because it lasts longer than natural mulch. Are the dots not connecting that if it's lasting longer than the natural stuff, there's obviously preservative in it that's inhibiting the natural process of decomposition--inhibiting the very beneficial microbes that make for amazing soil we all strive for as gardeners? How are these preservatives not alarming?

All in all, I actually learned a lot from this thread. Thanks Lindac, rhizo and others. OP, it's been years, and interesting that you've chosen the name "eden." Have you watched the movie Back to Eden? It's about mulch and how beneficial it is to soil. I highly recommend it.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 11:46PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

It is fun and interesting to follow this after so many years, isn't it? I am very glad to report that, in my community, the use of these brightly dyed mulches is almost non existent at the present time. A passing whimsy that didn't pass the test of time.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 8:43AM
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A potentially hazardous additive in mulch colorants is 1-Amino-2-propanol, or monoisopropanolamine.

Glyphosate formulations (Roundup, Vantage) are isopropanolamine salts. Other herbicides also use isopropanolamines as a key ingredient.

Dow Chemical is the only producer of isopropylamines, including monoisopropanolamine.

Monoisopropanolamine is used as a dispersing aid for pigments in mulch, and it inhibits the corrosion of the bark and wood chips.

It is probably chosen as a pigment dispersant in mulch due to its herbicidal properties (mulch being intended in part to suppress weed growth, the chosen pigment dispersant exaggerates this "beneficial" effect of the mulch).

Monoisopropanolamine is probably the preservative implied by Randyh1128 and referred to by darthtrader above.

From the source:

For good measure, here is isopropylamine listed as an ingredient in a product label for a mulch colorant:

I hope this helps to clear up any confusion in this matter! (Likely it will create more confusion! ;)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 12:33PM
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OH NO!!! If you actually read this thread, it's returned-over on GW home decorating forum, of all places! Which house looks nicer I think is the thread. Never in my life would I have suspected red mulch to be such a hot button issue, what gives? IT'S MULCH! The flagrant attitude of "unless you agree with me, you're stupid" just astounds me...
Reader beware.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 1:21AM
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I was recently talking to my window washer about the garden area he was standing in that I hadn't developed (it holds too much water and requires amendment). I told him I didn't have the time and money currently to do it. He talked about weed cloth and mulch. I mentioned I saw some black mulch I liked in someone's garden during one of my walks. He said DO NOT use dyed mulch because the dye will prevent certain plants from growing, may be toxic to some trees, plants, pets, and even YOURSELF, even if you get it on your shoes. I did some research, found this article, and others (some a little more positive). However, I will decide for myself.. Do your research and make your own decision.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 6:10AM
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Exactly.... What you said is true and why my window washer (who also does landscaping) will NOT handle dyed mulch himself. He's steering me away from it because he doesn't want to deal with it! I posted a link to an article I read that stated one must wear protective gear when putting down that type of mulch, including a breathing apparatus (not to mention "please don't get it on your shoes and go in your house - some of it can be toxic".) In other words, read labels carefully and use at your own risk. Granted, some improvements have been made in the types of dyes that are used for the mulch but I don't know enough about them myself and wouldn't want to take a chance.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 6:25AM
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I had a Rose bush and an Navel orange tree that I planted with my daughter. My mother placed the red colored mulch, it was more wood chips colored red by some type of dye, after researching it, left over wood from construction, dyed red. The wood that was used could be treated wood, full of heavy metals! Heavy metals which is bad for human contact, My mom spread the stuff on the rose bush and the orange tree. Suddenly, the rose bush started turning yellow, the leaves. We were trying to figure out why, the only reason was this cheap mulch she placed on the roots. I removed the red mulch, the rose bush still died. A few weeks later, I noticed the orange tree was having issues, leaves turning yellow, I then saw the red mulch, it was covered over by grass so it was hard to see ... but I removed it. The Orange tree came back to life. Unfortunately, I do not feel comfortable eating the fruit due to that red mulch. If it almost killed the tree and killed the rose bush, the chemicals in that red mulch leached into the trunk of the tree. Do Not use fake mulch, they were just wood chips, more decorative, no actual use in preventing moisture from evaporating. I now will cut the orange tree that is producing fruit, at least 20 nice oranges but due to the chemical intake, I will uproot and will take my daughter to purchase a new tree for us to plant since this one has a deadly chemical that almost killed it. I do not want to eat the fruit from that tree!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2014 at 1:11AM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Such claims should be proven, not based on suspicions then spread around the world via the internet.
If you suspect the mulch is toxic, have it tested, then state your case, if one exists.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2014 at 1:37AM
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Red dye bark can make the eyes sting and skin feel itchy. It also easily loses color leaving nonpermenant stains. Fakey color too. If you want a red best to go with a natural wood mulch. red colored mulch looks good with many plants, as does darker mulch. Best to go to a soil and bark yard and pick your favorite, bagged options are usually so limited. Colored, cheap(low quality) or expensive.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2015 at 1:11PM
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Just catching up. Quite a thread! Nowadays there are other options for mulch; I'm thinking of those lightweight, all natural mulch mats. They are easy to install, have no dyes whatsoever, and are a consistent thickness, so it's easy to calculate how much you need. The color is... the color it is. If you like the color, this stuff would work for you; if you don't, you now have a natural alternative to synthetic weed block, but still have to put over it something more aesthetically appealing to you. Bottom line: plusses and minuses to each option.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2015 at 5:35PM
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Tallulah Tam

We have a very beautiful, rare, and valuable 25 yr old Japanese Maple, the pride of our garden. The other day I asked our gardener to pick up a couple of bags of mulch to augment the mulch around the base as we do each spring, he brought back two bags of bright red Preen Plus Mulch and Weed barrier and put them down before I checked. First of all the mulch matched no other mulch in the garden so I was surprised and disappointed that he had put this down, but then when I saw the color of his hands and realized how much dye there is in this stuff I became very worried. It would be catastrophic if it affected the maple tree (which has recently been valued at $35,000). Does anyone know whether this mulch contains arsenic or whether the dye is likely to have an adverse effect on our tree, (or the gardener)? We could easily take it up of course, but is there any need? In the reviews online it states the color fades rapidly so that should not be a problem, unless it fades to pink.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2015 at 3:51PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Tam, I strongly suggest that you and your gardener get together and read the label of your product very carefully. It is an herbicide with a mulch carrier and must be treated as a pesticide.

If the original packaging has been destroyed, you can pull up the label online. You need the official label....not the simple information on the website and not the MSDS. The label will be in a PDF file.

You will learn that the dye is not the problem. Your gardener should have worn gloves, at the very least. There are safety and environmental issues with Preen.

I also strongly suggest that you have your gardener bring you any other pesticides that he may use in the garden (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, organics, everything) in the future so that labels can be read carefully before using. Even benign horticultural oils can harm Japanese maples.

Safety information of all kinds is on every pesticide label.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2015 at 6:04PM
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Tallulah Tam

Rhizo, Thank you for your comment (I welcome any others). My husband decided yesterday to take the stuff up. He (unlike the gardener) wore both a mask and gloves. We only had this round the Japanese maple so it was not a big job. He raked it and bagged it, then went to Wal-Mart and bought two bags of ordinary pine bark mulch which bore the certificate of the Mulch and Soil Council, (which the other stuff the gardener brought from Lowes, did not).

To the people here who do not think the dye leaches into the soil, I can only say, you should have seen our gardener's hands!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2015 at 4:21AM
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Hi. The dye gets sucked up into my cactus plant and turns it a lovely Burgundy, unlike the cactus a few feet away that is not surrounded with red mulch. That said, I live in a HOUSE. Not a natural environmental feature...... but my house roof and sidewalk are the HOA approved bland earth tones. I have brought out the vivid yellows and reds of my landscape choices by a generous application of bright red mulch. Definitely not as tacky as my neighbor's kitschy plastic pink flamingos. I do get a kick out of the style outrage. Kind of like the HOA snarky comments when my neighbor painted his home "cottage blue, more suitable for the coast". He was forced to repaint, but they have never commented about my red mulch, which I find rather classy.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2015 at 6:44AM
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  1. 3About the gloves......I wear them when I spread cow manure......spagnum peat......fertilized, got no expectations not to wear them for spreading dyed wood mulch.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2015 at 4:28PM
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Bright red today, will mute to orange/brick color when the butterfly bushes burst out with bright 6 months will be faded to a better shade

    Bookmark   March 21, 2015 at 5:01PM
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Tallulah Tam

meribow, I like the look of your red mulch too, it looks really good in that border, (although I wish the pictures were the right way up). You also seem to have a beautiful bright green lawn. I objected to the red color because it matched nothing else in our garden, but my main concern was the dye. If you have been using it for some time with no problems, perhaps we were overly cautious.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2015 at 6:40PM
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