Invasives from Hell

digit(ID/WA)March 6, 2014

Some probably got where they are because they fit with that old, olde saying that one man's spinach is another man's poison ivy. Don't you suppose? In this part of the world, bindweed was once planted beneath fruit trees - deliberately. . !

If you want a lawn of it, and some men do, plant Achillea millefolium and allow it to go to seed. Since you probably want to enjoy its flowers, like the ones of cultivar Cerise Queen, having it self-seed is likely.

Now, understand that this Achillea is a native. You can probably find it quite easily in the wild. Achillea filipendulina is not a native but this yellow flowered version has, somehow, jumped the fence in a few locales.

From plantings in perennial beds, Achillea can travel. Dad liked the native yarrow "filling in" on the south slope of his lawn, near a large tree. It really wasn't such a horrid plant and not an uncomfortable carpet. I imagine that the new residents have killed it with an herbicide by now. However, it is likely to have been only replaced by bare ground.

What other plants can you think of with their own designs on your landscaping?


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gjcore(zone 5 Aurora Co)

Basically most everything here can be considered invasive on a certain level on the high plains of Colorado. A couple hundred years ago it was mostly native grasses and cottonwoods along the creeks and gulches. Not too much left of that.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:52PM
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david52 Zone 6

I once planted a variety of Clematis montana I got from a local nursery that within 3 years had a mass of stems coming from the original planting hole about a foot in diameter, would root anywhere the vine touched the ground creating even more masses of stems on their way to be foot diameter, and would flower with a bazillion little white flowers filled with a gazillion seeds, which went everywhere.

Three and a half years in was when we started to ponder the wiseness of planting the thing. The vine knocked over 15 feet of fence. It swallowed a full-sized lilac bush. We noticed about 2000 new vines popping up every where, some on the other side of the property.

It took me another three years, a gallon of roundup concentrate and a gallon of 2,4D to get rid of it. I still find baby vines.

And this thread gives me the chance to repost my favorite Rocky Mountain gardening line: You'll do fine if you stick with the 3 basics - bindweed, thistle, and cheat grass.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 12:10PM
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I don't know the latin name for it, but I've got mint all over my back yard. I've left it alone in the past because it's an herb but this year I'm going to try to eradicate it. It thinks it owns my yard.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 2:16PM
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david52 Zone 6

I had a patch of mint in the overflow channel from my pond. Two years ago, we did some earth works and made a spiffy rock structure and waterfall, burying the mint about 4 feet deep. First summer, nothing. Last summer, it came busting through, 4X the size of the original patch and covered everything.

Another good one is hairy vetch. Its ok if you want to stabilize a 60º slope or something. But talk about a root mass…….

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 12:18PM
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popmama Zone 5(5)

The first year I moved into my house a relative gave me a very large, beautiful container garden. It had a trailing variegated vinca in it as many do. Well, it spilled down out of that container into my rock mulch area. Ever since, I have been unable to get rid of it. It trails, spreads, and chokes out about everything in its path. It's the scourge of my front garden.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:51PM
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I now have alpine strawberry plants in my lawn.

It isn't terrible, they are very low growing and don't completely squeeze out the grass where they are - quite a shady location.

I was very interested in growing them from seed about 10 years ago. Easy-peasy. When they were potted and out of the greenhouse, I lined them up on a little board bench along the west fence. They were only about 6 inches above the ground. By the end of the summer, they had sent runners out of the pots and were established in the grass.

What is real surprising to me is that I see the tiny ripe berries in their season. The chickens have no interest in eating them . . !

who should probably complain about the excess of mountain bluet
around the house. but, here on the forum, it is embarrassing to admit to it.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 5:11PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

You must have some different kind of alpine strawberries than I have, Digit. I have Fragaria vesca, and I got that because it's runnerless. I have a very tiny corner to grow them in, so nothing that runs would work for me. The first couple have been in for probably 8 years now, and no runners yet! I did start a couple more from seed one year, and whenever I miss a strawberry and don't find it till it's dehydrating and shriveled, I pull it off and bury it by the others, hoping to get a couple more, but even that doesn't seem to help! The berries are oblong and about a quarter inch long--with HUGE flavor!

This is my vesca on the first of May in 2012. The size hasn't changed much since then!

The worst "invasives" I have are cottonwood suckers all over my back yard from the neighbors, and aspen suckers all over my front yard--from a neighbor! Since I discovered Weed-B-Gon I've been able to keep my blood pressure a little more in check!!!

Also, about 3 years ago the house behind me was abandoned and by the time I figured out what the h was going on the weeds in the backyard were up to 5' tall in places! Some thistle, but mostly a "lovely collection" of all different kinds of milkweed. The neighbors had always had a mess in their yard that they usually chopped down--somehow--a couple times a year, so I didn't think much of it at first. Then, by the time I realized there was nobody there to even try to chop the mess down, it was TOO LATE! Call it the Attack of the Milkweed Umbrellas/Parachutes! The air was thick with them, and I've been fighting them ever since. I did eventually call the county and they sent someone to cut it down, but this is what it looked like before that happened!

And while I might be having better luck controlling my blood pressure when it comes to the cottonwood suckers, no such luck when it come to the ROOTS! Here are a few pics where I documented my "efforts" to plant one small plant--gallon or smaller! Except for the last two, these are all different "projects!" This does sometimes take the "fun" out of gardening, when I go out to plant something that should take maybe 15 minutes and it winds up taking 2 hours--or more! One spot (4th pic down) I decided to try to clear them out of the whole area so I wouldn't repeat the problem the next time I tried to plant a small plant there--about 1 1/2' x 2'--and it took me a week!

I'm gonna post the first one large so you can see the text I put on it! (It's bigger yet if you click on it to see it in WebAlbums!)

TRYING to dig a hole to plant a SMALL plant! - 08.28.09

Trying to plant a few daffodils! - 11.21.10

Another one of those "simple" planting projects! - 06.23.11

No Comment! - 03.17.12

Huge root that had grown all the way across my yard and into the foundation! - 05.01.12
With this one I drilled holes in it, poured RU concentrate into the holes, and left it exposed like this over the winter of '11/'12. This was the following spring when I was about to "go back to work on it!" The smaller cut off pieces of root were also cut out of this hole!

These were cut out of my Escape Proof Garden between my shed and the fence! It's 18" wide! Great fun to be trying to saw these things off! - 04.24.09

This is what those chunks were cut off of! Fence on left, shed just barely off right side of pic!

I've been wanting to rant about those roots for a LONG time now, but didn't have a way to post the pics from when my hard drive crashed in '11 until a couple months ago when I finally got everything reinstalled, retransferred from the olde PC, and uploaded from recent cards! Somewhere around here I warned you all that I was gonna be posting pics again! I'm ba-a-ack!

Thanks for giving me a thread where I could rant about the ROOTS, Digit!


    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 8:28PM
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Whoa, Skybird!

It looks like those trees have just closed in on you! Are they still anywhere near as much a problem???

The alpine strawberries may have dropped a lot of seed over the last decade. The leaves were always tiny; the plants were tiny and remain so. What you have doesn't look like them but I've been mowing over them for a decade. Still, it is hard to believe that they ever would have developed like those plants (nice looking by the way).


    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 9:18PM
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You never want to let comfrey get a start as you will never get all the roots up and like mint Roundup doesn't kill it. I constantly battle catchfly which is considered a wildflower by some and chickweed. I have beaten back purslane but then it shows up somewhere else.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 11:25PM
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david52 Zone 6

In my vegetable garden, I manage - without much effort at all, mind you - an impressive crop of wild purslane in the walkways. Wheelbarrows of the stuff.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 11:39PM
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I know that purslane is edible both raw and cooked. But I am not that desperate so far. I had a friend who used to can it for winter use. She was so allergic to additives that she only ate what she would grow.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 11:06PM
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mayberrygardener(z5a, Broomfield, CO)

Purslane is actually quite tasty--a bright, almost lemony-flavor that is a wonderful addition to salads. Last year, I actually intentionally seeded some in a pot (Nuts much? Why, yes, I am!) and the hardy little sucker just produced and produced all summer long, regardless of how much I harvested. I don't think that pot made the move...

Speaking of move (did I mention that we moved to get away from the bindweed? Not really, but kinda. THAT'S another thread altogether), there is *something* in my garden beds that has literally taken over. Hubby finally just threw down some cardboard on top of it last weekend (we'll need to add lasagna layers, but had to nip the "taking off" thing in the bud as we're warming up around here now. I don't know WHAT it is, has a structure similar to mint? I'll snap a picture and slap it up on here soon, and if anyone wants some, we'll have LOTS at the swap! *wink*

I'll have to post a pic of our monster cottonwood... those things should be outlawed in residential areas, Skybird! We still have th3e HUGE stump that they never had removed, and that sucker (pun TOTALLY intended) coming off the side that they never "tamed" has grown to a 20 foot tall tree. The larger trunk roots have lifted the edge of the deck, which is minor compared to some of the damage they can do!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 11:32PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Mayberry, it is illegal in Colorado now to sell the cottonwoods that produce "cotton!" That's not much comfort, however, as it pertains to ROOTS! They don't need to produce cotton to have invasive, destructive ROOTS!

The roots from the one in the "no comment" pic above is just inches on the other side of the fence and it's bowed the fence in, and, when I first moved in here I noticed it was pushing the two-high railroad ties that border my back perennial bed in, inch by inch! After I got rid of all the rock mulch and landscape fabric, before I filled the soil in a little higher, I but a "steel band" around the juniper tree on my side of the fence and "firmly" screwed it into the top railroad tie, hoping to keep it from being pushed in any further. The fence keeps getting pushed in further and further, but I've been cutting off roots ever since I got in here, and that along with the steel banding seems to be keeping the railroad ties pretty much where they were when I did it. BUT! The shed that's on that end of the yard is set on concrete blocks, and the roots are most definitely "rearranging" the concrete blocks, and they totally started "raising" the concrete stepping stones that make up the "entry" to the door of the shed! I lifted the stepping stones last year and cut out as many as I could easily get to! Needless to say, I agree with you that ALL cottonwoods should be illegal--at least in residential areas! (ASPENS too!!! Have that mess in my FRONT yard!)

The place I lived before I moved here (rented) had a huge cottonwood in the backyard, and for many years I mowed the suckers down along with the grass. Then two of the MAJOR limbs "fell off!" One of them would have hit the house, but it "hung up" in some lower branches. After that I finally convinced the owner to take it down--BUT--cutting it down just freaked it out so much that the entire backyard for the next year turned into a humongous FOREST of cottonwood suckers! The freakin' thing was trying to perpetuate itself! I mowed and mowed and mowed--and then I moved! When you cut your sucker down, expect to see a "rebound" in the number of suckers you get! But know that Weed-B-Gon really does work in getting rid of them, in grass or anywhere else! And if you do have thistles (from the Who's Here thread), Weed-B-Gon, in my experience, works WAY better than Roundup in getting rid of those too! It takes a few applications when they're actively growing, but it WILL work! I had used RU for a few years, with no luck at all, before a neighbor recommended the W-B-G! I wasn't expecting much--and I was, pleasantly, surprised!

Digit, didn't have any pics of the trees--I try to keep them OUT of pics--so I went out and took a couple! The first is of The Four! Two adjoin my property, and two adjoin the neighbors! They've, all four, been dying ever since I moved in here--almost 10 years now! For the first several years I was filling up my dumpster almost weekly with the branches that were blowing down into my yard--then I started throwing them back over the fence---back to the people who "own" them!!! The second one in the pic will have been all the way dead four years now this summer! The bark is starting to strip off the main trunk this year! Much of it has already fallen off of the smaller branches--into MY yard! The first one is still a little bit alive on the north (neighbors) side, but this summer will be the first summer that the south side (MY side) has been "all the way" dead! Some of the branches from that one overhang my house--and are going to land on my bedroom WHEN they fall! The house was abandoned for two years, and I tried my darndest to get the county to cut them down while it was empty but they didn't seem to get around to it. This past spring somebody bought it, and now they think I'm the Nasty Neighbor because I don't like the (DEAD) trees! Of course, the fact that the trees are "mostly" dead has not slowed the ROOTS down at all! The shed in the first pic is the one that's having it's location "rearranged" compliments of The Roots! Hitchcock did a movie on The Birds! Why not a movie on The ROOTS!!!

The second pic is the (one) cottonwood in the yard of the other neighbors that adjoin my lot! At least that one is further back from the fence and most of the limbs/branches fall into their yard, but I still get my (un)fair share! And then there's the roots! NOBODY else waters, and since I'm the only one who gardens, ALL the roots grow into MY yard--as is obvious from the pics I posted earlier. Which creates another problem! Since I'm on the south side all the roots are growing toward the south--and most of the wind comes out of the north! When they fall down they are most definitely going to fall to the south--onto MY HOUSE and into MY YARD! Gotta LOVE cottonwood trees!!!!!

Good luck with your cottonwoods, Mayberry!


    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 1:46AM
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david52 Zone 6

Well, I happen to have a clump of half a dozen 3-4 foot diameter cottonwoods on the property, and they produce the cottony seeds. They're down by the pond, so the root issue isn't nearly as bad, however, when early July rolls around and the cotton starts to fly, its impressive. The entire 3 acres is white with the stuff, and best of all, all the mosquito screens in the house are suddenly opaque. What with the neighbors' trees, this goes on for most of the month.

I can't remember the name of the park in Denver, but there were some cotton woods on one end of it, and they measured a root from one of the trees 400 feet away.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 10:40AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Long ago and far away (when I first moved to Denver) I used to think it was kind of "romantic" when it would start "snowing" in summer! Then one fine year my husband-at-the-time and I went out for a bike ride along one of Denver's--now urban--irrigation canals! Needless to say, since there was a ready source of water, most of the bike path was lined with cottonwoods--olde cottonwoods, and it was Cottoning Time! I've never seen the stuff SO thick! Our eyes were full of cotton! Our mouths were full of cotton! Our noses were full of cotton! O! M! G! Our bike ride was cut short and I don't remember ever riding bikes again when it was cottoning out!

With your huge Estate out there, David, at least the cottonwood roots don't destroy your buildings and such. I still think cottonwoods are nice, out in the hills where they "belong!" I totally sympathize with you on the "opaque" screens! And it's not easy to clean all of that stuff off. And pretty sure your eyes, nose, and mouth are full of it when it's "coming down" too!

When I was still at Paulino's, one spring after having had a particularly bad "cotton season" the previous summer, we had cottonwood seedlings coming up in the pots of all the perennials we were "planning" to sell. One of the guys who worked in the nursery came to me one day and said he had bought some land out in the boonies somewhere with water on it, and he wanted some of the seedlings to plant on his property. The seedlings were 6-12" high by then and one day I walked up and down the flats growing field (mostly 3 1/2" pots) and pulled out 3 or 4 dozen cottonwood trees that were growing in pots where the original perennial had died. It was absolutely amazing how many there were! I was glad to get rid of them--and he was glad to have them! Presumably he planted them on his property where they are now happily cottoning their little hearts out! Don't you wind up with seedlings coming up all over the place, David?

I don't know which park you're talking about, but my guess would be City Park, the biggest. I sometimes wonder how far the roots from the trees behind me go! I just went out and measured from that root that's growing into my foundation, and the closest tree to where that picture was taken is about 35 feet! That's assuming that particular root is from "the closest" tree. It could be from a tree up to about 100 feet away. And that particular root was almost 3" in diameter. I couldn't see any foundation damage right there, but it does make me wonder about the rest of the foundation! No way to know unless "something" goes wrong!


    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 12:59PM
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I have 3 brothers that live in the house next to me. The owner plants a garden every year. Sometimes in the back yard, sometimes in the front. (Yep random plants stuck in the middle of the front yard, no beds, no pots) He usually has some success. He always has success with his weed crop. A nice mix that he usually only mows down a couple times per summer. I am planting bushes all along the chainlink fence to try to block the view and the weed seed. He also has a wandering crop of beer cans and pizza boxes that try to invade my yard or at least line the fence on windy days!


    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 10:22AM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

I am in total agreeance about those dogone cottonwoods! We have cottonwood suckers everywhere in the lawn! And when its not cotton season, its those sticky little pods dropping everywhere, then its leaf season, and then, come winter; branch season. No matter the time of year those things are a MESS! The aspens sucker out in the yard just as bad, too.

When I was living in Centennial, in the house my grandparents used to own, we had a silver maple my dad had planted back in the early 80's. The roots on that thing were, IMO, even worse then a cottonwood! At least the cottonwood roots seemed to make an effort to be underground.

But my worst, most hated enemy is the gosh darn, no good, ever lovin' snow on the mountain (Aegopodium). If it weren't for the invention of a lawn mower, that stuff would have replaced the lawn years ago. Now its making its way into the garden beds!!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:51AM
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Ummm - last year I impulse-bought an Oenothera Siskiyou on a visit to City Floral. Ohh, look - lots of nice pink flowers in Spring, spreads quickly, what's not to like for a newbie? Took it home, stuck it in a part shade bed with intentions of transplanting it to a full sun bed this year. It spread about 2', toward the northwest.

Then I joined GW, and find this bloody thing features prominently on many "invasives" threads. Most are from warmer zones, but there's a few Zone 5's warning about it. Is it that bad here? I'm leaning toward yanking it before it gets growing, erring on side of caution.

I've also found Anemone Robustissima mentioned several times - and I've already got one of those on order. I'll probably stick it in a container.

Really have to learn - small gardening space means "vigorous" and "fast grower" are not good ideas.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 3:40PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Jitsmith, as pertains to the Oenothera, check out the thread linked below--and I don't think you'll have any trouble at all deciding what to do with the stuff! Oh, yeah, the flowers are pretty---but too much of a good thing isn't pretty at all!

I wasn't familiar with that particular Anemone, so I checked it out. I think your plan to stick it in a pot is a really excellent idea! :-)

Zach, I hadn't even thought about snow-on-the-mountain, but that stuff is nasty, nasty, nasty! It's been a while since it's come up, but we've had folks around here in the past who were desperately seeking ways to get rid of it. If you have it in the grass I recommend Weed-B-Gon to at least knock it down some. Would probably take a long time to get rid of it all the way, but mowing it, rather than weakening it, will have the opposite effect. Mowing it will just promote new--and more--growth and it'll come raging back bigger and better than ever.

I don't understand--and didn't when I was selling them either!--why these kinds of things are sold commercially, or at least why they're sold without a SERIOUS warning about what's gonna happen when you plant them in the ground!!! I used to try my best to warn people when I saw them picking out things like these.

Houttuynia, Chameleon Plant, is another one, but you don't hear about that one as often as snow-on-the-mountain or Mexican Evening Primrose. I used to actively try to discourage people from buying Houttuynia! Pretty green/red/yellow/cream AGGRESSIVE leaves! The partly saving grace out here is the dry soil which slows it down some, but with moist/wet soil it takes over the world! Think Kudzu!

There should be a Federally mandated warning on the pots for things like these! WARNING! This plant can be dangerous to the health of your yard--and to your blood pressure and your mental state!!!!!


Here is a link that might be useful: Mexican Evening Primrose!

This post was edited by skybird on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 16:53

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 4:48PM
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jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)

I hear you on the cottonwoods. They are abundant out here.

Toadflax. No, it isn't cute.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:35PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

We've been at this house (my parent's) for almost 20 years. The snow on the mountain has been here since before that and the stuff is unkillable. I had an old black plastic truck bed liner laid over the top of some it all year last year and when I picked it up to move it at the end of last summer doing some yard clean up there it was, growing, very leggy and devoid of color of course, but without any source of light whatsoever!

I will definitely try to weed killer in the grass, but I don't know what to do with it in the garden!

I think (hope?) a lot of people have become much more educated about what they plant, and where (being able to just type it into Google helps with that haha). Like cottonwoods, I don't notice them in newer neighborhoods like I do the old ones.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:40PM
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I planted arugula 3 years ago in my raised garden bed. When the hot weather hit it bolted very quickly and flowered profusely with beautiful little yellow flowers that the bees absolutely loved. I thought those are really nice flowers and attracting the bees was great. Well, I didn't deadhead or pull the plants at the end of the growing season. The seeds scattered everywhere, even very far away from where I originally planted it and I'm still fighting it back this spring. Be sure you don't let arugula go to seed if you plant it.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 12:48PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

Wow! My hubby would love to have that much arugula! My invasive plant/weed is ajuga. I got it in a plant swap. Dumbest thing I ever got. It seeds readily and is spreading like crazy.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 12:56PM
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I am worried now. 2 years ago we planted a cottonless cottonwood tree. At our age, we wanted a tree that would grow fast enough for us to enjoy some shade from. There are a lot of them planted around us so I'll start asking what the homeowners think of them. If they are as bad in my area as they are in Co. I'll replace it with a better behaved tree.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:14AM
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I was lucky enough to be warned about Snow-in-summer before buying any. I love the look of it.

We don't have many cottonwoods where I am, but I have to pull up Aspen suckers constantly. My biggest tree problem was self-inflicted: Rocky Mt. Sumacs. I love them dearly, but they are showing up off my slope where I don't want them. I usually just pull up the suckers and cut them as far back as I can, but of course that just makes them put up more... Is it possible to use an herbicide on suckers without killing the original tree? I have the same problem (a common one I realize) with Crabtree suckers.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 4:14PM
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