These pages are the result of information the author picked up over 42 years at American Rhododendron Society meetings & conventions, in courses at Longwood Gardens and Oregon State University, and in the numerous books which are available in the ARS Rhododendron and Azalea Bookstore. Since it was created in 1996, the goal of this site is to share this information with those who share a love for the genus Rhododendron. For Rhododendron and Azalea Book purchases, visit the ARSStore.org Bookstore. For compatibility information or to contact the webmaster click HERE. Now, available in 13 languages. rhodyn
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Genus Rhododendron

    

rhodynrhodynRhododendrons are shrubs of the genus Rhododendron, which is in the heath family (family Ericaceae) which includes heathers, Kalmia (mountain laurels), blueberries and cranberries. Since almost all of these plants require acidic soil, they are often referred to as the family of acid-loving plants. Rhododendrons are found in the wild, chiefly in mountainous areas of the arctic and north temperate zones. They typically have large, shiny, leathery evergreen leaves and clusters of large pink, white, or purplish flowers. North American species include the great laurel, or rose bay (R. maximum), West Virginia's state flower; and the Western rhododendron (R. macrophyllum), Washington's state flower. Azaleas are in the same genus. Most cultivated rhododendrons are hybrids that are propagated from cuttings or tissue culture. Rhododendrons are referred to as the King of Shrubs since they are regarded by many as the best flowering evergreen plants for the temperate landscape.

Rhododendrons are shrubs for all seasons. In winter some stand out with large evergreen leaves. In spring the flowers are showy; throughout the summer and fall the leaves add a pleasing, deep green color to the garden. Some deciduous azaleas add bright fall color before the leaves drop. The spectacular spring flowers of azaleas and rhododendrons make them among the most popular garden shrubs.

Rhododendrons are divided into 6 groups:

R austrinum
 
R calendulaceum
 
R camtschaticum
 
R canadense
  R canadense
       
Rcv Glory Of Littlewort
 
R stamineum
 
R lapponicum
 
R. camtschaticum
     

Also see details and pictures of the 27 species of Rhododendrons and Azaleas that are native to North America.


History of the Genus Rhododendron

Rhododendrons belong to the family Ericaceae. There are very few rhododendron fossils. The ericaceous plants (recognizable by their fossilized pollen grains that are arranged in groups of four) appeared first in the Maastrichtian Stage about 68 million years ago. The Maastrichtian is the last stage of the Cretaceous Period and immediately precedes the extinction of dinosaurs. The earliest rhododendron fossils are leaf imprints in rocks of early Tertiary age (about 50 million years old) from Alaska. Other fossils are known from the Tertiary and Pleistocene deposits of North America. These records indicate that rhododendrons have been in existence for at least 50 million years. They could have been in existence before that time, but not before 68 million years ago when the Ericaceae first appeared. This is of interest because it indicates that rhododendrons probably did not originate in the region of mountainous regions of SE Asia or in the high-island archipelago stretching between mainland Asia and Australia - the islands of Java, Sumatra, Borneo, New Guinea, and the Philippines (where they are now most abundant and most diverse) because these regions did not exist 50 million years ago.

E. Irving and R. Hebda of Victoria, Canada, have studied fossils and the genetics of rhododendrons and inferred the possible way they became distributed the way they are today. The essence of their thesis is that, following a period of mild climate when rhododendrons were widely and more-or-less continuously distributed across North America and Eurasia, their range became much reduced as a result of global climatic deterioration. This deterioration began about 25 million years ago, was clearly marked by about 15 million years ago, and became extreme with the onset of the current glacial period about 3 million years ago. Small populations of the subgenera Hymenanthes and Rhododendron (but not azaleas) situated on the edges of their main range were able to enter and retain a foothold in the newly developing region of extreme relief on the southeastern fringe of the Tibet-Himalayan region. There they proliferated, and it was from there that the vireyas spread into the mountains of the high-island archipelago stretching between mainland Asia and Australia. By taking advantage of special newly developing conditions, these small, originally populations have become now the most numerous and diverse. The place of origin of rhododendrons is not known, but it was not the region of extreme relief on the southeastern fringe of the Tibet-Himalayan region where they are nowadays most diverse and abundant.

The azaleas are not in the mountains of SE Asia although they live close by in terrain of about one-half or one-third the altitude. Presumably, because of their genetic make-up and historical circumstances, they were unable to take advantage of the dynamic environment of that region. In this respect, the paleogeographical evolution of azaleas appears therefore to have been very different from that of other rhododendrons.

Also see:

History of Discovery and Cultivation of Rhododendrons and Azaleas

History of the First 50 Years of Hybridization of Rhododendrons and Azaleas


rhodynAzaleas, Where They Fit In

Azaleas are shrubs of the genus Rhododendron and members of the heath family. There are 8 divisions of the genus Rhododendron. Azaleas comprise two of those divisions. Technically classified as rhododendrons, azaleas are generally more floriferous but have less impressive foliage. Typically non-azalea rhododendrons are evergreen and have flowers that are in trusses (a truss is a flower-like structure composed of many flowers). Typically an azalea is either evergreen with flowers singly rather than in a truss or are deciduous and may have flowers singly or in a ball-shaped truss.

When Linnaeus created the botanical grouping called genus Rhododendron in 1753, he created a separate genus for Azaleas containing 6 species. In 1796 Salisbury pointed out that Azaleas and Rhododendron could not be maintained as distinct genera. In 1834, George Don subdivided the genus Rhododendron into 8 sections. Azaleas comprise two of these sections, Subgenus Pentanthera typified by deciduous Rhododendron nudiflorum and Subgenus Tsutsusi typified by evergreen Rhododendron tsutsusi.

If flowers grow from terminal buds, new leaves and shoots grow from lateral buds and leaves are deciduous, then the rhododendron is an azalea in the Pentanthera subgenus.

If flowers and leaves grow from the same terminal buds, and the flowers have 5 to 10 stamens, then the rhododendron is an azalea in the Tsutsusi subgenus.

In 2004, the 8 former subgenera were rearranged into 5 subgenera by Goetsch, et. al. Today, Azaleas are grouped into the Pentanthera Subgenus and Azaleastrum Subgenus.

Most grow in damp acid soils of hills and mountains, and are native to North America and Asia. Native American azaleas include the flame azalea (R. calendulaceum) and the fragrant white azalea (R. viscosum), also called swamp honeysuckle. Many of the brilliantly flowered garden varieties are from China and Japan. Some have deciduous leaves and are usually very hardy, while other are evergreen and frequently less hardy. The deciduous varieties are usually hard to propagate, but much progress had been made in this area. Evergreen varieties are usually easy to propagate. Many hybrid and species azaleas are in the commercial trade. They typically bloom early in the season and are popular for the color they add to the landscape.

One term that is used in describing many azaleas is hose-in-hose. This term is meant to describe what looks like a flower inside a flower. This actually is a flower with a large calyx. The sepals of the calyx are shaped like the petals of the corolla. It appears as two similar corollas, one inside the other and rotated so that all the petals are visible.

Another term that is more common with azaleas is double. A double flower looks like the interior is filled with petals. This is because the stamens grow into petal-like structures. The pistol may also be transformed into a petal-like structure or may be absent.

Another term is semi-double. In this case the stamens are partially transformed into petal-like structures. Occasionally extra petals are present and all stamens are present also.

Another version is hose-in-hose double. A perfect example of this is Gable's Rosebud azalea. The name is descriptive of the flowers appearance.

Also see details and photos of the 16 species of Azaleas that are native to North America.


Rhododendron and Azalea Links

If you have a link to this site and I do not have a link to your site, please email so I can link to you.

I want to extend a big Thank You to the following sites for their links to this site and I recommend others visit the sites of these enthusiastic Rhododendron and Azalea gardeners:

The following links also have valuable information for Rhododendron and Azalea gardeners.


Also a big Thank You to the following sites which gave nice reviews of this site and they may be helpful in finding links to other sites:

  • abc directory.com - "Expert home gardener offers extensive informatin on rhododendron species; history, botanical details, cultural conditions, care for common problems, and suggestions for companion plants."
  • About Landscaping - "an excellent information source on these plants, suggests a few shade trees compatible with azaleas and rhododendrons, among them being the red oak (Quercus rubra)."
  • Absolute Astronomy - "Extensive information on rhododendron species; the history of their discovery, botanical details, toxicity, classification, cultural conditions, care for common problems, and suggestions for companion plants by Steve Henning."
  • All Gardening Sites - "The author has put a lot of work into the creation of a well-rounded document discussing various species, cultural requirements, companion plants, troubleshooting, and of course, links to other resources."
  • Alternapedia - "Extensive information on rhododendron species; the history of their discovery, botanical details, toxicity, classification, cultural conditions, care for common problems, and suggestions for companion plants by Steve Henning."
  • American Rhododendron Society - "... mastered the development of internet websites and used them effectively to inform and instruct the public about rhododendrons. Henning's rhododendron and azalea pages was one of the earliest sources of on-line information."
  • American Rhododendron Society - District One - "All about Rhododendrons and Azaleas"
  • answers.com - "Extensive information on rhododendron species: the history of their discovery, botanical details, toxicity, classifications, cultural conditions, care for common problems, and suggestions for companion plants by Steve Henning."
  • Archaeolink.com - "You will find description of various types of rhododendron and learn how to grow them, plus much more.  A lot of click-to-read articles and other resources. - illustrated."
  • ARS, District 1 (BC, Canada) - "All about Rhododendrons and Azaleas."
  • Australian Rhododendron Society - "Also Rhodo Bookshop - proceeds benefit the American Rhododendron Society Research Fund and the Rhododendron Species Foundation."
  • Azalea Chapter, ARS - "Henning's Rhododendron & Azaleas Pages is a general treatise on a wide-ranging variety of topics, with one of the most-detailed sections on problems that may arise with rhododendrons."
  • Azalea Factbites - "a general treatise on a wide-ranging variety of topics, with one of the most-detailed sections on problems that may arise with rhododendrons."
  • Azalea Society of America - "Excellent comprehensive information about rhododendrons, azaleas and companion plants; good source of gardening books; many azalea links."
  • Azalea Splendor - Stephen Henning's Rhododendron and Azalea Site
  • B & T Seeds - "An astonishing resource, probably the best place to start looking for Rhododendron and Azalea information."
  • CFGPhoto (Geoff Bryant) - "Comprehensive rhododendron information."
  • Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries - "Henning's Rhododendron and Azalea Pages is an impressive source of information on the subject, made even more valuable by its collection of links."
  • Cowichan Valley Chapter ARS [BC]- "Steve Henning has his own Website at http://rhodyman.net/rasite.html and I recommend that everyone visit the site—it´s just packed full of information. "
  • CritterGetter - "Tons and tons of Rhododendron & Azalea information from a true Pro. "
  • Danish Chapter of the ARS - "Lots of good info by S. Henning."
  • Finnish Rhododendron Society - "hyvät sivut alppiruusuista ja atsaleoista"
  • Flowering Shrub Farm - "Henning's rhododendron and azalea pages feature descriptions, cultural, and trouble shooting pages as well as companion plants."
  • Gardening Launch Pad -"Lots of good info, by S. Henning."
  • Geometry - Rhododendron Gardening - "These pages are the result of information picked up over 35 years at American Rhododendron Society meetings, and in the numerous books available in the Rhododendron and Azalea Bookstore . The goal of this site is to share this information with those who share a love for the genus Rhododendron . All proceeds from the Rhododendron and Azalea Bookstore are contributed to the ARS Research Fund and the Rhododendron Species Foundation. ... "
  • Glendoick Gardens - "All the links to all the rhododendron sites. Also good list of rhododendron and azalea books in and out of print."
  • Gopher, Mole and Vole Control - "The Rhododendron & Azalea Pages are the result of information obtained from attending over 35 years of American Rhododendron Society meetings, and in the numerous books which I have made available in the Rhododendron and Azalea Bookstore. The goal of this site is to share this information with those who share a love for the genus Rhododendron."
  • Hirsutum - "For more information about propagation, cuttings, crafting, layering and seeding see cultivation (Steve Henning's page) of rhododendrons."
  • Home&Garden Sites - "Henning's Rhododendron & Azalea pages offer extensive information on rhododendron species & hybrids: history, botanical details, cultural conditions, care for common problems, suggestions for companion plants and lists many books and links with more information."
  • Hort.net - "Ever have questions about Rhododendrons? If so, a visit to this site might be well worth the effort. The author has put a lot of work into the creation of a well-rounded document discussing various species, cultural requirements, companion plants, troubleshooting, and of course, links to other resources."rhodynrhodynrhodynrhodyn
  • HubPages - "Henning's rhododendron and azalea page: how to grow them and trouble shooting problems."
  • I Can Garden - "These pages are the result of information picked up over 35 years at American Rhododendron Society meetings, and in the numerous books made available in the Rhododendron and Azalea Bookstore. "
  • IdeasForGardens: Gardeners with websites - "Steve Henning. The goal of this site is to share this information with those who share a love for the genus Rhododendron. "
  • iheartgardening.com - "For an exhaustive guide to growing azaleas and rhododendrons, visit Henning's Rhododendrons and Azalea page. It is VERY informative!"
  • John & Jacq's Garden - "... almost everything you need to know about these spectacular shrubs."
  • K. G. Karlsson - "Fantaster"
  • Kanoodle - "Henning's rhododendron and azalea pages feature descriptions, cultural, and trouble shooting pages as well as companion plants. ... macrophyllum), Washington's state flower. Azaleas are in the same genus ... plants, suggests a few shade trees compatible with azaleas and rhododendrons, among them being the red oak .."
  • Lake Michigan Chapter of the Azalea Society of America - "good overview information about rhododendrons, azaleas and companion plants; source of gardening books"
  • Landscaping - "an excellent information source on these plants, suggests a few shade trees compatible with azaleas and rhododendrons, among them being the red oak (Quercus rubra)."
  • La phytologie et la biologie végétale - "Le Rhododendron vous intéresse. Voici quelques sites où débuter votre recherche" [The Rhododendron interests you. Here some sites where to begin your research]
  • Linklane - "Tons of info on these two flowers"
  • Mary's Plant Farm - "a great site about rhododendrons and azaleas"
  • Mashpedia - "Extensive information on rhododendron species: the history of their discovery, botanical details, toxicity, classification, cultural conditions, care for common problems, and suggestions for companion plants by Steve Henning."
  • Mason-Dixon Chapter of ARS - "Henning's Rhododendron & Azaleas Pages is a general treatise on a wide-ranging variety of topics, with one of the most-detailed sections on problems that may arise with rhododendrons."
  • Medbib - "Extensive information on rhododendron species: the history of their discovery, botanical details, toxicity, classification, cultural conditions, care for common problems, and suggestions for companion plants by Steve Henning."
  • Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society- "All about rhodos and azaleas by the Hennings: great place for general information on these plants for the general or novice gardener."
  • MunchkinNursery - "Rhododendron & Azalea are covered here at Steven Henning's pages. Information on the species and cultivars, good cultivation tips. If you have an interest and are needing background information on this wonderful family of flowering shrubs, here is the best place to begin."
  • Newikipedia - "Extensive information on rhododendron species: the history of their discovery, botanical details, toxicity, classification, cultural conditions, care for common problems, and suggestions for companion plants by Steve Henning."
  • Paghat's Garden - "He has many wonderful rhododendron articles & links at Stephen M. Henning's Rhododendron Pages, & he has the best rhododendron library."
  • Rhododendron Garden in Archipelago Forest - "Stephen Henning on tehnyt erittäin hyvät ja kattavat ohjeet rhodojen kasvatuksesta. Hänen rhodo- ja atsaleasivunsa Rhododendron & Azaleas ovat myös todella käymisen arvoiset. Suosittelen!"
  • RHODODENDRON LINKKEJÄ - "How to grow Rhododendron and Azaleas  / Stephen M. Henning Stephen Henning on tehnyt erittäin hyvät ja kattavat ohjeet rhodojen kasvatuksesta. Hänen rhodo- ja atsaleasivunsa Rhododendron & Azaleas ovat myös todella käymisen arvoiset. Suosittelen!" by K Theqvist.
  • Rhododendron Society of Canada - "Henning's Photos & Advice: Advice - How to Grow Rhodos & Azaleas and Advice - Problems & Solutions"
  • Rhododendron Species Foundation - "Steve Hennings' site with many links and his own Rhododendron and Azalea Bookstore."
  • Richard Francis Plant Pages - "Steve Henning's Rhododendron pages are a generous wealth of reliable information on the genus, a book in themselves, including the best collection of rhododendron links I could imagine."
  • Valley Forge Chapter - ARS - "The leading, non-commercial website devoted to sharing practical information on growing and enjoying rhododendrons. Created and maintained by Valley Forge chapter member Steve Henning."
  • Vancouver Rhododendron Society - "Steve Hennings' site with many links and his own Rhododendron and Azalea Bookstore"
  • Victoria Rhododendron Society - "A VRS Member-Recommended Link."
  • Wauu - "Descriptions, culture, and trouble-shooting, as well as companion plants."
  • Websters Dictionary Online - "Extensive information on rhododendron species: the history of their discovery, botanical details, toxicity, classifications, cultural conditions, care for common problems, and suggestions for companion plants by Steve Henning."
  • West Virginia State Treasurer's Office - "The Henning's Page contains various information on this plant such as different species, problems with the plant, books on the subject, and links to other sites."
  • Wikipedia - "Extensive information on rhododendron species: the history of their discovery, botanical details, toxicity, classification, cultural conditions, care for common problems, and suggestions for companion plants by Steve Henning."
  • Wild Eel Designs - "Information for those who share a love for the genus Rhododendron."
  • Yahoo - "Henning's rhododendron and azalea pages feature descriptions, cultural, and trouble shooting pages as well as companion plants."

References: Books & Websites Used In Preparing This Site

(Most of these books are available at ARSStore.org)

  • All About Azaleas, Camellias & Rhododendrons by Fell, Galle, & Hespenheide (1995)
  • American Azaleas by L. Clarence Towe (2004)
  • American Rhododendron Hybrids by Meldon Kraxberbger, editor (1980)
  • Azalea Book, The, by Frederic Paddock Lee (1980)
  • Azaleas by Christopher Fairweather (1988)
  • Azaleas by Fred C. Galle (1988)
  • Azaleas (Southern Living) by Fred C. Galle (1974)
  • Azaleas, Kinds and Culture by H. Harold Hume (1954)
  • Azaleas, Rhododendrons & Camellias by Sunset Editors (1982)
  • Book of Rhododendrons, The, by Marianna Kneller (1995)
  • Brocade Pillow: Azaleas of Old Japan, A by Iheo Ito (1984)
  • Compendium of Rhododendron and Azalea Diseases by Dr. Coyier & Dr. Roane (1986)
  • Compendium of Rhododendron and Azalea Diseases by Dr. Coyier & Dr. Roane (2014)
  • Cox's Guide to Choosing Rhododendrons by Peter A. Cox, Kenneth N.E. Cox (1995)
  • The Cultivation of Rhododendrons by Peter A. Cox (1994)
  • Dexter Estate, The, by Eveleth C. Cowles (1980)
  • Dwarf Rhododendrons by Peter A. Cox (1985)
  • Encyclopedia of Rhododendron Hybrids by Peter A. Cox, Kenneth N.E. Cox (1988)
  • Encyclopedia of Rhododendron Species by Peter A. Cox, Kenneth N.E. Cox (2001)
  • Getting Started With Rhododendrons and Azaleas by Jay Harold Clarke (1982)
  • Greer's Guidebook to Available Rhododendrons by Harold E. Greer (1995/96) & http://www.greergardens.com/
  • Greer's Rhododendron Basics by Harold E. Greer on Fraser South Rhododendron Society site with photos.
  • Growing Rhododendrons by Richard Francis (1997)
  • Growing Rhododendrons and Azaleas by Geoff Bryant (1996)
  • Guide to Rhododendrons, A Plantsman's, by Kenneth N. E. Cox (1989)
  • Handbook of Rhododendrons by University of Washington (1946)
  • Hardy Rhododendrons by Frederick Street (1955)
  • Hardy Rhododendron Species by James Cullen (2005)
  • Himalayan Enchantment by Frank Kingdon Ward (1990)
  • The Himalayan Garden, Jim Jermyn (2001)
  • Hirsutum.info, an extremely ambitious project by the Dutch Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society to collect photos and information on every rhododendron species and hybrid.
  • History of the Rhododendron Species Foundation: Genesis of a Botanic Garden by Clarence Barrett (1994)
  • How To Identify Rhododendron And Azalea Problems by Art Antonelli (1999)
  • Hybrids and Hybridizers, Rhododendrons and Azaleas by West & Livingston (1978)
  • Illustrated Rhododendron: Their Classification Portrayed Through the Artwork of Curtis's Botanical Magazine by John Curtis (Illustrator), Pat Halliday (2001)
  • Kalmia : Mountain Laurel and Related Species by Richard A. Jaynes (1997)
  • Larger Rhododendron Species by Peter A. Cox (1990)
  • Making the most of Rhododendrons and Azaleas by Christopher Fairweather (1993)
  • Modern Rhododendrons by E. H. M. Cox; Peter A. Cox (1956)
  • Monograph of Azalea, A, by Ernest Henry Wilson and Alfred Rehder (1921)
  • Pacific Coast Rhododendron Story, The, by Sonja Nelson (Compiler) (2001)
  • Phenology of Cultivated Rhododendrons by L. Keith Wade (1979)
  • Production of Florist Azaleas by Larson and Armitage (1993)
  • rarefindnursery.com/
  • Rhododendron Guidebook, The, by H. H. Davidian (2000)
  • Rhododendron Hybrids by Homer E. Salley, Harold E. Greer (1992)
  • Rhododendron Information by J. Harold Clarke (1967)
  • The Rhododendron Leaf - A Study of the Epidermal Appendages by John Macqueen Cowan (1950)
  • Rhododendron Notebook by J. Harold Clarke (1968)`
  • Rhododendron Portraits by D.M. Van Gelderen (1992)
  • Rhododendron Species : Azaleas Vol 4, The, by H. H. Davidian (1995)
  • Rhododendron Species : Vol 3 Elepidotes N-T, The, by H. H. Davidian (1992)
  • Rhododendron Species, Vol 2 Part 1 : Elepidotes, A-L, by H. H. Davidian (1989)
  • Rhododendron Species, Vol 1: Lepidotes by H. H. Davidian (1982)
  • Rhododendron, The, by Beryl Leslie Urquhart & Carlos Riefel (1958)
  • Rhododendrons by Peter Alfred Cox (1985)
  • Rhododendrons by Frank Kingdon-Ward (1950)
  • Rhododendrons by Gerd Krüssmann (1970)
  • Rhododendrons by Frederick Street (1965)
  • Rhododendrons by John Street (1987)
  • Rhododendrons (The New Plant Library) by Lin Hawthorne (1999)
  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas by Judith Mary Berrisford (1973)
  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas by Ann Bonar (1993)
  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas by Clement Gray Bowers (1960)
  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas by Geoff Bryant (2001)
  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas by Mervyn Kessell (2001)
  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas by William Watson (1911)
  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas: A Colour Guide by Kenneth Cox (2005)
  • Rhododendrons for Everyone by Frank Kingdon Ward (1926)
  • Rhododendrons in America by Ted Van Veen (1986)
  • Rhododendrons in the Landscape by Sonja Nelson (2000)
  • Rhododendrons of China by Young (2001)
  • Rhododendrons of the World by David G. Leach (1961)
  • Rhododendrons: A Care Manual by Kenneth N. E. Cox, Laurel Glen (1998)
  • Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges by Frank Kingdon Ward, Kenneth Cox (2001)
  • Rothschild Gardens, The, by Rothschild, Garton, and de Rothschild (2000)
  • Rothschild Rhododendrons : the Gardens at Exbury, by Phillips and Barber (1980)
  • The Smaller Rhododendrons by Peter A. Cox (1985)
  • Success with Rhododendrons and Azaleas by Andrea Kögel (1999)
  • Success with Rhododendrons and Azaleas by H. Edward Reilley (2004)
  • Tales of the Rose Tree by Jane Brown (2004)
  • Top-Rated Azaleas and Rhododendrons by Horticulturalist Associates (1983)
  • Vireyas: A Practical Gardening Guide by John Kenyon & Jacqueline Walker (1997)
  • Winter-Hardy Azaleas and Rhododendrons by Clement Gray Bowers (1954)
  • Woody Ornamental Insect, Mite, and Disease Management by Penn State (1995)

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