From Seedling to Shade Tree: The Complete Guide to Growing American Elms

Table of Contents


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The American Elm, also known as Ulmus americana, is a magnificent tree that has captivated nature enthusiasts for generations. Its impressive height, sweeping branches, and lush foliage make it a popular addition to any landscape. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know to successfully grow and care for an American Elm. From the ideal soil conditions to proper pruning techniques, we’ve got you covered. So let’s dive in and discover how to cultivate this iconic tree in your own backyard.

Benefits of Growing Your Own American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Benefits of growing American Elm at home:

  • Provides shade and beauty to the landscape
  • Supports pollinators and other wildlife
  • Reduces air pollution and improves air quality
  • Helps to reduce energy bills by shading homes in the summer
  • Increases property value
  • Has a long lifespan and can be a legacy for future generations

General Information About American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Plant Family: Ulmaceae (Elm family)
Plant Latin Name: Ulmus americana

Plant Variations Available

The American Elm, also known as Ulmus americana, is a beautiful and iconic tree that is native to North America. This majestic tree can be found throughout the eastern and central regions of the United States, from Florida all the way up to Canada.


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One of the most interesting features of the American Elm is its bark, which is gray and deeply furrowed, creating a unique and textured appearance. The leaves of this tree are also distinctive, with a symmetrical oval shape and serrated edges.

Furthermore, there are several variations within the species of American Elm. Some are unique in their growth patterns, while others have unique leaf shapes or colors. For example, the ‘Princeton’ variety of American Elm is known for its attractive, straight trunk and vase-shaped growth habit. This variety also has dark green leaves, which turn to a beautiful golden-yellow color in the fall.

Another noteworthy American Elm variety is the ‘Valley Forge,’ which is disease-resistant and tolerant to adverse weather conditions. This variety, developed by the U.S. National Arboretum, is a great choice for those who want to enjoy the beauty of the American Elm without having to worry too much about maintenance.

In addition to these two variations, there are many others as well, each with their unique features that make them stand out. Whether you choose the classic American Elm, with its strong and stately presence, or one of its variations, you’re sure to enjoy this beautiful tree for years to come.

Germinating American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Preferred Zones

The American Elm is a beautiful, deciduous tree that has graced the North American landscape for centuries. If you’re looking to grow this iconic tree in your own backyard or property, it’s important to choose the right location.


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First and foremost, the American Elm thrives in full sunlight, which means planting it in an area that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. However, they can tolerate some shade, so if you have a spot that gets partial sunlight, it should still work.

In terms of soil, American Elms are adaptable to a wide range of soil types, but they prefer soil that is moist and well-drained. If you have sandy or clay soils, amend them with organic matter to help improve moisture retention and drainage.

Another important factor to consider when choosing a planting location for your American Elm is the amount of space it will need. These trees can grow quite large, with some reaching heights of over 100 feet, so it’s important to give them plenty of room to grow. Plant your trees at least 50 feet away from buildings, power lines, and other trees to ensure they have enough space to spread their branches.

Finally, while American Elms are generally hardy and resilient trees, they are susceptible to a number of diseases and pests, so regular monitoring and care is important to keep them healthy. Keep an eye out for signs of disease or insect damage, and be sure to prune your trees regularly to promote healthy growth.

By choosing a sunny location with moist, well-drained soil, giving your American Elms plenty of space to grow, and providing regular care and maintenance, you can enjoy these majestic trees for many years to come.

Sowing Instructions

Sowing American Elm (Ulmus americana) seeds is an excellent way to propagate this beautiful tree. Here’s a rundown of the best methods and procedures for sowing American Elm:

1. Selecting Good Quality Seeds
The first step is critical – choosing good quality American Elm seeds. It’s advisable to collect the seeds as soon as they ripen, usually around mid-spring. Keep an eye on the trees in your area and collect the seeds as soon as they fall off the tree. Make sure you pick the ones that are firm, plump, and not shriveled.

2. Preparing the Seeds
The next step is to prepare the seeds for planting. You can do this by cold stratification, which mimics the natural winter conditions that the seeds undergo before germination.

Simply mix the seeds with moist sand or peat moss and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about 60 days. Periodically check on them and dampen the mixture if it has started to dry out.

3. Choosing a Sowing Location
After the stratification period, it’s time to choose the location where you will sow your American Elm seeds. They thrive in well-draining, moist soils and prefer partial shade. If you’re sowing outside, choose a spot that receives only dappled light.

4. Sowing Process
To sow the seeds, dig a shallow trench about 1 inch deep, place the seeds about 2 inches apart, and cover them with soil. Water the area thoroughly but be careful not to wash the seeds away.

5. Care and Maintenance
Once you’ve sowed the American Elm seeds, it’s time to take care of them. Keep the soil moist but not saturated, and make sure they get enough sunlight. Also, keep the area free of weeds, which can compete with the seeds for resources.

6. Transplanting
After the seedlings have germinated and have grown to a considerable size, you can transplant them into a permanent location with proper soil.


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In conclusion, sowing American Elm seeds requires careful selection of good-quality seeds, prepping the soil by cold stratification and choosing the right spot to sow. With proper care and maintenance, your American Elm trees will flourish reminding us of the beauty of nature.

Preparation Advice

If you’re planning on growing American Elm (Ulmus americana) in your garden or yard, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:

First and foremost, it’s important to choose the right location for your American Elm. These trees prefer well-drained soil that is moist but not waterlogged, and they thrive in full sun to partial shade. You’ll want to choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight throughout the day but also has some shade protection during the hottest parts of the day.

Once you’ve chosen your location, it’s time to prepare the soil. American Elm trees do best in loamy soil that is rich in organic matter. If your soil is too sandy or too clay-like, you may need to amend it with compost or other organic matter to improve its texture and nutrient content.

Next, you’ll need to decide whether to start your American Elm from seed or from a young sapling. Starting from seed can take longer and is more challenging, but it can also be more rewarding. If you choose to start from seed, you’ll need to scarify the seeds (rough them up a bit) to help them germinate, and you may also need to stratify them (store them in a cool, damp place) for several weeks to simulate the winter conditions they need to sprout.

If you prefer to start with a sapling, look for one that is at least one or two years old and has a healthy, well-developed root system. You can find young American Elm trees at most nurseries or garden centers.

Finally, you’ll need to care for your American Elm as it grows. These trees require regular watering, especially during their first few years of growth. You should also fertilize your tree with a balanced fertilizer once or twice a year to ensure it has the nutrients it needs to thrive.


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With a bit of patience, attention, and the right equipment, your American Elm can grow into a stunning and majestic tree that will provide beauty, shade, and habitat for wildlife for generations to come. Happy growing!

Germination Tools and Equipment

Germinating an American Elm can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, but to do it successfully, you need the right tools and equipment. Here are the best items to use for germinating healthy American Elm seeds.

1. High-Quality Soil: American Elms prefer a moist, nutrient-rich soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Purchase a high-quality potting mix that contains peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Ensure that the soil is sterilized to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

2. Seed Starter Tray: A seed starter tray is a small container that holds individual planting cells, making it easier to monitor and tend to your seedlings. Choose a tray that is shallow and has drainage holes in the bottom.

3. Seed Heating Mat: American Elm seeds germinate best in warm temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A seed heating mat provides consistent heat to your seed starter tray and can improve germination rates.


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4. Grow Light: American Elm seeds need bright, direct sunlight to thrive. A grow light can provide the necessary light if you don’t have a sunny window or for the first few weeks of growth when the seedlings are too delicate to handle direct sunlight.

5. Watering Can: American Elm seeds require consistent moisture to germinate and grow. Use a watering can to provide a gentle, even stream of water that won’t damage the young seedlings.

6. Pruning Shears: Once your American Elm seedlings have grown large enough, you will need to thin them out by removing weaker or damaged seedlings. Use pruning shears to make precise cuts and reduce the risk of damaging your healthy seedlings.

By using these tools and equipment, you can increase your chances of germinating healthy American Elm seedlings that will grow into strong and robust trees. Happy gardening!

Growing American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Light Requirements

Growing healthy American Elm trees requires adequate lighting to ensure they receive the necessary amount of energy to promote growth and maintain good health. As deciduous trees, American Elms require both sunlight and shade to thrive, making it essential to provide an ideal balance of both.

When considering lighting, it is important to place your American Elm tree in an area that receives at least four to six hours of direct sunlight each day. Exposure to sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis, allowing the tree to convert light into energy that fuels its growth and upkeep.

However, too much sunlight can also be harmful to American Elms, particularly during the summer months. To prevent damage from extreme heat and exposure, ensure your tree is positioned in a well-shaded area with plenty of protection from intense sunlight during peak hours.

Additionally, proper lighting also includes considering the placement of your tree relative to other objects. When planting an American Elm, ensure it has ample space to grow and spread its canopy without interference from buildings, power lines, or other obstacles that may block sunlight.


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In summary, growing healthy American Elm trees requires a balance of direct and indirect sunlight throughout the day, along with a well-shaded environment to protect from damage caused by extreme heat and exposure. By providing optimal lighting conditions, you can support the growth and health of your American Elm tree for years to come.

Temperature Requirements

When it comes to growing American Elm trees, temperature is a key factor in determining whether your efforts will be fruitful. This majestic species thrives in climates with a temperate and humid climate, making it a popular choice for gardeners in the United States.

The ideal temperature range for growing American Elm is between 60°F to 85°F, with a preference for daytime temperatures hovering around 75°F. During the summer months, it’s best to keep an eye on the temperature and adjust watering schedules accordingly to prevent heat stress and dehydration.

It’s important to note that American Elm trees are susceptible to cold damage, especially during winter months. An average temperature below 50°F for extended periods can cause significant harm to the tree, such as leaf drop, bark splitting, and dieback. To mitigate the risk of cold damage, it’s recommended to plant American Elms in well-drained soil and protect them from harsh winter winds using shelter or burlap.

In conclusion, growing American Elm trees requires careful consideration of temperature requirements to ensure optimal health and growth. By maintaining temperatures within the 60°F to 85°F range and protecting them from cold damage, you can enjoy the majestic beauty of this species in your garden for years to come.

My Favorite Tools For Growing American Elm (Ulmus americana)

The American Elm, also known as Ulmus americana, is a gorgeous tree that can thrive for years if properly taken care of. To ensure the health and longevity of your American Elm, there are a few essential tools and equipment that you’ll need.

First and foremost, a pair of pruning shears is a must-have tool for any tree caretaker. Since American Elm trees can grow quite tall, it’s important to invest in a good quality pair that can reach high branches. Pruning helps keep the tree healthy by removing dead or diseased branches and promoting new growth.

A sturdy ladder is another important piece of equipment. It can be dangerous to try and reach high branches without proper support, so ensure your ladder is stable and can handle your weight. You wouldn’t want to injure yourself or harm the tree in the process.


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You will also need a rake and shovel to maintain soil health around the tree. Regularly rake fallen leaves to prevent them from suffocating the soil and disrupting the tree’s root system. Adding fresh, nutrient-rich soil to the base of the tree can also promote growth and stability.

Lastly, to keep pests at bay, invest in some insecticidal soap or oil as a natural and safe method of pest control. Regularly spraying the tree can protect it from pests without damaging the environment or harming other wildlife.

Ultimately, caring for an American Elm requires a bit of work, but with the right tools and equipment, you can ensure the longevity and health of your tree for years to come.

Preferred Soil Type

When it comes to growing healthy American Elm trees (Ulmus americana), soil quality is critical. These majestic specimens require deep, moist, and well-drained soil with a pH range between 6.5 and 7.5. High-quality soil provides the necessary nutrients and minerals for growth and allows for proper root development.

American Elm trees love loamy soil, which is a combination of sand, silt, and clay. This perfect blend offers excellent aeration and drainage, which helps prevent waterlogging and root rot. A deep layer of organic matter, such as compost, is ideal for retaining moisture and supplying additional nutrients.


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It’s also essential to monitor soil acidity levels to prevent unwanted mineral buildup or deficiencies. Testing soil every two to three years helps avoid nutrient deficiencies and ensures optimal soil pH levels.

Ultimately, maintaining healthy soil is tantamount to growing a thriving American Elm. Add organic matter such as compost, plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria, or another soil amendment to enhance the soil’s fertility and productivity. Finally, regular watering and quality mulch around the base of the tree can assist in maintaining healthy soil moisture levels.

Watering Requirements

Growing American Elm trees requires a regular and consistent watering schedule. These trees prefer a well-draining soil that’s kept moist, but not soaked. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other water-related diseases.

During the first two years of growth, American Elm trees require more frequent watering, especially during hot summers or droughts. Aim to water them every 7-10 days, depending on weather conditions. As the trees mature, they become more drought tolerant and require less frequent watering.

To determine when it’s time to water, insert a finger into the soil about 2-3 inches deep. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water. It’s also important to water the trees deeply, so the water reaches the roots. Using a slow-drip irrigation system, soaker hoses or watering bags can help ensure the water penetrates deep into the soil.

It’s also important to note that American Elm trees are susceptible to different diseases, especially during periods of drought stress. To reduce this risk, water the trees in the morning, so the foliage has time to dry off before evening.

Overall, consistent and thoughtful watering practices can help you grow healthy and beautiful American Elm trees. Pay attention to your trees’ water needs, adjust your watering schedule as needed, and you’ll be rewarded with strong, healthy trees that will thrive for years to come.

What You Need To Know About Fertilizing American Elm (Ulmus americana)

If you’re looking to grow a healthy American Elm tree (Ulmus americana), you’ll want to pay close attention to the fertilizing requirements. Like any young tree, the first few years are crucial for proper establishment, so proper fertilization during this time is key.

To start, it’s important to understand that American Elms prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.5 for optimal growth, meaning you may need to adjust your soil acidity levels. A soil test can help you determine the current pH, and any necessary adjustments.

When it comes to actual fertilization, the best approach is to use a slow-release fertilizer that will gradually release nutrients over time, rather than a quick-release fertilizer that can lead to potential burning of the tree.

In general, an American Elm should be fertilized with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer every six to eight weeks during the growing season, which typically runs from early spring until early fall. This will help ensure that the tree receives a steady, consistent supply of nutrients to support healthy growth and development.


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In addition to providing proper fertilization, it’s also important to make sure your American Elm receives adequate water and is shielded from harsh environmental conditions, such as excessive temperatures, wind, and salt spray. With the right care and attention, your American Elm can thrive and bring beauty and value to your landscape for years to come.

My Favorite Fertilizers For American Elm (Ulmus americana)

When it comes to cultivating a healthy American Elm (Ulmus americana), choosing the right fertilizer can make all the difference. Here are some of the best fertilizers you can use to ensure that your American Elm thrives and flourishes:

1. Nitrogen-based fertilizers: Nitrogen is essential for the growth of both foliage and roots. Choosing a fertilizer that has a higher nitrogen percentage will help your American Elm grow more lush, green leaves and develop stronger, more extensive roots.

2. Phosphorus-rich fertilizers: Phosphorus is a vital nutrient that helps promote strong root development, which is critical for the long-term survival and health of your American Elm. Choosing a fertilizer that has a good balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium will ensure that your tree receives the necessary nutrients to grow and thrive.

3. Organic fertilizers: Using organic fertilizers can be an excellent choice for promoting a healthy, sustainable growth cycle for your American Elm. There are many types of organic fertilizers available, such as compost, fish emulsion, and bone meal, which can help provide your tree with the necessary nutrients while also promoting healthy soil development.

4. Slow-release fertilizers: These fertilizers have an innovative time-release formula that helps provide a steady stream of nutrients to your American Elm over an extended period. This steady feeding can help prevent nutrient burn or leaching, ensuring that your tree receives the right amount of nutrients for optimal growth and development.

Overall, choosing the right fertilizer for your American Elm can be a bit of a challenge. Still, once you find the right one for your specific needs, you’ll be able to provide your tree with everything it needs to grow strong, healthy, and beautiful for years to come. Remember, fertilizing your American Elm regularly is essential, but don’t forget to water it and provide it with adequate sunlight for the best results.

Harvesting American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Time To Maturity

The American Elm, or Ulmus americana, is a beautiful tree found primarily in the eastern and central regions of the United States. It’s known for its tall, graceful shape and lovely, dark green foliage. If you’re interested in planting an American Elm, you may be wondering how long it will take for the tree to reach maturity.

The answer, unfortunately, isn’t a simple one. The time it takes for an American Elm to mature can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the climate in which it’s planted, the nutrients in the soil, and how well it’s cared for.

On average, an American Elm will take between 10-20 years to reach maturity, with some trees taking even longer. During this time, the tree will go through several stages of growth, including sprouting, sapling, and juvenile stages.

It typically takes about 3-4 years for an American Elm to reach the sapling stage, during which time it will grow rapidly and begin to develop its signature shape. From there, it can take anywhere from 5-10 years for the tree to reach its mature size, which is typically around 80-100 feet tall with a spread of approximately 60-80 feet.

It’s important to note that while American Elms are relatively hardy and easy to care for, they do require regular maintenance in order to thrive. This includes regular watering, fertilization, and pruning to keep the tree healthy and strong. By providing your American Elm with the right care, you can help ensure that it reaches maturity as quickly and healthily as possible.

Harvest Instructions

Harvesting American Elm (Ulmus americana)

American Elm is a majestic tree species that is native to North America. It is highly valued for its beautiful wood, which is prized for its durability, workability, and attractive grain pattern. If you are interested in harvesting American Elm, there are a few things you should know.

1. Identify the tree

The first step in harvesting American Elm is to identify the tree. American Elm is a tall, broad-leaved deciduous tree that can grow up to 120 feet tall. It has a straight trunk with a narrow crown of branches that spread out in a vase-like shape.

2. Choose the right time

The best time to harvest American Elm is in the winter when the tree is dormant. This is the time when the sap is not flowing and the moisture content of the wood is at its lowest. This makes it easier to work with and less prone to splitting.

3. Gather the tools


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Before you start harvesting American Elm, you will need the right tools. These include a chainsaw, a handsaw, a wedging device, a sledgehammer, and a chisel.

4. Cut the tree

Once you have identified the American Elm tree and chosen the right time, it’s time to cut it down. Start by making a horizontal cut at the base of the trunk, about 1/3 of the way through the tree. Then make a vertical cut on the opposite side of the tree, just above the horizontal cut. This will cause the tree to fall in the direction of the vertical cut.

5. Remove the branches

Once the tree is down, remove the branches using a chainsaw or a handsaw. Cut the branches into manageable lengths and remove them from the site.

6. Cut the trunk into logs

After the branches are removed, cut the trunk into logs of the desired length. Use a chainsaw or handsaw to make the cuts.

7. Split the logs

American Elm is a difficult wood to split, so it’s best to use a wedging device, sledgehammer, and chisel to split the logs. Start by making a shallow cut on one end of the log, then insert the wedging device into the cut and strike it with a sledgehammer. Work your way down the length of the log, splitting it into smaller pieces.

8. Dry the wood

Once the logs are split, stack them in a dry, well-ventilated

My Favorite Tools For Harvest Time

When it comes to harvesting American Elm (Ulmus americana), you’ll need a few tools and equipment to help gather the nuts and leaves with ease. Here are the best tools and equipment that you should have in your arsenal:

1. A reliable set of pruning shears: A sturdy set of pruning shears can cut through thick branches and stems with ease. This makes them essential for trimming tree branches that get in your way while harvesting.

2. A sturdy pair of gloves: Since the leaves of the American Elm can be rough and irritating, a sturdy pair of gloves will protect your hands from cuts and blisters while you’re collecting them.

3. A long-handled rake: When it comes to gathering the leaves of the American Elm, a long-handled rake will help you collect them more efficiently. The long handle ensures that you don’t have to bend down too often, which can be tiring.

4. A nut-gathering basket: American Elm nuts are small in size, making the collection process rather tedious if you’re using your hands. A nut-gathering basket, however, is specifically designed to gather nuts more quickly and efficiently.

5. A ladder: American Elm trees can grow quite tall, which can make harvesting the leaves and nuts from the upper branches somewhat tricky. Having a ladder on hand will help you reach those hard-to-get-to areas more easily.

By having these tools and equipment at your disposal, you’ll be able to harvest American Elm with ease and efficiency. Happy harvesting!

End of Season & Overwintering

As the crisp autumn air begins to set in, it’s time to start thinking about end of season care for your American Elm (Ulmus americana). This majestic tree is a popular choice for landscaping due to its impressive stature, beautiful foliage, and tolerance to a variety of soils and climates.

One of the most important things you can do for your American Elm as the growing season comes to a close is to ensure it is adequately hydrated. This could mean providing a deep watering before the first frost, or even using a soaker hose to slowly soak the soil. By doing so, you’ll help prevent the tree from becoming dehydrated during the dry winter months.

Another step to consider is removing any dead or diseased branches. This not only helps protect the tree from further damage, but it also promotes healthy growth in the spring. While you’re at it, go ahead and prune any unwanted growth and shape the tree as desired.

If you live in a particularly harsh winter climate, it may be necessary to protect your American Elm from the elements. Consider wrapping the trunk with burlap to prevent damage from extreme temperature fluctuations, or even adding a layer of mulch around the base to protect the roots.

Finally, be sure to keep an eye out for any pests or diseases that could be lurking around your American Elm. Common issues include Dutch elm disease, which can be fatal to the tree if left untreated, and elm leaf beetle, which can defoliate the tree and weaken it over time.

In summary, end of season care for your American Elm is essential to its health and vitality. Adequate hydration, careful pruning, protection from the elements, and vigilance against pests and diseases can all help ensure your tree thrives for years to come.

Final Thoughts on American Elm (Ulmus americana)

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a tree that can thrive in a variety of conditions, the American Elm (Ulmus americana) is a fantastic choice. With proper germination and care, you can enjoy the beauty of this majestic tree for years to come. From the initial germination process, to caring for the sapling, and finally to harvesting full-grown trees, there is a certain satisfaction that comes with nurturing a living organism to maturity. And with the American Elm, you can rest assured that your efforts will be rewarded with a tree that not only looks stunning, but also provides numerous ecological benefits to your garden or landscape. So, whether you’re a beginner hobbyist or a seasoned gardener, give the Ulmus americana a shot and let the magic of nature unfold in front of your very eyes!

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Q: What is the ideal soil type for American Elm?
A: American Elm thrives in deep, moist, well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter. Sandy loam to loamy soils are the best choices for this tree. It is important to note that American Elm is sensitive to soil pH, so it is best to ensure the soil is within the 6.0 to 7.5 range.

Q: How much sunlight does American Elm require?
A: American Elm requires full sun to partial shade. It flourishes well in open areas that receive full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours a day. In areas where extreme heat is prevalent, it is best to provide partial shade, especially during the hottest parts of the day.

Q: How frequently should American Elm be watered?
A: American Elm requires consistent watering when it is young to ensure successful establishment. Water the tree at least once a week during the growing season, and water more frequently in hot and dry conditions to prevent moisture stress. Once established, American Elm can tolerate moderate drought conditions but still requires water during extended periods without rain.

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