Sycamore Secrets: A Comprehensive Guide to Growing Platanus Occidentalis

Table of Contents


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Welcome to the complete guide to growing the majestic American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)! Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a curious beginner, this guide will provide you with all the information and tips you need to successfully cultivate this stunning tree in your backyard or landscape. From planting to pruning, we’ll cover it all so you can enjoy the beauty and benefits of this iconic American species in your own green space.

Benefits of Growing Your Own American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

  • Increase in home’s property value
  • Shade and temperature regulation for outdoor areas
  • Reduction in air pollutants and dust
  • Enhanced aesthetic appeal with unique textured bark and large foliage
  • Provides habitat for various wildlife species
  • Possible economic benefits from lumber production

General Information About American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Plant Family: Platanaceae (sycamore family)
Plant Latin Name: Platanus occidentalis

Plant Variations Available

The American Sycamore, also known as Platanus occidentalis, is a majestic tree that can tower up to 100 feet in height with a trunk diameter of up to 10 feet! These trees can be found throughout the eastern United States and are commonly planted for their beauty, shade, and ability to tolerate urban pollution.


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One of the most unique features of the American Sycamore is its distinctive bark. It flakes off in patches to reveal a smooth, creamy white bark beneath. This bark is often mottled with green or brown patches which, when combined, create a stunning mosaic-like pattern.

The leaves of the American Sycamore are large and heart-shaped, with three to five lobes. They turn a beautiful golden yellow in the fall and create an awe-inspiring display of color. The Sycamore also produces small, round fruiting balls that hang from long stems. These balls are often referred to as “buttonballs” or “monkey balls” and serve as a food source for birds and other wildlife.

Despite its beauty, the American Sycamore can be a challenging tree to grow in landscape settings, as it requires ample water and space to grow. However, if you have the room, this tree is an excellent choice for a large, shade-providing focal point in your yard.

If you’re looking for a hardy, beautiful tree that can live for several hundred years, the American Sycamore may be just what you’re looking for. Its majestic size, unique bark, and stunning fall foliage make it an excellent addition to any landscape. So why not plant one today and watch it grow into a towering testament to nature’s beauty!

Germinating American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Preferred Zones

If you’re looking to cultivate American Sycamore, there are a few key things to consider in terms of outdoor growing. First and foremost, this tree species thrives in moist, fertile soil that is well-drained. It’s also important to note that American Sycamore trees are fairly large and require plenty of space to grow, so make sure you’re planting in an area with adequate room for the tree to spread out.


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In terms of zones, American Sycamores are generally best suited to USDA zones 4 to 9. These zones cover a large swath of the United States, including parts of the Midwest, Northeast, South, and West Coast. However, keep in mind that specific microclimates within these regions can impact how well the trees grow–for example, a particularly dry or arid area may not be the best choice.

Another factor to consider when growing American Sycamores outdoors is the amount of sunlight the trees receive. They can tolerate both full sunlight and partial shade, so planting in an area with filtered or dappled light can work well. Additionally, American Sycamores are somewhat tolerant of pollution and can thrive in urban environments, making them a good choice for city gardeners.

Ultimately, successful outdoor growing of American Sycamore depends on a variety of factors, including soil quality, space, and sunlight. However, if you live in USDA zones 4 to 9 and have a spot with these key conditions, this tree species can be a beautiful addition to your outdoor space.

Sowing Instructions

Sowing an American Sycamore tree can be a fun and rewarding experience, however, it requires some precision to achieve the best results. Here are some top tips on how to properly sow an American Sycamore.

Firstly, it’s essential to begin the sowing process in the fall. This is when the tree’s seeds become mature and ready to be collected. Once the seeds have been gathered, they should be stratified in a refrigerator for several months. This process ensures that the seeds undergo an artificial winter to break their dormancy, which will enhance germination rates later on.

When the stratification period has ended, it’s time to plant the seeds in a locSowation that is moist, well-draining, and well-lit. A good method is to mix the seeds with soil in a plastic bag, moisten them, then store the bag in the refrigerator until the planting time arrives. Otherwise, if planting straight away, wet and drain the soil mix and then plant the seeds evenly about ½ inch deep into the soil.

It’s essential to keep the soil moist but avoid overwatering as this will hinder seed germination. Covering the planted area with hay, straw or compost can help retain the moisture and protects the seedling from harsh weather conditions.

Make sure to monitor the seeds’ progress, watering them regularly and providing them with ample sunlight. The germination of American Sycamore from seed may occur in the spring or fall, and they will begin to sprout almost immediately, usually between 14-30 days.

After about six months of growth, the young seedlings should be moved to individual pots, ensuring the root system is well developed before transplanting into a permanent location, such as a landscape. Also, avoid planting in areas that may experience strong winds or waterlogged soil.

In conclusion, sowing an American Sycamore requires some patience and precision, but following these useful tips, you’ll surely enjoy tremendous success with your tree planting project.

Preparation Advice

If you’re planning on growing an American Sycamore, you’re in for a treat. These majestic trees can reach heights of over 100 feet and have a stunning flaky bark that sheds to reveal creamy white patches.
But growing an American Sycamore requires some preparation and the right equipment. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Choose the right location: American Sycamores prefer moist, well-drained soil and full sun or partial shade. Make sure you have plenty of space for this large tree to spread out and grow.

2. Plant at the right time: The best time to plant an American Sycamore is in the fall or early spring when the soil is moist and the weather is mild. Avoid planting during extreme heat or cold.

3. Prepare the soil: American Sycamores do best in fertile soil that is slightly acidic. As you prepare your planting site, consider adding compost or other organic matter to enrich the soil.


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4. Provide regular water: While American Sycamores prefer moist soil, they also need good drainage. Be sure to water your tree regularly, especially during dry spells.

5. Consider adding support: As your American Sycamore grows, it may need additional support to keep it upright. Consider using stakes or tree ties to help it grow straight and strong.

When it comes to equipment, you’ll need a few essentials to get started:

1. A quality pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands while digging and planting.

2. A sturdy shovel to help you dig a hole large enough for your tree’s root ball.

3. A wheelbarrow or garden cart to transport soil and other materials around your planting site.


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4. Mulch to help retain moisture and control weeds around your tree.

With a bit of preparation and the right equipment, you’ll be well on your way to growing a beautiful American Sycamore. Happy planting!

Germination Tools and Equipment

If you’re looking to grow American Sycamore from seed, there are a few tools and equipment that can help increase your chances of success. Here are some essential items you will need to ensure your germination process goes smoothly.

1. Fresh American Sycamore seeds – First and foremost, you’ll need to acquire some fresh seeds. Harvesting them directly from an existing tree is the best way to guarantee freshness. You’ll want to make sure the seed pods are fully mature and starting to crack open before collecting.

2. Seed potting soil – A quality soil mix with a light, fluffy consistency is ideal to promote good drainage and aeration. American Sycamore seeds need well-drained soil to germinate successfully, so avoid heavy, clay-like mixes.


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3. Seed trays or pots – You’ll want to plant each seed in an individual pot, so using seed trays or small pots with good drainage is crucial. You can either buy pre-made trays or make your own with plastic cups or containers.

4. Watering can or spray bottle – To keep the soil evenly moist as the seeds germinate, you’ll need a watering can or spray bottle. Make sure to keep the soil moist but not drenched to avoid harming the seeds.

5. A warm, well-lit space – American Sycamore seeds need warmth and plenty of light to germinate. A temperature range of 68-80°F is ideal. A sunny windowsill or greenhouse with plenty of natural light is ideal to promote healthy growth.

6. Plant markers – It’s easy to forget which pots have which seeds, so labeling each pot with a marker will help keep track of them. You can buy pre-made plant markers or make your own from popsicle sticks or other materials.

By having these tools and equipment on hand, you’ll be well-equipped to start your American Sycamore seedlings off right. With patience and TLC, you’ll be rewarded with healthy young trees in no time!

Growing American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Light Requirements

When it comes to growing healthy American Sycamore trees, lighting requirements play a crucial role. These majestic trees thrive in full sun to partial shade, so make sure you select a planting location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. It’s also important to note that young sycamore trees require more sunlight than mature ones, so keep this in mind when selecting the placement for your tree.

While American Sycamores can tolerate partial shade, providing them with ample sunlight will help promote optimal growth and development. In addition to ensuring they get enough light, it’s essential to make sure the soil is moist and well-drained. A lack of proper drainage can cause root rot and other problems that can impact the health of your tree.

So if you’re looking to grow a beautiful and healthy American Sycamore, make sure you choose a planting location that offers plenty of sunlight and good drainage. With the right care and attention, you can enjoy the beauty of this iconic tree for years to come!

Temperature Requirements

The American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is a hardy species of tree that can thrive in a wide range of temperatures. However, there are certain temperatures that are better suited for promoting healthy growth.


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The ideal temperature range for an American Sycamore is between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. During the spring and summer months, this temperature range provides the perfect environment for the tree to flourish. As the temperature rises above 80 degrees, the tree may experience stress and struggle to grow.

On the other hand, temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit can also have a negative impact on the growth of the American Sycamore. The tree may become dormant or even experience damage if subjected to harsh winter temperatures.

It’s worth noting that temperature isn’t the only factor that affects the growth of the American Sycamore. Other factors such as soil quality, moisture levels, and sunlight exposure also play a role. However, maintaining a temperature range between 60 and 80 degrees is a good starting point for promoting healthy growth for this species of tree.

My Favorite Tools For Growing American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Caring for and maintaining a healthy American Sycamore can be a rewarding and satisfying task, but it requires the right tools and equipment. Here are some must-have essentials for any gardener or arborist looking to take care of these magnificent trees:

1. Pruning Shears: A sharp pair of pruning shears is essential for cutting away dead or damaged branches on your American Sycamore. This will improve the tree’s overall health and appearance, and prevent any further damage from occurring.

2. Tree Fertilizer: To keep your American Sycamore healthy and strong, it’s important to fertilize it regularly. Tree fertilizers come in many different varieties, but all contain essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that promote healthy growth and development.

3. Soil Probe: A soil probe is an essential tool for any gardener or arborist looking to care for an American Sycamore. This device allows you to test the soil around the tree for moisture, pH levels, and nutrient content, which can help you determine the best course of action for fertilization and watering.


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4. Watering Can or Hose: Watering your American Sycamore regularly is essential for keeping it healthy and hydrated. Whether you use a watering can or a hose, make sure to water deeply and consistently to ensure that the tree’s roots get the nourishment they need.

5. Mulch: Applying a layer of mulch around the base of your American Sycamore can help to retain moisture in the soil, regulate soil temperature, and prevent weed growth. This can improve the tree’s overall health and make it more resilient to environmental stressors.

By investing in these essential tools and equipment, you can ensure that your American Sycamore remains healthy and strong for years to come.

Preferred Soil Type

American Sycamores are a beautiful and resilient tree that make a great addition to any landscape. The key to growing healthy American Sycamores lies in understanding the soil requirements of these trees.

First and foremost, American Sycamores prefer moist, well-draining soils that are rich in organic matter. This is because they require a lot of water to thrive, especially during the hot and dry summer months. Therefore, it is essential to provide them with a soil that can retain moisture while allowing excess water to drain away.


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In addition, American Sycamores prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. To achieve this, it is advisable to use a soil testing kit to determine the pH of your soil and amend it as necessary. Typically, adding compost or leaf mold can help to lower the pH, while adding lime can raise the pH of the soil.

Finally, American Sycamores require a soil that is well-aerated and loose. This is because they have a shallow root system that needs ample room to spread out and collect nutrients. Therefore, it is important to avoid compacted soils that can impede root growth and drainage.

Overall, growing healthy American Sycamores requires a soil that is moist, well-draining, slightly acidic to neutral, and well-aerated. By providing the right soil conditions, you can enjoy these majestic trees for years to come.

Watering Requirements

The American Sycamore, also known as Platanus occidentalis, is a stunning deciduous tree that can grow up to 100 feet tall and 60 feet wide. Due to its impressive size, it requires a significant amount of water to sustain its growth and health.

To ensure that the American Sycamore thrives, it’s essential to keep the soil consistently moist. It’s recommended to water the tree deeply once a week, or when the top 2-3 inches of soil have become dry.

One useful tip when watering the American Sycamore is to avoid getting water on the leaves or bark. Excess moisture can lead to the growth of fungi, which could harm the tree. Instead, focus on watering the base of the tree, where the roots are located.

During periods of drought or hot weather, it’s critical to increase the frequency of watering to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out completely. It’s also beneficial to add a layer of mulch around the base of the tree to help retain soil moisture.

Another crucial aspect of watering the American Sycamore is to ensure that it’s receiving enough water deep within the soil. The roots of the Sycamore can grow to be quite long, so watering close to the tree’s trunk may not be enough. It’s recommended to water the tree over a wider area, soaking the soil to a depth of at least one foot.

By following these watering guidelines, you can help your American Sycamore remain healthy, vigorous and beautiful for years to come.

What You Need To Know About Fertilizing American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

When it comes to fertilizing American Sycamores, there are a few key things to keep in mind for optimal growth and health. These impressive trees require a well-balanced diet of macronutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as micronutrients like iron, manganese, and zinc. In order to achieve this balance, it’s important to choose a high-quality fertilizer specifically designed for trees that contains a mix of these essential nutrients.

While the specific timing and frequency of fertilization can vary based on factors like soil quality and climate, a general guideline is to apply fertilizer in the early spring or fall. It’s important not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to excessive growth and weaken the tree’s root system. A soil test can be helpful in determining exactly what nutrients are lacking and how much fertilizer should be applied.


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In addition to applying fertilizer, American Sycamores also benefit from regular mulching around the base of the tree. This helps to conserve moisture, regulate temperature, and add organic matter to the soil. Be sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent rot and disease.

Overall, maintaining a healthy balance of nutrients and providing adequate moisture and soil conditions is key to growing a healthy American Sycamore. With these tips in mind, you can enjoy the beauty and shade of this magnificent tree for years to come.

My Favorite Fertilizers For American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

When it comes to nourishing your American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), there are several options to consider. Here are some of the best fertilizers to help promote healthy growth and development of your tree:

1) Nitrogen-rich fertilizers: American Sycamores thrive in soils that are rich in nitrogen. Look for fertilizers that contain high levels of nitrogen, such as urea or ammonium sulfate. These fertilizers will help stimulate leaf growth and promote a healthy green color.

2) Phosphorus fertilizers: While nitrogen is important for leaf growth, phosphorus is essential for root development in American Sycamores. Look for fertilizers that contain high levels of phosphorus, such as bone meal or superphosphate, to help encourage strong and extensive root growth.

3) Organic fertilizers: If you want to avoid using chemical fertilizers, consider using organic options instead. Compost, manure, and worm castings are all excellent sources of nutrients for American Sycamores. These natural fertilizers will help enrich the soil and promote overall tree health.

4) Slow-release fertilizers: To minimize the risk of over-fertilization, you may want to consider using slow-release fertilizers. These types of fertilizers release nutrients gradually over time, providing a consistent source of nourishment for your tree.

Overall, the key to a healthy American Sycamore is to provide it with a well-balanced diet of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other essential nutrients. By using the right fertilizers and practicing good soil management, you can help ensure that your tree thrives for years to come.

Harvesting American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Time To Maturity

The American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, is a magnificent tree species that is well-known for its distinctive, flaky bark and towering height. This beautiful plant has a relatively long lifecycle, requiring several years to grow from a sapling to a mature, fully-developed tree.

The typical time it takes for an American Sycamore to go from sprouting to maturity is around 20 to 30 years. During its first few years, the tree establishes its root system and grows slowly, putting on only a few inches of growth per year. By the time it reaches four or five years old, the tree will be around 10 to 15 feet tall and will have begun to develop its characteristic mottled bark.

As the tree matures, it will continue to grow taller and broader, with its crown spreading outwards and its trunk thickening. It will also develop its unique, large, palmate leaves that turn a beautiful yellow or gold color in the autumn.

By around 20 to 30 years old, the American Sycamore will have reached its full maturity, standing up to 100 feet tall and spanning up to 70 feet in width. At this point, the tree will have reached its full lifespan, which can be as long as 400 years in its natural habitat.

Overall, the American Sycamore is a testament to the beauty and resilience of nature, taking many years to develop into a magnificent and iconic tree that is beloved by many.

Harvest Instructions

Harvesting American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) wood can be a rewarding task for those interested in woodworking, furniture-making, or just for those who appreciate beautiful, natural materials. Here’s some helpful information and a simple procedure to follow when harvesting American Sycamore:


American Sycamore is a hardwood tree native to North America that can grow up to 100 feet tall with a trunk diameter of up to 6 feet. Its wood is known for its beautiful, light-brown to reddish-brown color, with a tight and uniform grain pattern. It is used for high-quality furniture, flooring, interior trim, and boat building.

One of the unique features of American Sycamore is its flaky, patchy bark, which sheds annually and reveals the light-colored trunk underneath. The shedding of its bark often creates a beautiful mosaic pattern that is highly valued by woodworkers.


1. Identify mature American Sycamore trees with straight, healthy trunks. Look for trees with a diameter of at least 12 inches, and preferably larger, depending on the intended use of the wood.


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2. Obtain permission from the landowner or governing agency, as necessary, before harvesting any trees.

3. Plan to cut the trees during the dormant season (late fall to early spring), as this is when the tree is less susceptible to disease and insect infestation. Also, avoid harvesting when the soil is too wet, as this can cause excessive damage to the surrounding environment.

4. Before cutting down the tree, carefully assess the direction of its fall to ensure it does not cause any damage to nearby structures or endanger anyone’s safety. Use proper safety equipment, such as a hard hat, ear protection, and eye protection.

5. After felling the tree, remove all branches and foliage from the trunk. Cut the trunk into logs of the desired length, typically 8-12 feet long for ease of transport.

6. Remove the outer bark of the logs, ideally while it is still fresh and easier to strip. Use a drawknife or bark spud to peel off the bark in sections until you reach the smooth, light-colored wood underneath. This process can be time-consuming and requires some skill and practice.

7. Store the logs in a cool, dry place for several weeks to allow them to cure and stabilize. This will minimize any warping or splitting that can occur during the drying process.

8. After

My Favorite Tools For Harvest Time

Harvesting American Sycamore, also known as Platanus occidentalis, can be a rewarding experience that requires the appropriate tools and equipment. Here are some of the best and most essential tools you will need for the successful harvest of this beautiful hardwood tree:

1. A reliable chainsaw: The American Sycamore’s thick trunk requires a powerful and efficient chainsaw to cut through it. The saw should have a guide bar length of at least 16 inches to effectively take down large branches and full trunks. A gas-powered chainsaw is the best option as it is more powerful and can handle longer periods of use than an electric one.

2. Protective gear: Harvesting trees can be dangerous, so it’s crucial to wear protective gear to avoid any injury. Essential protective gear includes a hard hat, safety goggles, gloves, logging boots, and ear protection.

3. Hand pruners: When it comes to branches that are too small for the chainsaw to handle, hand pruners come in handy. A sturdy pair of hand pruners will make it easier to cut smaller branches down to size.

4. A stump grinder: After the harvest, it can be challenging to remove the stump from the ground. A stump grinder is a useful tool that can quickly and efficiently grind the tree stump into wood chips.

5. A wood chipper: Lastly, it’s essential to have a wood chipper to process the wood into small, manageable chips that can be used for landscaping and gardening. A wood chipper should have a large enough diameter capacity and horsepower to chip larger branches and chunks.

When it comes to harvesting American Sycamore, having the right tools and equipment is key to ensuring a successful and safe process. Invest in quality equipment, wear protective gear and follow safe harvesting practices to improve the chances of a rewarding harvest experience.

End of Season & Overwintering

As fall approaches, it’s time to start thinking about the end-of-season care and overwintering of your American Sycamore tree. This majestic species is native to North America and can reach up to 130 feet tall, making it a real standout in any landscape. To ensure its continued health and longevity, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Firstly, make sure your tree is well-hydrated going into winter. Sycamores prefer moist soil, so if you haven’t received adequate rainfall in the weeks leading up to the end of the season, give your tree a good, deep watering. This will keep it healthy and help it withstand the rigors of winter.

Next, consider doing some preventative maintenance on your tree. Give it a good inspection to check for any signs of disease or pest infestations. If you notice anything, it’s best to act quickly to minimize damage. You may also want to consider pruning any dead or damaged branches to reduce the risk of falling debris during winter storms.

When it comes time for winter, you can help protect your Sycamore by applying a layer of mulch around its base. This will help insulate the roots and keep them from freezing. You can also wrap the trunk with tree wrap to help prevent sunscald, which can occur when the winter sun reflects off snow and damages the bark.

Finally, as spring approaches, make sure to keep an eye out for any signs of new growth. This will let you know that your tree has made it through the winter and is ready to thrive once again. With some good end-of-season care and overwintering, your American Sycamore will bring beauty and majesty to your landscape for years to come.

Final Thoughts on American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Congratulations! With this guide, you have learned the ins and outs of germinating, growing, and harvesting the magnificent American Sycamore tree, also known as Platanus occidentalis. From selecting the right seeds and soil, to providing the tree with the right amount of light and water, you now have a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to cultivate a healthy and productive sycamore tree.

Remember, patience and persistence are key when growing a tree. It may take several years for your sycamore to reach maturity, but the end result will be a breathtaking addition to your landscape.

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the American Sycamore has a variety of practical uses. Its wood is commonly used for furniture, interior trim, and paneling, while its bark can be processed into paper products.

Whether you are looking to add visual interest to your property or simply want to cultivate a sustainable source of wood, the American Sycamore is a versatile and rewarding choice. With the knowledge gained from this guide, you are well on your way to becoming an expert in sycamore cultivation. Happy planting!

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Q: How do I properly plant an American Sycamore?
A: American Sycamores are best planted in the fall or early spring in a soil that is moist, well-drained, and slightly acidic to neutral. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball, and loosen the soil around the hole so roots can easily penetrate. Carefully place the root ball into the hole and backfill with soil, gently pressing to remove any air pockets. Water thoroughly after planting and keep the soil consistently moist during the first growing season.

Q: How much sunlight does an American Sycamore need?
A: An American Sycamore prefers full sun or partial shade, but can tolerate some shade as well. The tree typically grows best in areas with high amounts of light, and will produce the most vibrant, colorful leaves and bark in full sun.

Q: How do I care for an American Sycamore?
A: American Sycamores are relatively low-maintenance trees, but they do require proper care to grow strong and healthy. Water the tree frequently, especially during its first growing season. Fertilize the tree sparingly in early spring with an all-purpose fertilizer, and be sure to mulch around the base to help sustain moisture and prevent weeds. Prune the tree during the dormant season to promote healthy growth and remove any dead or diseased branches.

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