How to Get Tulip Seeds from Flowers | Expert Gardening Guide

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how to get tulip seeds from flowers

Tulips, with their vibrant petals and enchanting charm, have long been a symbol of beauty in gardens around the world. While these perennial bulbs are often propagated through offsets or bulbs, there’s an equally fascinating method to continue their legacy: harvesting tulip seeds. Delving into the world of tulip seeds not only offers an opportunity to expand your garden with a diverse array of tulip varieties but also provides an exciting journey into the natural lifecycle of these captivating flowers.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of obtaining tulip seeds from your beloved tulip blooms. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener looking to add a new dimension to your gardening repertoire or a beginner eager to learn, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to successfully collect tulip seeds. So, roll up your sleeves, grab your gardening tools, and embark on this exciting journey of tulip seed harvesting. Before you know it, you’ll be nurturing your very own tulip seedlings and witnessing the magic of these exquisite flowers from the very beginning of their life cycle.

Understanding Tulip Reproduction

how to get tulip seeds from flowers

Tulip Lifecycle

The lifecycle of a tulip can be divided into several stages:

  • Bulb Formation: Tulips start their life cycle as bulbs. These bulbs contain the embryonic plant and its stored nutrients.
  • Germination: In the early spring, when the soil temperature begins to rise, the tulip bulb begins to sprout. The bulb sends up a shoot that eventually becomes the stem of the tulip.
  • Growth and Flowering: As the shoot grows, it develops leaves and a flower bud. The bud slowly opens to reveal the tulip’s iconic colorful flower.
  • Pollination: Tulips reproduce sexually. They rely on pollinators like bees and insects to transfer pollen from the stamen (male reproductive part) to the stigma (female reproductive part) of the flower.
  • Seed Formation: After successful pollination, the tulip flower forms seeds within its seed pod.
  • Seed Dispersal: When the seeds are mature, the seed pod dries and splits open, dispersing the seeds into the surrounding soil.
  • Dormancy: Tulip bulbs go dormant during the summer months, conserving energy for the next growing season.
  • Bulb Division: Over time, tulip bulbs can multiply by producing offsets (smaller bulbs) around the original bulb. This is a form of asexual reproduction.

Propagation Methods – Bulbs vs. Seeds:

  • Bulb Propagation: This is the most common and efficient method of propagating tulips. It involves planting tulip bulbs in the fall. These bulbs will sprout and produce new tulip plants in the spring. This method ensures that the new plants are genetically identical to the parent plant (clones).
  • Seed Propagation: Growing tulips from seeds is less common because it takes longer and produces genetically diverse offspring. Tulip seeds require a period of cold stratification before they will germinate. After this, they can be planted in the spring or early summer and will usually take a couple of years to reach flowering size.

Diversity of Tulip Species:

Tulips (Tulipa) are a diverse genus of plants with over 100 species and thousands of cultivated varieties. They vary in terms of size, shape, color, and blooming times. Some notable tulip species include:

  • Tulipa gesneriana: The wild ancestor of many garden tulips. It produces large, cup-shaped flowers in various colors.
  • Tulipa fosteriana: Known for its vibrant red or orange flowers.
  • Tulipa greigii: Characterized by its strikingly marked leaves and bright, bowl-shaped flowers.
  • Tulipa kaufmanniana: Features early-blooming, waterlily-like flowers.
  • Tulipa sylvestris: A wild species with slender, yellow flowers.
  • Darwin Hybrid Tulips: These are a group of hybrids known for their large, vibrant, and single-colored flowers.
  • Triumph Tulips: Compact and available in a wide range of colors.

The diversity of tulip species and cultivars makes them a favorite choice for gardeners and floral enthusiasts, offering a wide array of options for landscaping and floral arrangements.

Understanding tulip reproduction, propagation methods, and species diversity can help gardeners and enthusiasts make informed choices when selecting and growing these beautiful flowers.

Selecting the Right Tulip Varieties

how to get tulip seeds from flowers

Certainly, let’s explore the process of selecting the right tulip varieties for your garden, considering the importance of healthy parent tulips, the range of tulip species, and tips for seed collection:

Importance of Choosing Healthy Parent Tulips:

Selecting healthy parent tulips is crucial for successful tulip gardening and seed collection for several reasons:

  • Genetic Health: Healthy parent tulips are more likely to produce robust and disease-resistant offspring. Starting with strong genetics ensures the vitality of the next generation.
  • Vibrant Flowers: Healthy parents tend to produce more vibrant and attractive flowers, which is the primary goal for many tulip enthusiasts.
  • Disease Prevention: Disease-free parent plants reduce the risk of passing on diseases or pests to the new generation.
  • Longevity: Healthy tulips are likely to live longer and produce more flowers over their lifespan.
  • Seed Viability: Healthy parent tulips are more likely to produce high-quality seeds with better germination rates.
Exploring the Range of Tulip Species and Their Characteristics:

Tulips come in a wide range of species, each with its own unique characteristics. When selecting tulip varieties, consider the following:

  • Species Diversity: Explore the various tulip species, such as Tulipa gesneriana, Tulipa fosteriana, Tulipa kaufmanniana, and many more. Each species has distinct features in terms of size, shape, color, and blooming time.
  • Bloom Time: Different species bloom at different times during the spring. Choose varieties that will provide a continuous display of flowers throughout the season.
  • Height: Tulip species and cultivars vary in height, from short-stemmed varieties ideal for rock gardens to tall ones suitable for borders or cut flowers.
  • Color Palette: Tulips come in a stunning array of colors, from classic reds and yellows to more unusual shades like purples, pinks, and even black. Consider your color preferences and how they fit into your garden’s overall design.
  • Naturalizing Ability: Some species are better at naturalizing (returning year after year) than others. If you want a low-maintenance garden, choose species known for their naturalizing capabilities.
Tips for Selecting Tulip Varieties for Seed Collection:
  • Choose Species with Compatible Bloom Times: To facilitate cross-pollination, select tulip varieties that bloom simultaneously or with overlapping bloom times.
  • Isolate Varieties: If you want to maintain the purity of a specific tulip variety, isolate it from other tulip varieties to prevent accidental cross-pollination.
  • Label and Document: Keep meticulous records of the parent plants you’re using for seed collection. Label each variety, note their characteristics, and record the date of pollination.
  • Collect Seeds When Ripe: Tulip seeds are ready for collection when the seed pods dry and split open. Harvest the seeds carefully and store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant them.
  • Practice Patience: Growing tulips from seeds takes time. Be patient and expect to wait a couple of years for the plants to reach flowering size.
  • Experiment: Don’t be afraid to experiment with cross-breeding different tulip varieties to create unique hybrids. This can be a rewarding aspect of tulip gardening.

Selecting the right tulip varieties and understanding the importance of healthy parent plants is key to achieving the desired results in your tulip garden and seed collection endeavors.

Timing and Preparation

Ideal Time for Collecting Tulip Seeds

The timing for collecting tulip seeds is crucial to ensure the seeds are mature and viable. Here’s when to collect tulip seeds:

  • Late Spring to Early Summer: Tulip seeds are typically ready for collection in late spring to early summer, after the tulip blooms have faded, and the seed pods have formed.
  • Indicator for Harvest: Look for signs that the seed pods are mature. They will turn brown, and the pod walls will begin to dry and split open, exposing the seeds.
  • Avoid Waiting Too Long: Do not wait too long to collect seeds, as they may be dispersed by wind or other means if the pods fully open.
Materials and Tools Needed for Seed Harvesting

To successfully collect tulip seeds, you will need the following materials and tools:

  1. Gloves: Wear gloves to protect your hands, especially if you’re dealing with a large number of tulip pods.
  2. Pruning Shears or Scissors: You’ll need these to carefully cut the seed pods from the tulip stems without damaging the seeds.
  3. Brown Paper Bags or Envelopes: Use these to collect and store the seed pods. They allow for air circulation and prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to mold.
  4. Markers and Labels: To keep track of the tulip varieties and other relevant information, use markers and labels to tag the collected seed pods.
  5. A Tray or Table: A clean surface to sort and work on the collected seed pods.
  6. Clean, Dry Towels: To blot excess moisture from the seed pods if they are damp.
  7. Storage Containers: After collecting and processing the seeds, you’ll need airtight containers for long-term storage.
Preparing the Garden and Tulip Plants for Seed Collection

Before you start collecting tulip seeds, it’s important to prepare the garden and the tulip plants:

  1. Identify the Parent Tulips: Know which tulip plants you intend to collect seeds from. It’s a good idea to label them for easy identification.
  2. Monitor Seed Pod Development: Keep an eye on the tulip plants as they progress through the blooming period. Watch for the formation of seed pods, and check them regularly for signs of maturity.
  3. Prune as Needed: Remove any dead or withered flower heads to redirect the plant’s energy toward seed production.
  4. Prevent Cross-Pollination: If you want to maintain the purity of a specific tulip variety, take steps to prevent cross-pollination with other tulip varieties. This may involve isolating the plants or manually pollinating them.
  5. Wait for Seed Pod Maturity: As mentioned earlier, only collect seeds when the pods are fully mature and beginning to split open.
  6. Harvest Gently: When collecting, handle the seed pods and seeds with care to avoid damage. Use your pruning shears or scissors to cut the pods from the plant.
  7. Label and Record: Label each seed pod with the tulip variety name and any other relevant information. Keep records of your collection.
  8. Store Seeds Properly: After collecting, allow the seed pods to dry further if needed. Then, extract the seeds and store them in airtight containers in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant or store them for the next growing season.

By following these steps and being patient and attentive to the timing of seed collection, you can ensure a successful tulip seed harvest from your garden.

The Tulip Seed Collection Process

Identifying Tulip Seed Pods:

Before you can collect tulip seeds, it’s important to be able to identify the seed pods. Here’s how to do it:

  • Look for Mature Seed Pods: Mature tulip seed pods are typically brown and dry. They will have started to split open at the top.
  • Check the Peduncle: The seed pods are usually located at the top of the tulip stem, just below the spent flower head. The peduncle is the stalk that supports the seed pod.
  • Inspect for Seeds: Gently open the partially split seed pod and check for the presence of seeds. Mature seed pods will contain small, dark, and sometimes glossy seeds.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Harvesting Tulip Seeds:

Once you’ve identified mature seed pods, follow these steps to harvest tulip seeds:

  • Prepare Your Materials: Put on gloves to protect your hands. Have paper bags or envelopes, scissors or pruners, markers, and labels ready.
  • Select the Seed Pods: Choose seed pods from healthy tulip plants that you want to collect seeds from. Ensure that the pods are fully mature.
  • Cut the Seed Pods: Use scissors or pruners to cut the seed pods from the tulip plant. Cut just below the base of the seed pod, leaving a small portion of the peduncle attached to the pod.
  • Label the Collection Container: Immediately place the cut seed pods into a paper bag or envelope. Label it with the name of the tulip variety and the date of collection.
  • Secure the Container: Seal the bag or envelope securely to prevent seeds from falling out during transportation.
  • Store Properly: Store the labeled containers in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to process the seeds.
Tips for Gentle and Safe Seed Extraction:

When it’s time to extract the seeds from the collected seed pods, here are some tips for doing it gently and safely:

  • Wait for Dry Pods: Ensure that the seed pods are fully dry before attempting seed extraction. Dry pods are more likely to release seeds easily.
  • Work Over a Tray or Bowl: To catch any loose seeds that might fall during the extraction process, work over a tray or bowl.
  • Gently Open the Pods: Carefully open the dry seed pods using your fingers. Be gentle to avoid damaging the seeds.
  • Collect the Seeds: As you open each pod, collect the seeds that are inside. You can use your fingers or tweezers for this. Place the seeds in a separate container.
  • Label and Store: Label the container with the extracted seeds, noting the variety and date. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant them.
  • Dispose of Empty Pods: After extracting the seeds, dispose of the empty seed pods and any other plant debris properly.

By following these steps and tips, you can successfully collect tulip seeds from your garden, ensuring that you handle them gently and safely throughout the process. Proper labeling and storage are also essential for keeping track of your collected seeds.

Seed Cleaning and Storage

how to get tulip seeds from flowers

Importance of Cleaning Seeds:

Cleaning seeds is an essential step in seed collection and storage for several reasons:

  • Removal of Debris: Cleaning removes any remaining plant material, chaff, or dust from the seeds, which can harbor pathogens and reduce seed viability.
  • Prevention of Mold and Rot: Clean seeds are less likely to develop mold or rot during storage, ensuring the seeds remain viable.
  • Enhanced Germination: Clean seeds have a better chance of germinating successfully, as they are not hindered by physical barriers or contaminants.
  • Longer Storage Life: Properly cleaned seeds can be stored for longer periods while maintaining their viability.
Process of Cleaning and Drying Tulip Seeds:

To clean and dry tulip seeds effectively, follow these steps:

  • Gather Materials: You will need clean, dry containers (e.g., bowls or trays), a fine-mesh sieve or strainer, a paper towel or coffee filter, and labels.
  • Remove Debris: Pour the collected tulip seeds onto a clean, dry container or tray. Remove any remaining plant material, chaff, or empty seed casings.
  • Use a Sieve: Pass the cleaned seeds through a fine-mesh sieve or strainer. This will help separate the seeds from smaller debris and dust.
  • Blow Away Remaining Debris: Gently blow over the seeds or use a low-speed fan to help remove any remaining lightweight debris.
  • Check for Viability: Inspect the seeds for damage, mold, or discoloration. Discard any seeds that appear unhealthy or damaged.
  • Dry Seeds: Place the cleaned seeds on a paper towel or coffee filter in a single layer. Allow them to air dry in a cool, dry place for several days. Stir or gently shake the seeds occasionally to ensure even drying.
  • Label and Store: Once the seeds are completely dry, label a clean, dry container with the tulip variety name and collection date. Place the dried seeds in the container and seal it tightly.
Proper Storage Methods for Maintaining Seed Viability:

Proper storage is crucial for maintaining the viability of tulip seeds:

  • Cool and Dry: Store the labeled seed containers in a cool, dry place. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations.
  • Airtight Containers: Ensure that the storage containers are airtight to prevent moisture and humidity from affecting the seeds. You can use glass jars or plastic containers with well-fitting lids.
  • Desiccant Packets: Consider adding desiccant packets to the storage containers to absorb any residual moisture.
  • Refrigeration: If you plan to store the seeds for an extended period, you can place the airtight containers in the refrigerator. Just be sure they are well-sealed to prevent moisture absorption.
  • Regular Monitoring: Periodically check the stored seeds for signs of moisture or mold. If any issues arise, remove and discard affected seeds and ensure the containers are tightly sealed.

By cleaning, drying, and storing tulip seeds properly, you can maximize their viability and increase your chances of successful germination when you’re ready to plant them. This ensures that you can enjoy a vibrant tulip garden in the future.

Germinating Tulip Seeds

how to get tulip seeds from flowers

Guidance on Germinating Tulip Seeds

Germinating tulip seeds can be a rewarding but somewhat challenging endeavor as tulips are typically propagated through bulbs. However, if you have collected tulip seeds and want to give it a try, here’s a general guide:

  • Pre-Planting Preparation:
    • Ensure you have properly cleaned and dried tulip seeds (as discussed in the previous section).
    • Select a suitable planting medium, such as a well-draining potting mix.
    • Choose containers with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
  • Planting:
    • Fill your chosen containers with the potting mix.
    • Sow the tulip seeds on the surface of the soil. Space them apart to avoid overcrowding.
    • Gently press the seeds into the soil, but do not bury them deep. Tulip seeds require exposure to light for germination.
  • Watering:
    • Water the soil thoroughly but gently to ensure it’s evenly moist but not waterlogged.
    • Use a spray bottle to mist the soil surface lightly.
  • Light and Temperature:
    • Place the containers in a location with bright, indirect sunlight or under fluorescent grow lights.
    • Maintain a temperature of around 55-65°F (13-18°C) during the germination process.
  • Germination Timeline:
    • Germination can be slow and erratic with tulip seeds, taking several weeks to a few months. Some seeds may germinate sooner than others.
  • Transplanting Seedlings:
    • Once seedlings have developed and have at least one or two true leaves, you can transplant them into individual pots or into your garden if the weather permits.
  • Care for Seedlings:
    • Provide proper care for the seedlings, including regular watering and gradual acclimatization to outdoor conditions if transplanting to the garden.
  • Patience and Observation:
    • Be patient and continue to care for the seedlings as they grow. It may take a couple of years for them to reach flowering size.
Conditions and Timeline for Germination:

Germinating tulip seeds requires specific conditions and can be a slow process. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Light: Tulip seeds need exposure to light for germination. Plant them on the soil surface without burying them.
  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature of 55-65°F (13-18°C) for consistent germination. Avoid extreme temperature fluctuations.
  • Timeline: Germination can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. Some seeds may sprout earlier than others, so be patient and continue to provide the right conditions.
  • Transplanting: Once seedlings have grown large enough to handle, typically with one or two true leaves, you can transplant them into larger containers or your garden.
  • Growing to Maturity: It may take a couple of years for the tulip seedlings to reach flowering size and produce blooms. Continue caring for them during this time.

Keep in mind that propagating tulips from seeds is more challenging than using bulbs, and the resulting plants may not always resemble the parent plants. However, it can be a rewarding gardening experiment for enthusiasts who enjoy the process of growing plants from seed.

Troubleshooting common germination issues.

  • Poor or Uneven Germination:
    • Cause: Inconsistent moisture levels, inadequate light, or improper temperature can lead to poor or uneven germination.
    • Solution:
      • Ensure the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged.
      • Provide sufficient and consistent light for seedlings.
      • Maintain the recommended temperature for the specific seeds you are germinating.
  • Damping-Off (Fungal Disease):
    • Cause: Excess moisture and poor air circulation can create conditions favorable for damping-off, a fungal disease that causes seedlings to wilt and die.
    • Solution:
      • Use sterile soil and containers to reduce the risk of fungal contamination.
      • Water the seedlings from below to prevent soil surface moisture.
      • Improve air circulation by using a small fan or opening vents in a greenhouse.
  • Leggy Seedlings (Elongated, Weak Stems):
    • Cause: Insufficient light can cause seedlings to stretch towards light sources, resulting in weak, leggy growth.
    • Solution:
      • Provide bright, indirect light or use grow lights to ensure adequate illumination.
      • Maintain proper spacing between seedlings to reduce competition for light.
  • Seedlings Falling Over (Floppy Seedlings):
    • Cause: Weak stems due to insufficient light or excessive nitrogen in the soil can lead to seedlings falling over.
    • Solution:
      • Increase light intensity to promote stronger stem growth.
      • Avoid over-fertilizing with nitrogen-rich fertilizers.
  • Mold or Algae Growth on Soil Surface:
    • Cause: Overwatering or high humidity levels can encourage mold or algae growth on the soil surface.
    • Solution:
      • Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
      • Ensure proper ventilation to reduce humidity.
  • Slow Germination:
    • Cause: Some seeds naturally have a longer germination period, or they may require specific conditions to break dormancy.
    • Solution:
      • Refer to the recommended germination time for the specific plant species and be patient.
      • Consider stratifying seeds (exposing them to cold temperatures) or scarifying (scratching the seed coat) to break dormancy in some cases.
  • Seedlings Succumbing to Pests:
    • Cause: Insects and pests, such as aphids or spider mites, can damage or kill seedlings.
    • Solution:
      • Inspect seedlings regularly for signs of pest infestation.
      • Use natural or chemical pest control methods as appropriate, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap.
  • Failure to Transplant Successfully:
    • Cause: Transplant shock can occur if seedlings are moved to the garden too quickly or without proper acclimatization.
    • Solution:
      • Harden off seedlings gradually by exposing them to outdoor conditions for increasing periods each day.
      • Transplant seedlings when they are of sufficient size and strength to withstand outdoor conditions.

By identifying and addressing these common germination issues, you can increase the chances of successfully growing healthy seedlings for your garden. Remember that patience, attention to detail, and appropriate care are key factors in successful germination and seedling growth.

Caring for Tulip Seedlings

how to get tulip seeds from flowers

Nurturing Young Tulip Seedlings
  • Light: Tulip seedlings require ample sunlight to grow strong. Place them in a location with full sun or under grow lights for 12-16 hours per day. Keep the lights close to prevent leggy growth.
  • Temperature: Maintain a cool, well-ventilated environment with temperatures around 55-65°F (13-18°C) for optimal growth.
  • Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water seedlings from below or at the base to prevent soil surface moisture, which can lead to damping-off disease.
  • Fertilization: Avoid over-fertilization, as it can cause excessive leafy growth at the expense of flowers. Use a balanced, diluted liquid fertilizer sparingly, typically once every 2-4 weeks.
  • Thinning: If seedlings are overcrowded, thin them to provide adequate space for growth. Leave a few inches between seedlings to reduce competition.
  • Weeding: Remove any weeds or competing plants near the seedlings to prevent them from taking nutrients and space.

Transplanting and Caring for Seedlings

how to get tulip seeds from flowers

  • Timing: Transplant tulip seedlings into the garden or larger pots when they have at least two sets of true leaves and are sturdy enough to handle.
  • Garden Transplant:
    • Choose a well-draining location in the garden with full sun or partial shade.
    • Prepare the soil by amending it with compost or organic matter.
    • Dig holes for each seedling, ensuring they are spaced according to the mature size of the tulip variety.
    • Gently remove the seedlings from their containers, taking care not to damage the roots.
    • Plant the seedlings at the same depth they were in their pots, typically 3-4 inches deep.
    • Water thoroughly after transplanting and mulch to conserve moisture.
  • Pot Transplant:
    • Select larger pots with drainage holes to accommodate the growing tulip bulbs.
    • Fill the pots with a well-draining potting mix.
    • Transplant seedlings at the same depth as they were in their original containers.
    • Water thoroughly and place the pots in a sunny location.
  • Winter Care: In colder climates, mulch the garden beds or pots with a layer of mulch to protect the bulbs from freezing temperatures.
Managing Pests and Diseases
  • Pest Prevention: Keep an eye out for common pests such as aphids, slugs, and snails. Use physical barriers, companion planting, or organic pest control methods to prevent infestations.
  • Disease Prevention: Proper sanitation and good air circulation can help prevent fungal diseases like damping-off. Avoid overwatering and ensure soil drainage.
  • Fungicide: If fungal diseases are a recurring problem, consider using a fungicide, following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
  • Monitor Regularly: Regularly inspect your tulip seedlings for signs of pests or disease, such as yellowing leaves, wilting, or unusual growth.

With proper care, your tulip seedlings should develop into healthy bulbs and produce beautiful flowers in the future. Remember that tulips grown from seeds may take a couple of years to reach maturity and bloom, so be patient and attentive to their needs throughout the growing process.

Conclusion: Cultivating Tulip Seeds, A Rewarding Journey

In the world of gardening, there’s something undeniably enchanting about nurturing a plant from its very inception. The journey of collecting tulip seeds from your beloved flowers is a testament to the wonders of nature and the joys of hands-on horticulture. As we come to the end of this guide, you’ve gained valuable insights into the art and science of harvesting tulip seeds, and you’re now equipped with the knowledge to embark on this rewarding journey.

By understanding the tulip’s lifecycle, selecting the right varieties, and mastering the seed collection process, you’ve unlocked the potential to create a diverse and vibrant tulip garden. You’ve learned the importance of timing, preparation, and the gentle touch required to extract these precious seeds. Furthermore, you’re now aware of the significance of proper seed cleaning, storage, and the care necessary to raise healthy tulip seedlings.

The satisfaction of watching your tulip seeds sprout, grow, and eventually bloom into magnificent flowers is a testament to your dedication and the wonders of the natural world. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener seeking a new challenge or a novice with a green thumb, this journey promises fulfillment, learning, and a deeper connection with the art of cultivation.

As you venture into the world of tulip seed collection, remember to share your experiences with fellow gardeners and enthusiasts. The legacy of your tulip seeds can spread far beyond your own garden, enriching the landscapes and lives of others.

So, with the knowledge gained from this guide, let the beauty of tulips inspire you, and may your tulip seeds sow the seeds of joy, beauty, and wonder in your garden for years to come. Happy gardening!

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