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Posts Tagged ‘Knapweed’

I think, in the seven years that I’ve been doing this blog, that this is only the second time I’ve been able to do two full flower posts in October. Though we’ve had a couple of morning frosts it is still very warm here, and some days could even be called hot. Black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) aren’t just blooming right now; they’re thriving, and I’m seeing them everywhere.  Is there any wonder I always think of them as fall flowers?  When they appear in June it always seems to me that they’re trying to rush things along a bit, but life would be a little less cheery without them so I don’t begrudge their early arrival too much. I think they must hold the record for our longest blooming flower; almost a full 5 months this year.

This purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) looked like it had been through the wash. Its color had faded to a kind of pinky brown and its dry petals felt like paper, but the camera saw what it wanted to see and voila; a new flower was born! Now if only I could learn how to make the camera do those kinds of things when I wanted it to.

Most jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) plants are finished for the season but I found a small colony of plants blooming away under some trees at the edge of the woods. Apparently they didn’t get the message that their time was up because they looked as fresh as they do in July. There are still plenty of pollinators about too, and I’m sure they’re happy to see more flowers blooming.

Most knapweed plants (Centaurea jacea) in this colony dried up from the heat and then were mowed down, but they’ve come back with renewed vigor and several were blooming, much to the delight of all the bees and butterflies that were swarming around them. Brown knapweed is very invasive in some states but we don’t seem to have much of a problem with them here. This is an established colony that has been here for years but it doesn’t seem to get any bigger. When I need to visit with knapweed this is where I come.

Perennial bachelor’s button (Centaurea) is in the same family as knapweed, so it’s no wonder they look so much alike. I found this one growing in a local park. This plant self-seeds readily and can take over a garden corner if its seedlings aren’t pulled.

There are a few things about the Stella D’ Oro daylily (Hemerocallis) that don’t appeal to me. Though it’s supposed to be a “re-blooming daylily” after its initial flush of bloom in late spring it blooms only sporadically throughout the rest of summer. It is also very short, which isn’t a problem in a bed full of daylilies but it always seems to look out of place in the front of a bed of mixed perennials. The third thing that doesn’t appeal to me is its over use. I see it everywhere I go; banks, gas stations, malls, and anywhere else that someone wants flowers but doesn’t want to have to fuss with them. But I can easily forgive all of that at this time of year because quite often they are the only flower still blooming. It’s a tough plant; I’ll say that for it.

Native wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) are still blooming but instead of in the woods this one bloomed in a local park. Native Americans used these plants medicinally in a tea to treat toothaches and as a nerve tonic. The seed pods have long beaks and for that reason the plant is also called crane’s bill. It has quite a long blooming period and is very hardy.

When I first saw this plant blooming while snow was falling a few years ago I thought it was a Shasta daisy on steroids, but it turned out to be the Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum) which is a Japanese creation also called the Nippon daisy. It is extremely hardy; I’ve seen it bloom after a 28 degree F. night and it is also a very late bloomer. It would be an excellent choice for a fall garden.

The bumblebees were certainly happy to see the Montauk daisies blooming. The warmth has kept the bees going but it hasn’t kept many flowers blooming so now when I see a plant in bloom it is almost always covered with bees.

Polyantha roses still bloomed in another park. This small flowered rose usually blooms from spring through fall, often covered in flowers. It is usually disease resistant but this example’s leaves were covered in black spot, which is a fungus, and were tired looking. In general they’re good low maintenance roses that are small enough to be used in just about any size garden. A good fungicide would take care of the black spot on this one, but the leaves should also be raked up in the fall and destroyed.

We do love our asters here in New Hampshire, enough to grow them in our gardens even though the meadows are full of them. This hybrid version of a dark purple New England aster grew in a local park.

I found this New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) blooming even though it was only about 3 inches tall. It was on a roadside that had been mowed earlier, but even after being cut it still bloomed. I’ve seen other plants do the same.

I had never seen an azalea blooming in October until I saw this yellow evergreen azalea doing just that. It had about a dozen flowers on it, and I wonder if it will have a dozen fewer in the spring.

The cultivated speedwell I found in a garden last summer was still blooming. This is an attractive plant, about two feet across with hundreds of the small blue flowers shown all blooming at once. I haven’t had much luck identifying it yet. I think it must be a hybrid of germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys.)

I wonder what Native Americans would have thought of seeing wild strawberry blossoms (Fragaria virginiana) in October. I think they would have been happy to see them, though probably a bit confused. Strawberries were an important food and were eaten raw or mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. They were also dried and preserved for winter, often added to pemmican and soups. Natives also made a tea from the mashed berries, water and sassafras tea.  It was called Moon tea in honor of the strawberry moon in June. A tea made from strawberry leaves was used to clean teeth and stimulate the appetite.

A spaghetti squash grew in the compost pile where I work.  It’s late for squash plants to be blossoming but stranger than that is how nobody can remember a spaghetti squash ever having been cooked or eaten there. How the seeds got into the compost pile is a mystery. We picked one good squash but the one in the photo looks like it has slug or some other kind of damage, so it’ll probably stay in the compost pile.

This bumblebee’s pollen bags were full of yellow pollen but I don’t know if it came from this globe thistle flower head (Echinops) or not. It was working the long tubular blossoms over furiously. Even though globe thistle is originally from Europe and Asia our native bees love it. It should be done blooming by now but this plant had this blossom and three more buds on it.

If you were found growing monkshood (Aconitum napellus) in ancient Rome there was a good chance that you’d be put to death, because the extremely toxic plant was added to the water of one’s enemies to eliminate them. It was used on spear and arrow tips in wars and in hunting parties. It is also called winter aconite and is so poisonous its aconitine toxins can be absorbed through the skin of some people. I’ve touched it many times with no ill effects but I wouldn’t pick it or rub the sap on my skin. People who have mistaken its roots for horseradish have died within 4-6 hours after eating them. Knowing all of this I shudder each time I see this plant, because it grows in a local children’s butterfly garden.

When the blossoms are seen from the side it’s easy to see why this plant is called monkshood. It is also called friar’s cap, leopard’s bane, wolf’s bane, devil’s helmet, and queen of poisons. In 2015 an experienced gardener in the U.K. died of multiple organ failure after weeding and hoeing near aconite plants.

Though I’ve seen dandelions blooming in January witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is considered our last flower of the season and they’ve just started blooming. The flowers are pollinated by owlet moths, which are active in winter and are called winter moths. The moths raise their body temperature by shivering, and can raise it by as much as 50 degrees F. This allows them to fly and search for food when it’s cold.

 

There’s nothing more cheering on a cold fall day than coming upon a thicket of witch hazel in bloom. They might not look very showy but their fragrance makes up for that lack. Tea made from witch hazel tightens muscles and stops bleeding, and it was used for that purpose by Native Americans. You can still buy witch hazel lotion. My father always had a bottle of it and used it on his hands.

Chances are there will be flowers popping up here and there in future posts, but this will most likely be the last post devoted entirely to flowers this year. Now, though it is supposed to be sunny and 70 degrees today, we wait for spring.

Beauty is something that changes your life, not something you understand. ~Marty Rubin

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1-asters-in-park

We do love our asters here in New England and right now you’d be hard pressed to find a roadside where they weren’t blooming. As if thousands of native asters along our roads weren’t enough, we also grow cultivars in our parks and gardens. I found the example in the above photo in a local children’s park. I don’t know its name but it was a beautiful thing and very big; probably 5 feet across and covered with blue and purple flowers..

2-annual-fleabane

Annual fleabane (Erigeron annuus) is an easy flower to ignore and I’m often guilty of doing so, maybe because it’s so common and I see it everywhere all through the summer, from June to October.

3-annual-fleabane-blossom

At this time of year it would be easy to mistake annual fleabane for an aster if the fleabanes didn’t start blooming so much earlier.  There’s also the fact that they just don’t have the “aster look” when you see the entire plant. There can sometimes be 40-50 small, half inch flowers blooming at the same time.

4-bluestem-goldenrod

In spite of the dryness bluestem goldenrod (Solidago caesia) is having a good year, but I can’t find a single plant with a blue stem. That’s probably because a very thin wax coating is what makes the stems blue, and the wax can melt in hot weather. I’ve seen the same thing happen to blue gray hosta leaves, which are also covered with a wax coating.

5-soapwort

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) still blooms on the banks of the Ashuelot River. Its common name comes from the way the leaves contain a natural soap called sapronin. When the leaves are crushed and scrubbed together in water a soapy lather forms. In the past this plant was used for washing clothes and making soap. It hails from Europe and though it is used medicinally it is considered toxic. It was originally introduced as a garden plant and promptly escaped.

6-rose-of-sharon

When I see a rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) I always think of my time spent as a gardener in Florida. I worked in the gardens of a large hotel and the job included trimming what seemed like miles of tropical hibiscus hedges (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) and rose of Sharon is a kind of hardy hibiscus in the same family as the tropical hibiscus. The hardy version shown here has large trumpet shape blossoms in early fall.

7-knapweed

Knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) is still blooming but this year the blossoms are very light colored, while last year the plants in this spot had much darker blossoms. I wish I knew what determined what shade of a certain color a flower will be. Asters alone must come in every shade of purple known to man and knapweed appears to run a close second.

8-pink-rose

I saw this beautiful pink rose unfurling in a local park. It might have been the last rose of summer or the first rose of fall. I was disappointed by its lack of scent. Plant breeders often sacrifice scent in favor of color and / or size. After growing up with a yard full of heavenly scented Rosa rugosa it’s a practice that I’ve never been completely in favor of.

9-japanese-daisy

This daisy like flower also blooms in a local park and did so last year even when snow was falling. It looks like a Shasta daisy on steroids, growing two feet tall with tough leathery leaves that looked much like Shasta daisy leaves. After a little research I think it might be a Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum,) also called Nippon daisy, which tells me that it must be from Japan. Last year it was blooming beautifully after a 28 °F night, so it’s certainly cold hardy.

10-phlox

Nothing says fall quite like phlox, and I see a lot of them. Most of the plants I see are in gardens but I think the one pictured is Phlox paniculata, which is native to the eastern United States. Native Americans used many species of phlox medicinally and they were among the first wildflowers in the United States to be collected and exported back to Europe, where they became very popular.

11-gazania

I found this gazania at our local college. Gazanias are natives of South Africa and like heat and sunshine, which they’ve had plenty of here this summer. They are also drought tolerant, which was another plus this summer. I don’t know this one’s name but it was a bright, cheery plant.

12-ne-aster

 I don’t really know why but I always look for the darkest flower in a group. I suppose one reason might be because darker colors are often more intense, as this deep purple New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) shows. It’s very beautiful and for me, in the world of daisy like flowers, this one approaches perfection. It was very easy for me to lose myself in it for a while.

What a desolate place would be a world without a flower!  It would be a face without a smile, a feast without a welcome.  Are not flowers the stars of the earth, and are not our stars the flowers of the heaven? ~ A.J. Balfour

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1. Touch me not

Except for very late bloomers like witch hazel, late September is really more about which flowers are still blooming rather than which are just starting. Spotted touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis) is a good example of flowers that will bloom right up until a good frost. As day length shortens the plants will produce smaller, closed flowers with no petals and no nectar. They self-pollinate and their sole purpose is to produce plenty of seeds.

2. Touch me not

When spotted touch-me-not flowers first open they are male, but then change to female. The way to tell is by looking for white pollen. If white pollen is present the flower is male. Female flowers will have a small green pistil in place of the pollen seen in this photo.

3. Black Eyed Susan

I used to think that black eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia hirta) were the longest blooming of any wildflower but once I started paying attention I found that wasn’t true. But it is a marathoner rather than a sprinter and can bloom from June right up until a hard frost.

This plant was always believed to have been given its common name by English colonists, but that caused a real conundrum among botanists who all agreed that it was a prairie native. Though everyone still agrees that it is a prairie native, recent research has shown that it was growing in Maryland in the 1600s. In other words it was most likely growing in all parts of the country then, just as it does today. I can’t understand why botanists thought that a prairie native would simply stay there. Why wouldn’t it have spread far and wide, just like plants do today?

4. Knapweed

Knapweed is terribly invasive and hated by pasture owners but even though I know all of that its flowers win me over every time. This was one of just a few left in a large group of plants that had all withered and turned brown.

5. Mullien

I was surprised to see this mullein (Verbascum thapsus) plant blooming so late in the year. I wonder if it will have time to set seeds. Mullein is a biennial and flowers and dies in its second year of growth. It is considered a weed but if all of its flowers opened at once along its tall flower stalk it would be a prized garden specimen.

6. Big Leaf Aster

By the time I got to the spot along the Ashuelot River in Gilsum where big leaf asters (Eurybia macrophylla) grow they had almost all gone by, but I did find one or two that were still hanging on. The big leaves on this plant are very different from other asters, so it’s a hard plant to misidentify.

This plant taught me a good lesson; the photo I took of it last year was chosen by the State of Georgia for inclusion in its new wildflower guide because it showed both the flowers and leaves, so if you think that you might like to sell your wildflower photos try to include some foliage whenever possible.

7. Phlox

Even phlox, a plant known for its late bloom period, has almost gone by now. There are many varieties of phlox but I think the one pictured is Phlox paniculata, which is native to the eastern United States.

8. Tear Thumb

Arrow leaved tear thumb (Polygonum sagittatum) has small tufts of pinkish white flowers at the ends of long, weak stems. It is usually found sprawling on and around other stronger stemmed plants that help support it. It loves to grow near water.

9. Tear Thumb Stem

The reddish, 4 sided stems of arrow leaved tearthumb have tiny, backward pointing prickles that the plant uses to hang onto other plants when it crawls over them in search of more sunlight. These prickles are plenty sharp enough to tear into the flesh of your thumb (or any other body part) if you try to pull at the plant without gloves on, and that’s where the common name comes from.

10. Yarrow

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has a period of bloom in June through August and then rests for a while before giving it another go.  Mankind has had a relationship with this plant since before recorded history and dried sprigs of it have been found in Neanderthal graves. The ancient Greeks used it on wounds to staunch blood flow and so did Native Americans.

According to the book The History and Folklore of North American Wildflowers by Timothy Coffey, in England if a boy put a sprig of yarrow in his nostril and twisted it around three times and got a nosebleed, he was sure to win his sweetheart. It is said that the boys in Suffolk call the plant green ‘arrow and recite the following rhyme:

Green ‘arrow, green ‘arrow you bears a white blow;
If my love love me, my nose will bleed now;
If my love don’t love me, it won’t bleed a drop;
If my love do love me, ‘twill bleed every drop.

11. Purple Morning Glory

I know that this purple morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) isn’t a wild flower but I had to sneak it in because of the amazing light that seemed to be shining from it.

Autumn asks that we prepare for the future —that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go—to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness. ~Bonaro W. Overstreet

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Another post full of things that don’t fit in other posts.

 1. Deformed Chanterelle Mushroom

I’ve noticed that something is causing chanterelle mushroom deformation this year. I’ve seen this happening in several different places so I was curious as to what might be causing it. After doing some reading on mushroom deformation I found that large amounts of water will cause deformation in chanterelles. That makes sense since we’ve had rain nearly every day for the last 3 weeks. This will not make mushroom hunters happy because chanterelles are considered a great delicacy.

 2. Chanterelle Mushroom

This is what a chanterelle should look like. This one was growing very near to several deformed ones. Why some were deformed and others were not depends on their water intake, I suppose. It seems odd to see mushrooms taking in enough moisture to hurt themselves.

 3. Poplar Sunburst Lichen

I stopped by a local tree to check on an old friend. This poplar sunburst lichen (Xanthomendoza hasseana) hasn’t gotten much bigger since the last time I saw it, but it’s still every bit as beautiful. The white material is new though, and I’m hoping it’s another lichen rather than some kind of disease.

 4. Eastern Spruce Adelgid Gall on Blue Spruce

Years ago when my son and daughter were little I planted a small Colorado blue spruce so we could have an outdoor lighted Christmas tree. I was looking at it the other day and noticed these strange growths on some branches that turned out to be galls, which are caused by a tiny insect called the eastern spruce gall Adelgid (Adelges abietis.) Thankfully the adelgids won’t kill the tree but if I prune the galls off before the eggs hatch it will interrupt their life cycle and put an end to the galls. I hope.

5. Moth Wing

I used to work at a place with overhead lights that stayed on all night and in the morning the pavement under the lights would be covered with moth and other insect’s wings. The wings were all that was left after the bats had fed. I found this wing on a leaf. It looked like its owner had tangled with a spider web before becoming a snack.

6. Black Locust Thorns

Earlier in the season I posted some honey locust flowers that several people thought were black locust flowers. I didn’t have the above photo of black locust thorns or the one below of honey locust thorns to illustrate my explanation, but the thorns are the easiest way to tell the two plants apart. Black locust thorns always grow in pairs where the leaf petioles meet the stem and are relatively short.

7. Honey Locust Thorn

Honey locust thorns grow singly and appear right out of the bark on branches and trunk. They can be 3 to 6 inches long and sometimes branch like the example in the photo. These are thorns that you don’t want to run into accidentally.

8. Canada Goose

Canada geese usually turn their backs and walk away but this one seemed as interested in me as I was in him. (Or her.) Maybe it was the designated decoy, keeping me busy while the flock waddled off. There were probably thirty geese in this pasture, including goslings.

9. Deep Blue Dragonfly

This dragonfly (or damsel fly) was deep indigo blue, including its wings, and was a very beautiful insect. I’ve looked online for it but can’t even find anything similar. I suppose that I should get an insect ID guide.

10. Japanese Beetle

No need for a guide for Japanese beetles-I’ve known them for years. I have to say though, that I’ve never noticed the white dots like this one has. After doing some searching I found that these dots are the eggs of the tachinid fly, and once they hatch the larva will burrow into the beetle and eat it. Then they will become flies and lay eggs on even more Japanese beetles. This fly has been found to parasitize 20 percent of the Japanese beetles in Connecticut alone, so if you see a Japanese beetle with white spots, let it be. Biological control of a pest is a good thing.

11. Bee on Knapweed

Butterflies and bumblebees love knapweed, I’ve discovered. They seem to be so engrossed in the flowers that they ignore me completely and let me snap away as long as I want.

12. Ox-Eye daisy

The yellow center of a common ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is made up of tiny yellow disk florets that bloom from the edge of the disk to the center. These florets are perfect, meaning they have both male and female parts, while the white ray flowers, commonly called petals, are female. It is said that when these “petals” are pulled in the classic loves me / loves me not way the results are almost always favorable, because over 90 percent of ox-eye daisy flowers have an uneven number of petals.

13. Thunderheads

Strong afternoon thunderstorms have plagued this part of the state for 3 weeks now, causing flash flooding in some areas and swelling rivers to bank-full conditions. The air is so saturated it feels like you’re swimming through it. Couple that with hot afternoon sunshine and you have the two things a thunderstorm needs to form. On almost any afternoon the thunderheads grow to tens of thousands of feet and then the downpours start at between 4 and 5 pm. I hope it is a lot drier wherever you are.

 14. Ashuelot River on 7-4-13

This is a recent view of the Ashuelot River, showing how close it is to the top of its banks. It’s also very muddy, meaning that it is carrying tons of New Hampshire soil to the Atlantic.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.  ~John Lubbock

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I knew that false hellebores were blooming so I set off to find some over the past weekend. I’ve been promising for almost two years that I would show you the flowers, but I’ve had quite a time finding plants that are mature enough to blossom.

1. Forest Path

One of the places I visited had a path I like to follow. Can you see it? Why, I wondered as I climbed, is everything worth seeing uphill? Why, I have to ask, can’t beautiful things ever be found on flat, level ground? I suppose that one of the answers would be that it is hard to find a waterfall on level ground.

2. Woodland Boulder

I took a rest from climbing to get a shot of this boulder covered with polypody ferns. They are living up to their common name of rock cap fern. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at the photo that I saw all the bracket fungi on the tree in the background.

3. Forest Bench

I don’t know who carried this piece of plank here, but it makes a nice spot to sit and catch your breath, so I’m glad they did.

4. False Hellebore Flowering

This is what I came to find-the flowers of false hellebore (Veratrum viride.) These plants are hard to find in flower because they do so only when they are mature, which means ten years or more old. When they do blossom they do so erratically, so you never really know what you’ll find. When they finally bloom they carry hundreds of flowers in large, branched terminal clusters.

5. False Hellebore Flowers

The small flowers aren’t much to look at, but it’s easy to see that the plant is in the lily family by their shape. These flowers are the same color green as the rest of the plant but have bright yellow anthers. There are nectar producing glands that ants feed on and when they do, they pollinate the flowers. Animals leave this plant alone because it is one of the most toxic plants known, and people have died from eating it by mistaking it for something else.

6. Waterfalls

This is the other reason I came to this particular place. Though this stream was within its banks there was evidence everywhere that it had flooded recently-probably just the night before. We’ve had a lot of rain over the last week including some thunderstorms that triggered flash flood warnings, so I wasn’t surprised to see that it had flooded. Roads have washed away in some towns.

7. Evidence of Flooding

The flooding wasn’t strong enough to take down trees but it sure flattened almost everything else in its path. I learned a few things here-first and foremost was that, although false hellebore plants appear to have weak stems, they are actually very strong. They were one of very few plants left standing in the path that the water carved out of the forest.

8. Grass Under Water

This grass was underwater and it isn’t aquatic, so the water level of the stream was still several inches higher than it had been when the grasses grew.

9. Yellow Button Mushroom

All of the warmth and moisture was prompting some mushrooms to fruit. I think this one was possibly fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) in the button stage. It was about half the size of a grape.

10. Marlow Church

All but one of these photos were taken in a small town called Marlow, New Hampshire, which is about a half hour north of Keene. I thought I’d include the kind of photo that you see in tourist brochures-almost a cliché view of the small New England town, but those of us who live here enjoy it. The mill pond in the foreground is part of the Ashuelot River, which has appeared in this blog many times.

 11. White Water Lily 2

The mill pond is full of fragrant white water lilies (Nymphaea odorata) that I couldn’t get very close to, so my camera’s zoom was almost fully extended for this one.

 12. Ashuelot Rapids on 6-30-13

 Not long after it leaves the mill pond the Ashuelot River is squeezed between narrower banks and so begins to rage-especially because of all the rain we’ve had. This is a favorite spot for kayakers and I saw two of them unloading kayaks as I was leaving. You wouldn’t catch me riding a tiny plastic boat through these churning waters. I stood on an old wooden plank bridge to take this photo and that was enough for me, because the water level had almost reached the underside of the bridge. What does someone in a kayak do, I wondered, when faced with a bridge they can’t get under while speeding down a raging river? Maybe I’m better off not knowing-I’d still like to buy a kayak someday.

 13. Ashuelot Rapids on 6-29-13

If you have ever been swimming and heard the noise that somebody makes by doing what we used to call a cannonball, imagine that sound repeated over and over countless times in rapid succession. It creates a loud roar that is heard long before you can even see the river.

 

 14. Butterfly on Knapweed 2

 A cabbage white butterfly was interested in the knapweed (Centaurea) that grows along the river bank and let me stand there taking photos as it went from blossom to blossom. Mike Powell showed an excellent close up of this butterfly recently on his blog that revealed its green speckled eyes. They were quite beautiful-and unexpected.

It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things. Nicholas Sparks

Thanks for coming by. Have a great 4th of July.

 

 

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