pro grow news FALL 2017
Sex Life of Plants The State of Plants in New England
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pro grow news FALL 2017
Features 12 The Sex Life of Plants 16 The State of New England Plants 20
New Findings on Exotic Ambrosia Beetle
4 Core Elements to Help You Grow Your Business
5 President’s Message
6 Committee Reports 29 Marketplace/Ad Index 30 My Favorite Plant On the cover — Japanese Maple, Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon,’ thinks it is autumn. Photo by Gaele McCully Fall|2017
pro grow news SUMMER 2017
board PRESIDENT Jim Stucchi, MCH Ahronian Landscape and Design, Inc. Tel: (508) 429-3844
EDUCATION & RESEARCH COMMITTEE
VICE PRESIDENT Tim Hay, MCH Bigelow Nurseries, Inc. Tel: (508) 845-2143
FINANCIAL COMMITTEE (FINCOM) Steve Corrigan, MCH — Chair Mountain View Landscapes & Lawncare, Inc. Tel: (413) 536-7555
SECRETARY/TREASURER Peter Mezitt, MCH Weston Nurseries, Inc. Tel: (508) 435-3414 PAST PRESIDENT Tim Lomasney One Source Horticulture Tel: (978) 470-1934 DIRECTORS Chris O’Brien, MCH Howard Designs, Inc.
Kerry Preston, MCH Wisteria & Rose, Inc. Steve Charette Farm Family Insurance Family
David Vetelino, MCH Vetelino Landscape, Inc. Jean Dooley, MCH Mahoney’s Garden Centers
GOVERNMENT RELATIONS DIRECTOR Henry Gillet Tel: (508) 567-6288 EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Rena M. Sumner Tel: (413) 369-4731
Kathy Bergmann, MCH — Chair Bergmann Construction Tel: (508) 435-3414
Chuck Baker, MCH — Vice Chair Strictly Pruning Tel: (508) 429-7189
MASSACHUSETTS CERTIFIED HORTICULTURIST BOARD (MCH) Jack Elicone, MCH — Chair John R. Elicone Consulting Tel: (617) 527-5706 PRODUCTS COMMITTEE Peter Mezitt, MCH — Chair Weston Nurseries, Inc. Tel: (508) 435-3414
GOVERNMENT RELATIONS COMMITTEE Chris O’Brien, MCH — Chair Howard Designs, Inc. Tel: (617) 244-7269 HISTORY COMMITTEE Philip Boucher, MCH — Chair Elysian Garden Designs Tel: (508) 695-9630 Skott Rebello, MCH — Vice Chair Harborside P.S. Tel: (508) 994-9208 MAGAZINE COMMITTEE Gaele McCully, MCH MCLP — Chair Mahoney’s Garden Center Tel: (781) 729-5900 MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE Mary Jesch, MCH — Chair Cornucopia Gardeners (508) 879-1822
PRESIDENT Michelle Harvey, MCH Lakeview Nurseries Tel: (978) 342-3770 EDUCATION COMMITTEE Kathy Bergmann, MCH Bergmann Construction Tel: (508) 435-3414 Tim Hay, MCH Bigelow Nurseries, Inc. Tel: (508) 845-2143 The Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association, Inc. is proud to be a founding partner of New England Grows.
pro grow news Massachusetts Nursery & Landscape Association P.O. Box 387 Conway, MA 01341 email@example.com www.mnla.com www.PlantSomethingMA.org www.mnlafoundation.org
ProGrowNews is published quarterly by the Massachusetts Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA), P.O. Box 387, Conway, MA 01341, tel. (413) 369-4731. Articles do not necessarily reflect the view or position of MNLA. Editorial coverage or permission to advertise does not constitute endorsement of the company covered or of an advertiser’s products or services, nor does ProGrowNews make any claims or guarantees as to the accuracy or validity of the advertiser’s offer. (c) 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in print or electronically without the express written permission of the MNLA.
It’s All about Relationships and the Patriots! By Jim Stucchi
elcome to Fall! The most notorious planting season is again in a full-speed-ahead mode. Thankfully, the weather has been on our side this summer, and the rain has made a difference in the volume of plant material being moved in, out, and around our state. Speaking of the Commonwealth…Let’s talk about football, politics, and relationships. Relationships are a key component to the success of every business, and they are inherently the foundation of any professional association. Walk with me through the process of how one of our most important member benefits — your Government Relations Committee — works for you. Don’t turn the page; I promise to make this somewhat tolerable. Most members glaze over when this topic comes up. In the past, it seemed to me to be one of the most enigmatic parts of our association. It is a loosely defined, yet incredibly important vehicle for navigating the regulatory processes that are levied against our businesses and our personal lives daily. It’s all about relationships and how we project our strengths. I use the analogy of our Patriots to help you understand how our team makes the end-around work on pieces of legislation that may or may not quite fit the needs of our members. Like our beloved Pats, MNLA has an amazing head coach: our legislative agent, Henry Gillet. A successful and highly regarded legislator for many years, Henry’s mental mastery of the political arena sets him as an equal to Belichick’s Boy Genius nomination. Henry knows just about everybody on the hill. Those who do not know him will likely meet him very soon. Once you meet him, you won’t forget him. He’s pragmatic and analytical, and he has the ability to be every person in the room. We are very fortunate to have him on our side. Henry surveys the scene on Beacon Hill and empowers our quarterback prodigy (a.k.a. dedicated Government Relations Committee Chair Chris O’Brien) with the proper plays on offense and solidifies our defensive strategy when a new team is on the field. Our power players are our current Government Relations Committee members: Mark Ahronian, Pat Bigelow, Tom Bradley, Fred Dabney, Mary Jesch, Laura Kuhn, Tim Preston, Walter Swift, Jim Connolly, Ed Bemis, and Robin Pydynkowski. These members volunteer to be our go-to players for quick action topics as well as attending legislative events such as Ag Day, fundraisers, hearings, and face-to-face meetings with key legislators. Honestly, these faceto-face meetings are no different than going to a parent-teacher conference except that the future you are solidifying in this situation belongs to our members’ businesses. These folks really understand the benefits of having an open conversation with the policymakers in our state. Like Rob Gronkowski, they stand tall and score big when it counts the most, or they gain us much-needed momentum for our next offensive push. Without these conversations, our legislators do not have a face to put with a professional’s name or a cause. Meaningful, lasting, legislation-changing relationships blossom from a period of time equal to a single quarter of play on the gridiron. Fall|2017
This may seem like a lot of work outside of your daily program, but it’s not. As president, I am often called on to represent MNLA at these meetings. Due to the nature of government, sometimes the notice is short, but more often it is weeks in advance. The most immediate reward of this opportunity is the firsthand knowledge and literally life-altering experiences I personally gain from each visit. It far outweighs the couple hours of work I put off to the next day. The reality is that in today’s tech driven world, we are in touch with our crews and customers no matter where we are. I view it as a welcome break to direct a landscape project from the state house versus the cab of my truck. My last visit to the Hill was painless. I set up my projects in the morning, went home and changed out of my boots and into the uniform. I drove into Newton to meet Chris, then met Henry and Ed Bemis and gentlemen from two other commodity groups at the coffee shop at the back of the State House. Our strategy was set by Henry: introduce ourselves to Representative Smitty Pignatelli, the new Chairman of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. We educated him as to who we are, what we bring to the table, and what we would like to see the committee focus on for our members to continue to succeed. We accomplished our goals with the Chairman, and then met with our good friend Rep. Carolyn Dykema to talk about making some changes to the pollinator bill. The outcome is pending, but we have a seat at the table. Recently we have had to change up some of our typical bread-andbutter plays. The roster of legislators has changed dramatically in the past year. Our offensive strategy has been shifted toward a scenario where we sit with more key legislators face-to-face and watch the films with them. We show them the game our green industry brings to the revenue field. MNLA is the largest green industry commodity group in the Commonwealth. We supply over 48,000 jobs directly from our daily grind. We add over $4.6 billion to the state’s bottom line. Our businesses make a major contribution to the Commonwealth, and the legislators understand that. With regard to water, nutrient regulations, and pollinator health, we are working closely with the departments and the legislators to make sure we are able to continue our business practices in the most efficient and science-based ways possible. I extend a special thank-you to the members of the Government Relations Committee and to the owners and managers of the businesses who allow their empowered employees to make a difference for the good of our members through legislative action. I invite all of you to join us at our next Ag Day, and I highly recommend you take the time to visit with your local legislators to initiate that personal relationship. Wishing you all a successful all season! Jim Stucchi, MCH, Ahronian Landscape and Design, Inc. MNLA President
MNLA Committees Foundation Committee Risk and Reward
he MNLA Foundation Board is made up of members who volunteer their time. We are from businesses large and small and have accumulated years of experience in the nursery, landscape construction, and retail businesses. With that knowledge, the board sees the industry as needing a capable workforce to help it grow and have the successful and rosy future hard work deserves. Finding and preparing part of that workforce is what we hope do through our mission and outreach. Enter our goals for a larger and more meaningful scholarship program that can touch a wider group at multiple levels rather than just college-bound students. We are part of an entrepreneurial spirit that has no tangible product to sell. Our wares are hope, driven by how we view the future of the Massachusetts green industry. We need bright, ready individuals who can help move both small and large businesses upward or even create their own — all to improve the profession and its various services for the future. Growing our funds to meet our goals is absolutely like the risks that any business experiences as a start-up, an expansion, or when developing another segment to improve client services. Business risks are studied and acted on with a measure of confidence. But failures or shortfalls do happen. If it is a worthy project or dream, one may make a few tweaks and move on to the rewards that planning and energy can supply. Presently, risking anything seems like high adventure. The Foundation has the same risks as any business as we engage in fundraising or selecting a worthy candidate to receive our scholarship. Though we do the same things, our risks are a bit different. Even though we have planned and have the energy, there are no tweaks or do-overs. Failure is only bad if we give in to it. To be vulnerable to chance, to be less than successful is a hard thing to accept as we view the stakes for many young adults. Because we have read countless scholarship applications from very deserving young candidates looking to us for financial support, we cannot tolerate failure. Frequently, we are not short on confidence in awarding additional scholarships, simply short of funds. We have limited approaches to fund growth. We prefer a personal approach to our fundraising. We know most of us are too busy to open “give me” mail when we are waist deep in the busy season or cooling down in the off season. We likely all have stock answers to charitable telephone calls, if our staff has not already been instructed in the art of a decline. We at the Foundation are not going to use those approaches. We have appreciated your generosity and support in the past, but now we need your assistance again.
So where do we go? How can you help? You can donate now. We take contributions at any time, not just at association events. You can ask to volunteer to help with a fundraising campaign. Our goals cannot be realized without the verbal and financial member-driven support that can help those more capable individuals become part of our industry’s future. Fundraising does not come naturally to us regardless of the goals we set, yet we cannot be satisfied with just small growth increments. Our vision of the future is bigger than that and immediate. There will be no telephone calls to avoid. We won’t send postcards or letters as an appeal. We are association members working at something we believe is important, and we are looking to other members for support. To keep our endowment and our outreach the same would be easy, but it would be woefully ineffective to our mission, this industry’s needs, and being true to the “Educational Excellence” within our name. We think we fuel dreams. We have all been dreamers at some point and wondered how we could get to the next level. Help us help a few more individuals reach their goals. If by chance you find a dreamer, show some interest and talk to them. See if your education or work experience can give their ideas needed realism as an employee or a young business owner. Give them something positive to consider, and maybe their ideas will blossom. Look for the Foundation members at the Winter Forum and Job Fair on February 27-28 in Sturbridge, with something new we hope you will find special and will be a part of our growth. We will be talking to the same young people about prospects of working in the industry, but we will be looking not for employees, but rather for scholarship applicants for two- and four-year programs in horticulture. It is bound to be a busy and worthwhile day. For this moment, I have a non-monetary appeal to all. Where do we go from here? If you have ideas or feel that our approach is off, talk to us. Or if you allow, perhaps we will talk to you. As in our various fields of horticulture, cultivation is important. For us, the cultivation is critical and must continue. We cannot operate the Foundation passively to fulfill its mission, nor can we continue our growth as it currently is without greater support. I hope each member can see their role in the growth of our outreach. This goal requires sustaining funds to enhance the work as this Foundation invests in the future. Philip Boucher, MCH Elysian Garden Designs MNLA History Committee Chair & Foundation Chair
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MNLA Committees Government Relations
Something of Consequence
n August, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue held a town hall meeting in Northborough with leaders in the state’s agricultural community to hear about their concerns on issues affecting the industry at the federal level. MNLA was represented at the town hall by past MNLA President Jeff Willman of Bigelow Nurseries. The town meeting discussion was wide ranging. Labor, specifically its lack of availability and training, was one theme across many of the commodity groups. Problems with the federal H-2A visa program were mentioned as a contributing factor to the poor availability of qualified labor in the agriculture sector. Secretary Perdue said he thinks the mentality in Washington is that “if you just paid American workers enough, they’d be happy to harvest these crops.” That isn’t true. The meeting also was an opportunity for MNLA to highlight some of the key findings from a new study on the economic impact of the Massachusetts green industry. The study, utilizing nationally accepted economic models, was undertaken to provide current data regarding the industry’s effect on the state’s economy. Ornamental horticulture is by far the largest segment of the state’s agricultural economy in terms of employment and dollar impact. MNLA is the state’s largest green industry trade association, representing all facets of the horticulture trade. Total economic impact of the Massachusetts green industry is $5.2 billion annually according to the study. Direct employment by the industry exceeds more than 48,000 people. Another 13,000 individuals are employed indirectly as a result of green industry generated activity. The results underscore the scope and importance of the horticultural sector in the Commonwealth’s economy. This type of data reinforces MNLA’s message when it works on public policy issues, whether in Washington or at the State House. Members’ responses in the economic impact study survey made it possible to produce these impressive figures, which illustrate how consequential the green industry is to the broader community. Your participation in the association and activities such as Mass Ag Day at the State House are important to getting our message across. Chris O’Brien, MCH, Howard Garden Designs, Inc. Government Relations Committee Chair
unny how friends stay the same even when they move to a new company, which we all seem to do at one time or another. Take me: I am so, so happy with my new job, except for one little thing. I miss my old friends and love to see them again. This is one of the nicest things about coming together for MNLA meetings. This year’s Summer Conference was at Wachusett Mountain, such an amazing and popular venue that we’ll be going back there next summer. In between super speakers (thanks, Laurie) and a fun lunch, I got to catch up with some of my best hort friends (that would be you, Trev and Deb). Then I went to an Education Committee meeting at Elm Bank, where once I worked, on the day that the MCH exam was being given. Again, good people from long- and not-solong ago, sitting under the spruces, discussing summer and winter conference possibilities for next year while trying not to trample the Dutchman’s pipe beneath the picnic table. (A shout out to Bob, who of course, passed the exam.) Last week, I journeyed to Sandwich and the Heritage Museum for Plant Geek Day, always my favorite MNLA event. Remember Blythewald and the Wakefield Estate? It’s always such fun to wander through a mini-arboretum to see what the plants we sell look like as grown-ups. A huge Halesia was #20 on the Plant ID Challenge. It made me wonder what mine will look like in 20 years. More important — will I be able to squeeze past it on my driveway? Again, it was old friends sharing gossip, vendor names, and crazy customer stories. Dirk, I think a wedding in Eastern Europe was a not-bad excuse for not being there but Geoff, where were you? So, here’s the thing: We really are members of a pretty small industry. We move, we change companies (hello to all WN alums), but we still care about each other and love to be with each other, and that’s wonderful. So be sure to sign up, come to these great events, and catch up with the best people in the world. And to my old buddies: Just give me time to pull out the cheeses and guac and let me know what I’m pouring. You know where to find me. Kathy Bergmann, MCH, Bergmann Construction Education Committee Chair
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MNLA Committees MCH Committee CERTIFIABLE: MCH NEWS CORNER
lease let me welcome you to the quarterly column committed to keeping the MCH community and the MNLA membership informed on what is new and ongoing in the MCH program. The Summer Down to Earth Conference at Mount Wachusett was a great success, and the site and facilities were well received. The MCH Board sponsored a Plant ID Challenge that was extremely well attended. Thanks to board member Kate Merrill from Sylvan Nurseries for providing an extended variety of native plants. Thank you to all the attendees who took the challenge in the early morning slot to receive a recertification credit and those who participated throughout the day for fun and a learning experience. We thank all who attended Plant Geek Day on August 23rd at Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich for a wonderful day of tours and educational sessions and look forward to next year’s location.
Our latest MCH certification exam was conducted on August 2nd at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s location at Elm Bank in Wellesley. Congratulations to the following new MCHs: • Morgan Child, Atlantis Hardscape • Nicholas Cokonis, Tree Specialists, Inc. • Peter Duguay, Mountain Home Landscape Inc. • Sarah Gabriel, Christine Dustman & Company • Robert Halterman, Weston Nurseries • Katey O’Neil, Mountain Home Landscape Inc. • Edward Palmer, Samuel Thomas O.D., LLC • Dean Powers, Paragon Landscape Construction • Cory Wojcuilwicz, Anderson Landscape Construction
on February 28th at the Winter Forum at the Sturbridge Host Hotel. MCH Board members will again conduct a learning experience of Plant ID at the forum. The MCH Board is constantly seeking more members as practicing MCHs and is reaching out for existing MCHs who would like to volunteer to assist with upcoming events. Questions or comments please email me at jackelicone@gmail. com.
Stay ahead of MCH credits by planning to attend NE Grows on November 29 - December 1. Earn two points for attending the conference and educational workshops. Save the dates of February 27 - 28 for the Green Industry Winter Forum and Job/ Career Fair at the Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center and the ability to earn additional certification credits. Consider writing a Pro Grow News article to earn a recertification point. Constantly check the MNLA website for upcoming opportunities to earn MCH Credits. Jack Elicone, MCH John R Elicone Landscape Consulting Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist (MCH) Board Chair
To all of these new MCHs and to all our existing members, please continue to use the programs and resources available through MNLA. The MCH Board continues to stress the branding process for all of us to implement. Use your MCH logo on printed materials, letterhead, marketing, and advertising. Order and use the new “Ask an MCH” brochure through the MNLA website. Check out the new MCH hats and vests to further promote your certification. The MNLA Resource Guide is now available in a digital format for those of you who would like to update your copy. Let the communities you work in know the benefits of having an MCH on staff and promote your expertise. To further expand our number of certified professionals, talk to your peers and coworkers about becoming an MCH. Our next exam will be
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The Sex Life of Plants— Why Horticulturists Should By Susan Gordon, Ph.D., RICH
y editor told me to use my own discretion and “write about what you want to.” She supplied ample rope to hang myself with. So, I’m writing about sex. The inspiration is URI entomologist Dr. Steve Alm, or more precisely, one of his current areas of research: bumblebee behavior and habitat. There is a direct correlation here between his research and the topic of plant sex, but I’m taking the circuitous route. Flash back 15-20 years: URI Plant Bio 101. Yes, plants have sex, too. The purpose: to maintain genetic diversity. Making sure everyone in the species isn’t genetically identical allows at least a few lucky individuals to survive when things go sour, like when a virus mutates, or some humans bring a funguscarrying beetle over from Holland, or there’s an unseasonable freeze, a record drought, or 100-year flood. Again. This genetic variation is maintained when a plant outsources genes from another plant. Key here is that both plants should be from the same species. Using pollen from a different species is like trying to tweak the starter from a Greyhound bus so it will work in your John Deere. In fact, 25 years ago, I taught that pollen compatibility was one of the factors that could help define where one species ended and another began. And then I found out that in the wild, there Black oak — Quercus velutina
are some plant species that successfully cross with similar species (natural hybrids). Oops. But that’s classic science — it changes as new information is added. The vast majority of plants exchange genetic information only with plants of the same species. But violets, asters, oaks, and deciduous azaleas will all occasionally accept pollen from plants of a similar, but not identical, species. For example, Black Oak will cross with Shingle Oak to produce Quercus x leana. These cross-species flings are OK occasionally, but generally, it’s safer to stay within your own species. This is accomplished in many ways: flowers that attract specific pollinators, spatial separation of species, different bloom times, chemical or physical pollen incompatibility. The other side of the coin is that self-pollination is generally a terrible idea. I used to teach that this pretty much never happened. Turns out many members of the rose family — crabapples, pears, roses — all “self” pretty often. This bit of trivia increases the invasive potential of some of these species. Most plants assiduously try to avoid being their own spouse. Some plants have flowers with either male parts or female parts. The male and female flowers can be located on different parts of the same plant or on different
plants altogether. Flowers with both male and female parts are termed a “perfect” flower. Generally, in perfect flowers, different sex organs mature a few days apart, or there’s a chemical or physical barrier to self-pollination, like a plant’s own pollen just won’t stick. Plants with either perfect flowers or both male and female flowers on the same individual are termed monoecious. Those having either only male or only female flowers on a given plant are dioecious. Species with separate male and female flowers on the same plant are called unisexual monoecious by scientists. We call them things like birch, oak, and beech. These folks are mostly wind pollinated. In nature, they grow in fairly dense populations and produce a lot of pollen. Many, like most birches and oaks, have a male flower or catkin, which is pretty elongate and pendulous. The female flower, or nutlet, is often held closer to the twig, and is a little chunkier. Same with hickories. In conifers or evergreens, pines, spruces, and firs are wind pollinated with both male and female flowers or cones on the same plant. Many species of firs and spruces have the female cones at the top, with the male below to avoid self-pollination. Then there are the dioecious species. These plants have only male flowers or only female flowers on any given plant. There are a lot more of these than most folks realize. Yews, junipers, ashes, maples are all dioecious and mostly wind pollinated. When we plant a cultivar or clone of these, we’re planting only male or female plants — so lots of pollen or some type of fruit. All Pfitzer junipers are females, Dense Yews males, Red Sunset maples females. All this plant sex has both social and biological consequences. Anything that’s a male clone and wind pollinated produces a lot of pollen. Wind pollination, versus insect, is a (continued on page 14)
(continued from page 13) crap shoot. The plant isn’t spending precious sugars and other resources on things like fragrance, colored petals, or nectar. Instead, the strategy is to make boatloads of pollen. Some will reach that special someone, breathlessly awaiting with a receptive pistil. The wind, last I checked, isn’t threatened with extinction. We don’t have to worry about feeding it or not. Yes, pollen on clients’ cars and water gardens may be a concern. The effect on people with asthma and allergies certainly should be. Those numbers are growing. In 2001, 7 percent of people in the U.S. had asthma. In 2017, the CDC reports that 7.6 percent of adults and 8.4 percent of children under 18 have asthma. Just because wind-borne pollen isn’t obviously feeding an insect or bird doesn’t mean the fruit isn’t. Ash seeds feed wood ducks, grouse, and chickadees to list a few. Grosbeaks, finches, and cardinals are just a few birds that eat maple seeds. Juniper berries last well into the winter. Come February and early March, they’re literally life savers for at least 54 species of starving birds. And there’s bayberry or Morella that used to be Myrica pensylvanica. This species can be either dioecious or monoeciuos. So if you want berries, you need either a monoecious clone or male and female dioecious plants. And yes, there are transgender plants. When you stop and think about it, each flower is a new set of sex organs. Ninety-
nine percent of the time, apical meristems (growing points) on English yew (Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’) twigs will make cones or male flowers (I’m making that number up – there’s no quantitative data here). Every once in a while, though, I do a “well, lookie there, that’s an aril” (female cone or berry) on that male yew. I used to think it was a propagation screw-up — someone took cuttings from the wrong plant or a grex. Multiple plants, one clone. Actually, it’s neither. The Royal Botanic Garden has documented random transgender twigs on yews. Same for maples. We have one very old sugar maple at Kinney’s. It’s a boy, mostly. In the last 20 years, I’ve been finding seedlings close by, and very rarely a schizocarp (winged seed). Apparently, red maple (Acer rubrum) does this, too. After a long and painful journey, we’re back to the inspiration for this article: bumblebees and holly. Holly or Ilex is the largest Shingle oak genus of woody plants. Depending on who’s counting, there are approximately 700 species. They’re almost all dioecious and insect pollinated. There are rare reports of random perfect flowers on both staminate (male) and pistillate (female) plants. See, variation happens all the time – everybody lighten up! At the azalea gardens, we have many mature American Hollies (Ilex opaca) male and female. I had always noticed the female trees covered by a honeybee feeding frenzy in June.
Pollinators can breed an unintended cross like Quercus x leana
This year, due to Dr. Alm’s research, I was more tuned into what the bumblebees were doing. One evening, as I was putting away the shovels and spades, I noticed the male holly near the tool shed was being assaulted by bumblebees. They were frantically dive bombing the tree like an assault by the insect division of the Rosa palustris Blue Angels. There were very few honeybees. Out of curiosity, I walked over to a female tree and found lots of honeybees and few bumbles. This was more like a Homer Simpson “D’oh!” than an “Aha” moment. Of course there will be different insect populations on each flower sex. Male flowers make much more pollen than nectar — pollen is high in protein and other nutrients. If you’re in the midst of baby prep or rearing, you need protein. The female flowers make nectar, no pollen. Nectar is a sugary, high-energy liquid. Bees collect both, but it’s not random. Just like us, different needs at different times. The next evening after work, my friend and employee, Jamie Fisher, and I tried to catch this on our phone cameras. As I told Dr. Alm, National Geographic will not be recruiting us anytime soon. But it got me thinking, and over the next month, I paid more attention to what was on the other hollies — Ilex verticillata, I. latifolia and I. crenata, etc. There were, across the board, big differences in which insect species were on which sex. Typically, as horticulturists, we recommend, plant, and grow just enough male hollies to get fruit. Even when planted as hedges or screening, most clients want berries on their hollies, whether for their own aesthetics or to feed wildlife. Standard recommendations are to plant the same species within 100 feet with a recommended M:F ratio of 1:3. Many of us try to do things we think are good for the planet. Frankly, in many cases, we make assumptions, but without the research, we often don’t know whether we’re doing what’s good. It makes me think of an Amy Schumer shtick I heard on NPR. Young mothers-to-be were discussing their new-age birthing techniques. Each method was followed by the phrase, “It’s good for the baby.” The kicker was the sea turtle. The mother digs a shallow pit in the sand, squats, and gives birth. She then kicks sand in the baby’s face and sees if the baby crawls toward her or the ocean. Do we always know what’s “good for the baby” or the planet? Susan Gordon, Ph.D., RICH, is the manager at Kinney Azalea Gardens. All photos courtesy of the author
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State of Plants in New England:
How Landscape and Horticultural
By Elizabeth Farnsworth
ow are plants doing in New England, and how can we — individually and collectively — help them thrive? A report issued by New England Wild Flower Society in 2015 in celebration of the Society’s 115th anniversary continues to engender interest among a broad group of people from plant professionals to educators to reporters to policy makers and the public at large. Why produce yet another white paper on the state of the environment, when so many already influence policy and practice? The Society realizes that plants are rarely explicitly addressed in reports on climate change, pollinators, land-use change, and other issues. Yet plants are the foundations of all our habitats, our gardens. Indeed, they provide the fundamental ecosystem services that make life possible on Planet Earth. Save plants, and you’ll ameliorate climate change, conserve pollinators and the other species that depend on plants, restore damaged lands, and help solve many of humanity’s pressing problems.
The majority of New England plant species are native to our region. Of the approximately one-third that are not, only 10% are regarded as invasive. Still, we need to be vigilant about the ability of those invasives to overtake our flora.
In thinking about the future of plants, it is essential to place “hope in a seed.” Plant seeds are resilient, and many can last for hundreds of years in storage. New England Wild Flower Society has hundreds of thousands of seeds from hundreds of rare plant species that we are saving for the future and for restoration now. Here, volunteers Kate Wellspring (left) and Elizabeth Strohbeck (right, an undergraduate at Smith College) help process rare plant seeds for banking. Photo by Elizabeth Farnsworth
You have already dedicated your career toward fostering plant life. But the majority of people don’t actually pay much attention to plants, even if they’re reasonably tuned in to nature. Birdwatchers tend to watch birds, not the birch those birds are perched upon. That’s because our human brains are attuned to motion and ignore all the stationary green stuff around which the drama of moving life takes place. This neurological condition is known in the botanical community as plant blindness, and the challenge for plant scientists and educators is to awaken people of all ages to the fascination of plants. Plant blindness is curable, and our report seeks to suggest and promote those cures. In compiling “State of the Plants,” we tapped a large network of plant experts, hundreds of published studies, information from our 60-plus institutional partners in the New England Plant Conservation Program, and data tirelessly gathered by hundreds of trained volunteers who visit populations of rare plants throughout the region. New England is the source of www.mnla.com
Professionals Can Help hundreds of years of studies on plants, and is home to some of the world’s preeminent collections of plant specimens in herbaria. The Society recently published the Flora Novae Angliae, a key to all native and naturalized species of plants in the region. We were thus able to draw on an extensive repository of scholarship to understand trends in plant species over time, the distribution of plants on the landscape, and threats facing plants, their habitats, and animal associates. What did all that information tell us? There are about 3,500 species of plants that are either native or naturalized (non-native plants that have established outside of cultivation) in New England. Of those, the majority, about 61 percent, are native here. In defining “native,” we look at several pieces of evidence such as plants that were collected here when the first colonists arrived, and indications that plants are especially adapted to specific types of habitats and not scattered willy-nilly across many disturbed and undisturbed
sites. But we take into account that the flora here is constantly changing and that new arrivals have found their way here without being intentionally introduced by us. That proportion leaves about one-third of the flora hailing from outside New England, most brought in from Europe or Asia. Of those, only 10 percent are considered truly invasive — that is, exotic species able to displace other plants and transform ecological processes. Those 110 or so species do keep conservation biologists awake at night, but with early detection and strategies for removal, we are increasingly able to contain invasions before they become serious. Did you know that kudzu vine has been documented in Massachusetts? We also looked at the nearly 600 species of plants listed as rare (endangered, threatened, or of special concern) in one or more New England state. These constitute more than a fifth of our native flora. We compared their present-day status to their rarity rank of 15 years ago. We identified species that were
Salt marshes lie at the interface between land and sea, and are some of our most imperiled habitats due to sea level rise and changing ecological interactions. Many organizations are restoring these productive habitats.
clearly declining over that time period and asked how these species differ in their ecology from other rare species that are holding their own or even apparently increasing in populations. A disproportionate percentage of declining plants are insect-pollinated, probably reflecting a parallel decline in the pollinators these plants depend on. People are increasingly attentive to the plight of pollinators such as bees and butterflies; these new findings add urgency to the need to promote pollinator-friendly plantings. More than a third of our native orchid species are also at risk. Species hailing from south of New England are also impacted by urbanization in the densely populated cities of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. News flash: Pavement and urban heat islands are bad for plants. The report examined five major habitat types, reaching from the mountains to the sea: • Alpine and subalpine communities • Mixed northern hardwood forests • Rivers and streams • Sandplain grasslands and heathlands • Estuarine marshes Together, these habitats encompass many of the common and rare plants of the region, as well as hundreds of animal
Pedicularis discovery: It was a happy moment when a number of volunteers rediscovered a rare plant thought to be lost. From left, Bill Brumback, Conservation Director at new England Wild Flower Society; Paul Somers, former State Botanist of Massachusetts;
species and critical ecosystem services, such as flood control, that benefit us. There are clear hot spots of rare plant diversity, including high-elevation mountaintops, areas with marble bedrock rich in calcium, coastlines and sea islands, and the Connecticut River watershed. There are threats unique to each of these habitats: • Acid rain and disturbance of the alpine • 200 years of clearing in forests affecting understory species that have not fully recovered, even though the trees have returned • Dumping of trash in, and damming of, waterways • The absence of fire that keeps sandplains open and able to support more than 400 species of insects • Die-off of more than 60 percent of coastal marshes due to overfishing of fish that would normally keep plant-eating crabs under control One overarching problem affects all habitats across New England and throughout the world: climate change. Warming temperatures disrupt interactions among alpine plants and their pollinators during the short window of spring. Cold winters no longer kill off invasive insects that kill forest trees. More frequent severe storms cause catastrophic floods in riverways. Rising sealevels inundate coastline plant communities. And much more. So what do we do, amidst all this bad news? First, we have
Julie Richburg, Regional Ecologist with The Trustees of Reservations; Lynn Harper, Habitat Protection Specialist, Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.
to remember that countless people and organizations have long been mobilizing to solve these problems and are making impressive progress. New England leads the nation in removals of faulty dams that threaten rivers and property. We are the first region to successfully restore an alpine plant — Robbins’ cinquefoil — the only plant to date to be removed from the federal endangered species list. Partners including the U. S. military are working enthusiastically to manage their vast lands including sandplains that foster dozens of rare plants and hundreds more species that depend upon them. Much great work is being done, and you can be key to this effort.
You Can Help
Advise your clients to plant native plants that will support pollinators, birds, and many other species. These plants are already adapted to our variable New England climate (Don’t like the weather? Wait 10 minutes.), and are easy to grow. Promote designs that celebrate the aesthetic of these plants. Work to develop marketable native plants that will appeal to a wider demographic and be taken up by retailers. Avoid “nativars,” which are showy but often sterile varieties of native plants that offer few resources to pollinators seeking protein and sugar (no pollen, no nectar, no pollinators). Minimize lawns. These are deserts for plant-dependent animals, require regular mowing by gas-guzzling carbonspewing machines, and demand the use of fertilizers and pesticides that poison other creatures, including children and pets, and find their way as pollutants into waterways. Advocate as a unified industry to encourage regulations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other pollutants) that are fast accelerating climate change and affecting all our decisions about not only landscaping choices, but our own lives. Design and plant gardens that conserve and do not waste water. Choose plants that are appropriate to existing conditions and that will be resilient to future soil and hydric situations. Educate your clients, colleagues, and children about the central importance of diverse plants to human well-being. Educate yourself about our flora and their role in our lives (think: oxygen, the air we breathe), our medicines (75 percent of our top pharmaceuticals are derived from plants), and in every meal we eat. Go Botany is a useful website that will introduce you to all 3,500 species we have discussed here. Walk the walk. If everyone reading this article planted one native plant garden, we’d have a major restoration project for the birds and the bees. Share your own story widely!
“Assessing Status: State of the Plants.” http://www.newenglandwild.org/conserve/state-of-the-plants Arthur Haines. 2011. “Flora Novae Angliae: A Manual for the Identification of Native and Naturalized Higher Vascular Plants of New England.” Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. http://www.newenglandwild.org/store/books-from-the-society/ flora-novae-angliae.html/ William E. Brumback and Jessica Gerke. 2013. Flora Conservanda Rhodora: New England 2012. “The New England Plant Conservation Program (NEPCoP) List of Plants in Need of Conservation.” 115 (964): 313-408. http://www.newenglandwild.org/conserve/saving-imperiledplants/flora-conservanda-brumback-etal-13-20.pdf New England Wild Flower Society. 2013 “Go Botany: Discover thousands of New England Plants.” https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/
Elizabeth Farnsworth is a Senior Research Ecologist with the New England Wild Flower Society. Photos courtesy of the New England Wild Flower Society.
New Findings on Exotic Ambrosia Beetle A
(A) winter damage, or one of the numerous other mbrosia beetles are not new insects to the United States. In addition to native spethings that could go wrong in production. cies that are considered minor pest problems, When looking over the plant, it’s easy to miss many exotic species can also be found here, and the pinhole damage from the beetle or think it they can be very damaging to plants growing in was an after-effect.” (B) nurseries and landscapes. New research funded in A collection of researchers is conducting part by the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) a multi-year project studying ambrosia beetle sheds light on ambrosia beetle biology and ecolbiology and ecology, in addition to manageogy and management options for growers. ment options for nurseries. Dr. Chris Ranger, Two species are of particular concern USDA-ARS, leads this collaboration of USDA Two highly destructive ambrosia in nurseries: the granulate ambrosia beetle, and university entomologists from Maryland, beetles in nurseries are the (A) black Xylosandrus crassiusculus, and the black stem Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South stem borer Xylosandrus germanus borer, X. germanus. Both species are native to Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. HRI funded and (B) granulate ambrosia beetle southeastern Asia and have established popula- Xylosandrus crassiusculus. a portion of this research through its general tions in the United States grants program with fur(29 states for the granulate ther support provided by ambrosia beetle and 32 states the USDA’s Floriculture and for the black stem borer). Nursery Research Initiative. The granulate ambrosia Research on this subject beetle is more common and was recently reported in problematic in the midthe Journal of EnvironAtlantic and South, while mental Horticulture (JEH). the black stem borer is more Published by HRI, JEH is abundant in the Midwest the only peer-reviewed, and Northeast. scientific journal dedicated Ambrosia beetles are to the green industry, and often overlooked as being a it serves as the outlet for primary cause of plant loss, research pertinent to our but research and experiindustry. ence are proving otherwise. Ambrosia beetles tunnel “Coming into Willoway, I into trees, where they create was unaware of the full exfungal gardens that serve as tent of the damage this pest food for larvae and adults. can cause. I’ve learned this is The telltale sign of toothdefinitely a difficult pest for pick-like strands protrudthe nursery industry,” notes ing from host plants often Matthew Steinkopf, consignals infestations. These tainer grower for Willoway protrusions consist of sawNurseries (Huron, Ohio). dust generated as the female “You don’t know you burrows into wood. Other have a problem with them symptoms include branch until it is too late. When a dieback and sap oozing plant dies, we usually blame from the tunnel entrances. (A) Ambrosia beetle attacks can be difficult to detect due to the small size of the it on water in the container, (continued on page 22) tunnel entrance, but symptoms include (B) sawdust-toothpicks, (C) sap oozing from tunnel entrances, and (D) branch dieback.
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(continued from page 22) Adults overwinter within their host tree, emerge in spring, and then search for a new host to attack. Both species are a challenge to control, partly because of their wide host range — over 120 hosts for the granulate ambrosia beetle and 200 hosts for the black stem borer. Thin-barked deciduous trees are often targeted, although conifers can also be attacked. Adults are difficult to control once they have burrowed into a tree. Their fungal symbiont can be problematic for the host tree, and a variety of opportunistic and pathogenic fungi have been isolated from beetle galleries. Mark Shelton, pesticide supervisor at Willoway Nurseries, shares his experience with control of this pest: “We identified our first attack in a block of dogwoods 10 years ago and quickly learned it can attack other species. Ambrosia beetle requires a different control strategy than other chewing insects. Timing of pesticide application to tree trunks is critical, because the pesticide needs to be there by the time beetles fly. We currently use a combination of weather monitoring and ethanol traps for guidelines. Additional research to improve timing and reapplication intervals is needed.” Peak flight activity and corresponding attacks occur during spring months. Degree days are not particularly useful
(A) Spring flight activity of ambrosia beetles can be monitored using simple traps baited with ethanol lures and containing soapy water as a killing agent. (A)
(A-B) Adult females tunnel into stems and create galleries (C) where they farm a symbiotic fungus that serves as food for the larvae and adults.
for predicting initial flight, but Dr. Michael Reding (USDA-ARS) determined that spring flight activity increases dramatically after the first two-to-three consecutive days above 70°F. This group of researchers is filling in the gaps in information to ultimately increase control strategies. A key finding to date has been that these two beetles are opportunistic and only attack living but weakened trees. While such trees may appear healthy, they emit stress-induced ethanol that is wildly attractive to ambrosia beetles. Ethanol is now used as the standard attractant in traps for monitoring purposes. The best control methods focus on keeping trees healthy; beetles do not attack or colonize healthy trees in nursery production. Applications of insecticides can be used, but they do not completely prevent attacks from occurring on stressed trees that are emitting ethanol. Flooding/poor drainage, frost injury, and freezing injury can induce ethanol emissions from plants and trees and have preceded large-scale attacks by ambrosia beetles in nurseries. Notably, HRI-funded research by Dr. Steven Frank (NCSU) determined that soil moisture levels should be maintained at <50 percent to minimize ambrosia beetle attacks on flood-intolerant trees, such as dogwood. Steinkopf observes, “A small amount of stress could cause release of a pheromone within the plant www.mnla.com
that attracts the beetle. While one beetle should not kill the plant, it triggers the plant’s release of more stress pheromones as it feeds and attracts more of its friends. At Willoway, Mark Shelton has done an impressive job being ahead of this pest and knows that an emergence is possible even in winter. Knowledge of pesticides and setting traps when there are three consecutive 68° days has helped. Further research will take this beetle from being a serious problem to a mere nuisance.” Last winter in particular raised concerns to researchers. Dr. Ranger states: “Trees in many regions were a month ahead of schedule due to the mild 2016/2017 winter, and spring freezes predisposed frost-intolerant species to attack. Susceptible trees included eastern redbud, Japanese maple, Japanese zelkova, and Japanese snowbell.” Researchers are now considering a new strategy in the form of behavior modification, where beetle repellents are used to protect desirable trees and
ethanol-based attractants are used to lure beetles to their death. This option needs optimization, but shows promise. HRI and AmericanHort, in conjunction with other interested organizations, supported funding of this research through the USDA-ARS sponsored Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative. Photos courtesy of Dr. Chris Ranger, USDA
(HRI), the research affiliate of AmericanHort, has provided over $7 million in funds since 1962 to research projects covering a broad range of production, environmental, and business issues important to the green industry. Over $10 million is committed to the endowment by individuals, corporations, and associations. For more information about HRI, its grant-funded research, scholarships, or programming, visit www.hriresearch.org or contact Jennifer Gray at (614) 884-1155.
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4 Core Elements to Help You Grow Your Business
very industry has a set of unique processes required for success. Here are four that are necessary to build and grow a landscaping business. Core 1: Guiding the Business Every business has a purpose, a reason for existing beyond just making money. The owner starts with a dream about the business they want to create — their legacy. But the dream must be translated into a sense of purpose shared by everyone so that it becomes the company’s culture over time. The reality is that you will have a culture, either on purpose or by default, and by default is dangerous. These three processes will ensure your beliefs become reality. • Purpose. Your Vision is the Why; your Mission is the What, Who, and When; and your Values are the How. • Reward & Recognition. Installing the Law of the Good Deal requires recognition and reward. Recognition is honoring people for doing the right thing. Reward is providing tangibles like days off or promotions. • Measurement. To make Purpose real and create a Reward & Recognition process that works, the business must measure and track jobs and people. Core 2: Running the Business This is the invisible part of the business that customers do not see, but they experience the results. Most owners spend
their time in the field, not in the back office. To find time to work ON the business, they must be relieved from working IN it. These four processes are required for smooth internal operations. • Administration. This includes general issues like answering the phone, paying the bills, and ensuring employees are paid on time. • Finance. Staying in business requires managing cash flow, margins, and profit. • Human Resources. Delivering on promise requires finding the right people through recruiting, employee Information Technology. Running the business requires tying everything together so people enter information once and it is available when needed. Core 3: Getting the Business Owners must find time to focus on their key role: bringing in new customers. The challenge for small businesses without a track record is the problem of Risk and Trust. Young, small companies are asking customers to take a risk when they buy, and only the owner has the credibility to reduce this risk. Customers only trust after a job is done. These three processes are essential for producing profitable sales. • Branding & Strategy. To avoid competing solely on price, a business must create a unique image and a plan for making the image real.
Marketing. Once the brand and strategy are created, you must help customers see your brand as you see it by surrounding them with information. Sales. Qualified leads must move through the funnel from first contact to closing the deal quickly, reducing the cost of sales.
Core 4: Doing the Business Most landscape business owners excel at this, but if design/ build or maintenance or turf services are delivered because of the owner’s direct involvement, working IN the business will consume all of their time. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are essential so that owners can work ON the business with the knowledge the job is being done right and customers are satisfied. • Project Management. Jobs must be scheduled and processes managed to make sure everything promised is delivered on time, on budget. • Customer Service. Traditionally, this is seen as being nice to unhappy customers instead of a sales function. But remember, it costs five times more to bring in a new customer than it does to upsell a satisfied one. Watch for more information and access to practical tools to help you implement these processes in upcoming issues. The GreenMark Consulting Group is dedicated to making landscape businesses more efficient and profitable. We provide business coaching and advisory support to help owners solve problems with limited resources or expertise. Contact us at (610) 905-3637 for more information.
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MDAR Announces ePlace Portal for Licensing The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Pesticide Program has announced the introduction of e-licensing through the Commonwealth’s ePlace Portal. All new exam results, registrations, and license applications must now use this online system. A public access portal is also available to verify license credential types and license numbers. The following examination and licensure actions will now be performed online: • Apply to take the exam • Apply for a new license • Submit proof of insurance • Receive license via email • Renew license • Update address, employer information, insurance information • Submit examination and licensing fees via checking account or credit card To be able to perform these actions, an individual must create an ePlace Portal account. All existing licensees and individuals with exam results have received instructions on linking their existing records to their new ePlace Portal account.
All new exam and license applications must be processed through the new system. Individuals applying for an Applicator (core) License or Commercial Certification are required to upload a certificate of insurance when applying for their credential. Submitting an exam registration or license application using the old system will significantly slow down the processing of the application. During the transition between the old data system and the new ePlace portal, MDAR expects an increase in phone calls. Your patience and understanding are appreciated. Your questions, issues, and concerns will be addressed as quickly as possible.
Have questions? • ePlace Technical Assistance: (844) 733-7522 Monday-Friday 7:30am – 5:00pm • Exam and Licensure Issues: Steven Antunes-Kenyon (617) 626-1784 Pesticide Examination and Licensing: www.mass.gov/eea • • • •
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Recognize the unsung member of your team — the “person” who approaches every day and every job with curiosity, enthusiasm, and a willingness to stay by your side to the end of the day, no matter what.
1. The Amazon rainforest produces half of the world’s oxygen supply. 2. The tallest tree ever was an Australian eucalyptus; in 1872, it was measured at 435 feet tall. 3. Oak trees are struck by lightning more than any other tree. 4. Bamboo is the fastest growing woody plant in the world; it can grow 35 inches in a single day.
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Plant for Success
Vaccinium corymbosum — Highbush blueberry The Highbush blueberry plant has beautiful flowers in the spring, delicious fruit in summer, and spectacular fall color. Winter is not too shabby, either; new canes are green, and buds and winter stems appear reddish in the snow. Highbush blueberry is a healthy landscape plant. Kids (of all ages!) love coming home to eat the delicious fruit as it ripens each day. No fertilizer is necessary; naturally acidic New England soils support this plant. More sun should get you better fruit yield and better fall color. Good fruit set probably requires supplemental watering in years of drought. Very easy to prune; cut older canes to rejuvenate. Use it in a hedgerow, in an edibles garden, as part of a foundation planting intermingled with inkberry, juniper, or yew. Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern) and our native asters look great alongside.
The Details Vaccinium corymbosum • • • • •
Type of Plant: Deciduous shrub Hardiness: Zone 5‐8 Exposure: Sun to part shade Fall Color: Spectacular red to pink Size: Missouri Botanical Garden says 6‐12 feet height x 8-12 feet spread for the species. Cultivar ‘Patriot’ is listed as 5‐8 feet x 5‐8 feet; ‘Elliot’ is listed as 4‐6 feet x 4‐6 feet. • Growth Rate: Michael Dirr says slow; personally, I would say average here in New England. • Soils/Moisture: Prefers acidic soils; natively grows in moist woods, bogs, swamps, and low areas.
Ellen Parker Menounos, MCH, Phil Mastroianni Corp. Ellen Parker Menounos, MCH, is a Horticulturist/Project Manager at Phil Mastroianni Corp. She graduated from the University of Georgia and went on to earn a Certificate in Planting Design from the Boston Architectural College. Ellen enjoys educating the customer about New England plants, has earned a reputation as the go-to person for plant-related information, and has developed relationships with many local nurseries to provide clients with the best options for their project.
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