How to Grow & Maintain Japanese Maple Trees

If you’re in search of an element to truly enhance the curb appeal of your house make sure you consider Japanese Maple trees. Japanese maple typically refers to any variety that is a part of the Acer palmatum which is indigenous to Japan, China, and Korea.

However, cultivars from A. japonicum and. Shirasawanum is often added to the mix, too, and is indigenous to Japan.

With over 1,000 cultivars, hybrids and cultivars, you’ll be sure to find one that meets your every need.

The large deciduous trees or smaller trees are available in a variety of dimensions and shapes.

Upright or crying. Beautiful and tall. Small and strong. They are available in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Their delicate, sometimes purple leaves change to a variety of stunning hues of orange, red, or yellow during the fall.

Their distinctive gray bark makes an unmistakable silhouette in the light of the moon and looks stunning against the snow of winter. The branching limbs provide the perfect balance for any layout.

Japanese maples are able to create a landscape.

Do you need one (or three, or two) …) or three) in your daily life? We’ll be discussing this in our upcoming guide:

Cultivation and History

Japanese Maples are part of Japanese culture for centuries. First mentions of these date back in the 7th century and by the time of the 1700s, they were widely cultivated.

Overtime over the years, they’ve been refined and bred into numerous stunning cultivars.

From Japan They gradually moved throughout the world, eventually arriving in the West in the 1820s.

When we speak of Japanese maples, we’re not talking about one specific species, but more than twenty-six Acer species indigenous to Japan.

A. palmatum, A. japonicum palmatum, and A. shirasawanum, are the most frequent species, however, you’ll also come across A. micranthum, A. tschonoskii, A. rufinerve A. rufinerve, and A. argutum, as well as other varieties being sold under the brand name Japanese maple.

The majority of cultivars are cold-hardy to about 20degF or can be grown within USDA hardiness Zones five through 9.

Naturally, these trees are found in the woodland understory and are a good place to enjoy the sun’s rays. Therefore, a spot that is partially shaded is suitable.


Japanese maples can be affordable to incredibly expensive at the retail store. This is why it could be an ideal idea to plant the trees yourself at your home.

If you also have an ornamental tree that performs especially well in your or in a neighbor’s yard you could cut it and then plant another tree you know works well in your neighborhood!

From Seed

It is possible to grow Japanese maple from seeds But be aware that your new plant won’t develop in the same way as the original. It could lack the deep-lobed leaves like the parent tree or the color might not be as striking.

Japanese maples bloom in spring and are adorned with tiny flowers.

The summer blooms transform into little “helicopters” (also known as Samaras) that we have all known and loved as children. The seed pods are equipped with tiny “wings” attached to the seeds, and they are shaped like the blades of helicopters as they drop from the tree and fall to the ground during the last days of the summer or in the fall.

When you notice the seed pods beginning to fall from the ground, you know it’s time to get them. Be quick, as when the pods begin to fall down the tree, they will fall over in a space of a few days.

Of course, it is possible to collect the pods from the ground if wish, but the pods you pick fresh from the tree appear to be the most successful in germinating.

It is always possible to plant seeds directly into the ground once they have fallen off the trees, however, this is a bit unpredictable. It is recommended to remove the seeds, check their viability, then freeze the seeds in a seed tray.

For harvesting, the seeds are cut to remove the “wings” off the pods and put in bowls filled with warm water at room temperature over 24 hours. After that, you should collect all seeds that fall into the water to the level of. They aren’t viable.

If you reside in the Zones 4-7, you can plant seeds in containers before starting. Fill a seeding tray with a seed-starting medium up to 34 inches away from the top. Then, place seeds 4 inches from each other.

Cover the entire area with half 1-inch soil. Then, place a metal mesh on the top. Place the flat surface outside in the cold, in an area that is partially shaded for all winter.

This is a method to freeze and stratify the seeds. Keep the soil moist, but not wet until the seeds begin to germinate. When the season begins, you’ll begin to start to see tiny green sprouts appearing. Then, remove the cloth from the hardware and put your flat in a shaded location.

If you’re in the zones 8-9, you’ll need to do the stratification process in a way. Place the seeds that have been soaked in a bag that is filled with damp sand. Make sure to push the air out, and close the bag. Place it in the fridge for 3 months. Every few weeks, check to ensure the sand remains damp.

In the first spring, you can place the artificially-cold stratified seeds about 4 inches apart on a flat filled with an agro-nutrient mix. A mixture of equal parts organic matter in addition to cocoa coir would be the best choice.

Set it in a location with indirect, bright sunlight for at least 4 hours every day. Make sure to keep it moderately damp.

In either case, once the seedlings have emerged and have developed one set of leaves, you are able to transplant the seedlings into their permanent home as explained below.

When you transplant your indoor plants outdoors ensure that you have hardened the seedlings by placing them in a safe place for about one hour. Then return them indoors.

The following day, take the plants outdoors for another two hours. Then, add another hour every day until they can be out for an entire eight hours.

From Cuttings

It’s not the case that all maples grow well from cuttings. However, there are a lot that does, and it’s worth trying. In spring, you can take softwood pieces (rather as hardwood cuttings) by using the clippers with a clean blade.

Hardwood is wood that has changed color and is hardened and softwood can be either red or green, based on the type of tree. It is malleable.

Cut off the top of the branch until you’ve got about five inches of tissue as well as a minimum of 2 leaf nodes (the point at which leaves emerge from the branch). Cut the branch at a 45-degree angle, then take any leaves off the lower part of the branch.

Dip the tip of the cutting into a rooting hormone.

I’ve used Bontone II Rooting Powder and it has always performed well for me. It’s a must-have item in my gardening tools.

Plant your seeds in 4-inch containers that are filled with a non-soil rooting medium. A 50-50 mix of sand, vermiculite, or perlite is the best choice. Poke a hole through the middle of each container, and then put in a cut.

Make sure the medium is firm around the base, and then water to help settle the soil. Set a chopstick on either end of each cut in a way that it extends about an inch or so above the cutting. place the container in a transparent plastic similar to a gallon-sized bag.

Make sure to check the cuttings on a daily basis to ensure that the rooting medium remains dry but not completely damp. After four weeks Give the cuttings the slightest pull. They should not resist.

Then the seeds have developed roots and can be replanted after a time of hardening off as mentioned in the section on how to propagate seeds.

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From Seedlings/Transplanting

Transplants are planted by digging your hole.

It should be large enough – typically twice as large as the ball and just enough deep to ensure that its top is level with or even just over the line of soil when it’s soaked.

A little bit high is fine. If you go too deep, you might have problems.

If your roots are tied up, you can cut a few slashes using your pruning tools or even a blade to cut some of them.

Fill the hole back in and add compost should you want to. Be sure to tap the soil to allow the soil to set. Don’t overlook to ensure whether the trunk is straight. If the plant is grafted make sure that the joint is placed over the soil.

The temporary staking method is beneficial when your tree is large at the time of plant or if you have frequently high winds. Bare root plants must also be staked during the initial season of growth.

How to Grow

Before you even think about the idea of planting the Japanese tree in your backyard Let’s determine whether they’re the right choice for the area you live in.

Although partial shade can be great, however, full sun is ideal also if you’re located in the northern part of the country where summer temperatures aren’t quite as hot.

If it’s very hot in your area it is suggested. Otherwise, the young leaves could scorch and burn.

Variegated species are more susceptible to scorch on the leaves. While it’s unlikely to end the tree’s life, it’s certainly ugly.

In addition, this beautiful plant can take full shade – but be aware that the color of the leaves could not be what you’d expect, and the fall’s brilliance could be affected as well.

The tree could also grow slim and lanky or develop to an angle. As an example, the dwarf tree that is shown in the image below receives only about an hour of sunshine a day. In the end, it has grown to get to the sunlight in the fifteen years that it has grown in the area.

The soil type could be any of the following: clay loam, sand, or clay – but it should be able to drain well. The soil that is waterlogged is a sure way to kill nearly all Japanese maple.

It is also recommended that the soil appears slightly acidic with a pH ranging between 5.5. between 5.5 and 6.5.

If it’s planted on clay, be sure that it’s placed on higher ground to keep outstanding water.

Smaller varieties are usually between 6-8 feet. Taller varieties could reach 40 feet, so you should take the size of your garden into consideration when you plant. Knowing how much room you’ll need for the plant will determine what varieties might be a suitable suit for your space.

A space with a length of at least five feet is a great starting point for a smaller tree to spread its branches. It is necessary to expand the dimensions of your planned footprint if you choose to go with an older tree. Take a look at the information booklet that comes with the tree to determine its size at maturity and conduct your own research prior to making a make a purchase.

If you’re comfortable with trimming an inch or two heavier each year it’s likely that you can keep your tree to a specific size. If low maintenance is the way to go choose a tree with an organic growth pattern that is appropriate for the space you’ve got.

Most cultivars are regarded as slow-growing with less than a foot of annual growth.

The most vulnerable time for trees is in the initial years following it’s been transplanted. It’s the same with Japanese maples.

Although established trees are able to withstand dry spells, newly planted ones can’t. Therefore, no matter what you do, don’t let your tree become dry within the first few years after it was transplanted. The initial few inches of soil could dry out between irrigation.

Planting trees in full sunlight, particularly in hotter climates will require more water overall even after they have been established.

A few (many) positive aspects of Japanese maples is they’re capable of surviving the black walnut tree ( Juglans nigra). A variety of plants are unable to grow or end up dying if they are placed near them due to the juglone chemical black walnuts and their cousins’ release. However, maples are able to handle it.

You could also plant your maple inside a container but you’ll have to be vigilant in pruning it to ensure that it is kept in control. Choose a dwarf cultivar and think about using some kind of container watering system as containers are prone to drying out faster than the ground.

Keep in mind that many Japanese maples are transplanted. When you plant a grafted tree it is important to keep an eye out for Reversion (we’ll discuss this further in the section about pruning and maintaining below).


A couple of inches or so of mulch can help keep moisture in the soil and also help to control the growth of weeds and control the temperature of the soil.

Make sure to not mulch too closely around the trunk’s base as it could smother it. Place mulch lightly close to the trunk, but denser when you remove yourself towards the tree.

Japanese maples tend to be the first to begin their leafing out in the season of spring. It is wonderful for aesthetics. However, frosts that occur in late spring can kill fresh growth.

Trees that are planted in full sunlight are especially vulnerable to frosts that occur in late spring since these areas become warmer and cause branches to begin leafing earlier.

Another way to hold off the time of leafing out is to apply more mulch at the tree’s base around the tree, ranging from three to four inches.

Also, don’t clump mulch against the trunk. It will not be happy.


Fertilization isn’t required, and excessive amounts could cause issues such as Reversion, which is detailed in the next section on pruning, as well as susceptibility to certain diseases.

However, if you see your tree isn’t looking healthy, think about conducting a soil test. We will provide you with more details on the steps you should perform yourself to test your soil examined on this page.

Instead of conducting a soil test the best choice is to ensure the soil’s fertility at a minimum.

Because they are typically slow-growing, using too much fertilizer, particularly nitrogen, is particularly damaging.

A fertilizer specifically designed especially for Japanese maples is the best choice however you could make use of a controlled release all-purpose fertilizer like Osmocote Plus Indoor and Outdoor Plant Food. Apply this fertilizer at the beginning of spring following one last freeze.

Dig holes of six inches deep halfway between your dripline and trunk every couple of feet. Apply fertilizer according to the quantity recommended by the manufacturer.

Are you in need of fertilizer? Home Depot carries Osmocote in 8-pound bags.

Be aware that trees are susceptible to damage from frost so it is crucial not to fertilize until the end of the frost. Fertilizer stimulates the growth of the leaf, and we’d rather not do that before the right time.

Growing Tips

  • Planting in shade is best, but trees can tolerate full sun or complete shade.
  • Make sure the soil is moist during the initial several years of the plant’s existence.
  • Sprinkle a few inches of mulch around the base of the trees.
  • Examine the soil for whether fertilizer is needed.

Pruning and Maintenance

To trim, you can employ a pair of clean clippers, which have been cleaned using a cloth that has been dipped into one-third bleach and 10 parts water. This step of cleaning helps stop the spread of diseases.

In the winter months when no new growth is sprouting take a walk outside to complete the bulk trimming. This means shaping and taking out any branches that have been rubbing or are overcrowded. When your trees are excessively crowded, you can trim it back to 1/3, but not more.

If you’re cutting a branch short cut it back to where two shorter stems appear to give the cut an uncluttered appearance.

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If you’re taking off all branches, trim them back up to the collar of the branch which is the shoulder that runs between both the tree and branch.

It is possible to remove dead or diseased branches at any time throughout the season, but you should be cautious not to perform your main pruning during the winter months or at the beginning of spring. This can lead to excessive growth prior to the last frost, which can end up killing your plant.

The tree that is shown below requires serious trimming to remove dead branches. If your tree appears like this, you are able to get rid of decayed wood at any point of the season.

There’s a caveat to trimming with clippers or shears and this is when you observe the phenomenon known as plant reverse. This occurs when a plant is grafted with an unintentional cell, and it attempts to return to its original form.

The reason is that the cells that produced the stunning mutation appealed to the tree-growing expert that they decided to transplant it onto another tree. They are more susceptible to a mutation in comparison to others.

This may also manifest in the shape of a sprout that emerges from beneath the line of grafting.

The most common species in variegated plants It’s simple to identify them since you’ll notice an entire branch of solid leaves that are growing in the other foliage that is variegated.

If you observe leaves developing which appear to be belonging to a different kind or species of Japanese maple, break off the entire stem or branch Don’t cut it off. This way, you’re less likely to tear out the cells that are errant, as pruning can cut off the branch past the point of reversion.

If suckers emerge from the soil, you must be meticulous about cutting them closest to the soil as possible and be ready to watch them come back.

If you don’t stop them promptly, they may grow and the entire tree could be destroyed.

Varieties and Cultivars to Select

In general, there are two primary varieties that are Japanese maples:

They’re either a smaller large, large tree with lacy leaves which tend to lower their branches and may even be weeping or they’re more upright with a vase-like shape and a tree-like shape.

There, you will typically find varieties with various leaf colors, typically red, purple, or green in the summer. You can also find some incredible shades of orange, red, or yellow in the autumn. There are trees that have different foliage colors.

To keep things tidy and orderly To make things neat and organized, to make things neat and organized, the Maple Society officially classifies Japanese Maples into 17 categories. If you’d like to know more about the classification, we’ve put together the entire guide to help make the process easy to understand.

Keep in mind that there are hundreds of maples available So, you’ll need to follow some steps to narrow the selection down.

Cold hardiness is a specific cultivar So make sure you know the zone of your garden.

If you are planning to plant the Japanese tree in containers, select one that is hardy to two zones to the north of your region. Also, you should be ready to offer winter protection.

Determine exactly where you’d like to put it, and make sure it’s an appropriate location based on the guidelines above.


This cultivar is among the most sought-after A. palmatum varieties available. It’s actually a collection of hybrids and cultivars that are upright with red leaves however, you’ll find them all listed under this label.

They are often found in big-name stores for home supplies and nurseries. It’s got dark purple leaves (atropurpureum refers to dark purple) which turn bright red in autumn.

It’s hardier to cold than other cultivars. It grows up to Zone 5 and reaches upwards of 25 feet when it matures.


A. platinum ‘Bloodgood’, another well-known cultivar you’ll find in nurseries and home store supplies. It can grow to around 20 feet in height and width and is ideal for zones 5-8.

With an upright growth pattern, the burgundy-colored leaves feature seven or five deep lobes.

This cultivar was awarded the Award of Garden of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

You can pick up a ‘Bloodgood’ from Home Depot in a two-gallon container.

Full Moon

A. japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’, also known as “Full Moon Maple,” is sought-after for its leaf-like leaves that have between 7 and 11 deep-cut lobes.

Although it is a beautiful deep red hue in the summer months, in the fall the foliage turns a vibrant scarlet that is bursting with purple and orange.

It’s just approximately 10 feet in height and width once mature, which makes it perfect for smaller spaces and is a great fit for zones 5 to 7.

Be aware of the fact that A. japonicumis sometimes described as full moon maples. However, there are a variety of varieties and cultivars available.

Japanese Maple Care

Japanese maple care Japanese caring for maples is simple. The care of Japanese maples in the summer months is mostly about providing enough water to reduce stress.

It is essential to water the tree thoroughly even in the absence of rain. apply the water to the roots slowly, so that the soil absorbs the maximum amount of water. Stop once the water begins to drain. 

Reduce how much water you drink you use in the latter part of summer to increase the autumn color. The addition of a 3-inch (7.5 centimeters.) layer of mulch can help the soil to retain moisture and prevents the expansion of weeds. 

The mulch should be pulled back by a couple of inches (7-8 millimeters.) from the trunk in order to avoid decay. All pruning that is heavy is best done in the late winter before buds open in the spring. 

Cut away twigs with a scraggly interior and branches, but leave the branches that are structural in their current form. 

You can make tiny correctional cuts every season. With such simple maintenance and beauty, there is nothing that can be more satisfying than planting the Japanese maple on your landscape.

Managing Pests and Disease

Let me start this article by saying that I’m sure this appears to be an exhaustive list. This could lead you to believe that Japanese maples face a myriad of issues.

While they’re susceptible to a variety of diseases and pests They are generally healthy and will not frequently encounter problems.

Yes, there are plenty of things to keep an eye on however, you shouldn’t come across them often.


Japanese maple pests vary from mildly irritating to destructive, and can also spread diseases. These are some of the more likely pests you’ll encounter.


If there’s one insect on the market that can trigger an outpouring of foul language out of my mouth it’s aphids. They’re not because they’re harmful although they could be an issue, but due to the fact that they’re very frequent.

Aphids won’t kill your Japanese maple tree, however, they can cause your maple’s leaves to turn yellow and leaves behind an acrid residue known as honeydew, which attracts the sooty mold and the ants.

To find out more about Aphids and the best way to deal with these pests, read our extensive article.


A kind of borer identified more specifically as Asian ambrosia beetles ( Xylosandrus crassiusculus) They are a type of pest that typically won’t be seen until the tree is already damaged or dying. Borers are a threat to stressed trees, which makes the problem worse.

The beetles burrow into the branches and trunk and leave behind frass that resembles sawdust. There may also be gaps in branches or the trunk.

Beyond the physical damages The beetles also carry ambrosia fungusthat can infect the interior and the inside of the trees. The holes make the tree vulnerable to other illnesses.

Infested trees may show green or yellow leaves, dying branches, and stunted growth. Young trees may die.

To get rid of these insects, cut off affected branches from which you detect holes. Burn or remove the wood from bags that are sealed. Infested trees that are at a high risk of infestation may require being removed.

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It’s essential to maintain the health of your tree to ensure that you don’t face this issue at all since there’s no effective home remedy to kill the beetles, other than to remove the wood they’re residing in.

Maple Scale

The scale of the cottony maple ( Pulvinaria innumerabilis) is most prevalent and harmful to the red and silver maples, however, they can attack Japanese trees too. The most noticeable is when they are in large numbers there are adult females with their eggs lined up on the branches and the trunk.

What are they like?

These oval, flat brown insects are covered with an amorphous, waxy white substance that shields them. In the summer months, you’ll also notice small, squishy eggs that explode filled with tiny, minuscule nymphs which are able to crawl out and stick to leaves nearby.

The leaves of severely affected branches may change color, turning brown or yellow prior to falling. Branches that are affected may get rid of their foliage if there’s an infestation of sufficient size However, that’s not the norm.

Like aphids, these insects produce honeydew, an oily substance that draws sooty mold.

beneficial insects such as parasitoid wasps and ladybugs are crucial to keeping these pests at bay naturally. That is why an effective garden management system that enhances the overall health and wellbeing of the whole small ecosystem is essential.

This means that you should avoid broad-spectrum pesticides when you can.

If your garden isn’t stocked with beneficial insects, contact the local garden shop to determine if they have parasitic wasps which thrive in your local area.

There are also ladybugs available to release into your garden. Be sure to search for ones kept in captivity instead of ladybugs that were collected from the wild and then shipped to other locations.

To help your small predators keep their scales at bay to keep them in check, clean any pests from the tree using the help of a cotton ball that has been dipped in ruby alcohol.


If you can provide the proper environmental conditions and the right conditions, most Japanese maples are healthy. This doesn’t mean that your trees are immune to any illness however, serious diseases aren’t very frequent.

However, it is important to know what you should be looking for to swiftly take action if the pathogen that causes disease sneaks into your. Here are some of the most frequently encountered concerns:


While anthracnose typically won’t cause death to a tree, however, it is certainly an unattractive disease. It is caused due to the fungus Aureobasidium apocryptum.

When the fungus infects the leaves, it creates spots and tan splotches on the foliage’s margins and veins. In ideal conditions and if it is left to thrive unchecked the fungus could cause the leaves to fall, and could even decimate trees.

So, what are ideal conditions?

Anthracnose likes to be dry and cool and spreads through water. The dense foliage and crowded trees together with the overhead watering as well as a lot of soil debris close to the tree, so that the fungus can flourish and winterize, is the right combination.

In general, if you stay clear of these situations, your tree should be in good shape even if it does develop the disease. It is important to cut off any affected areas.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is very common in warm climates Although many people are aware of it in vegetables growing in their gardens, the fungus could also inflict harm on trees and shrubs.

Learn more about ways to recognize and treat it with organic and home remedies.


The disease is caused by an airborne bacterium Pseudomonas syringae. It is most prevalent in dry, cool conditions, particularly in the event that you’ve just experienced an unseasonably warm, dry period. It can enter the tree through cuts that are on your bark in the leaves.

In the latter part of winter, or in the early spring when buds of your tree begin to appear, you’ll see the affected buds have gone black and have died. It is possible to observe parts of the bark turning black too. It is possible to observe leaf spots, and branches’ tips may be dying.

The best way to stay clear of this disease is to minimize the chance that it could take hold. It is best to prune only in dry weather when the winds are calm.

Get rid of any diseased branches. Also, practice proper pruning in the fall, so that the plants do not suffer winter injuries.

Root Rot

Root rot is one of those diseases that, when you first notice signs, there’s already an amount of damage occurring beneath the surface. It is caused by water molds within the Phytophthora genus it is a threat to the plant’s roots and causes them to turn brown.

Above the ground, you’ll typically observe a tree that appears to be declining in growth or has stopped growing. As the disease gets worse you may notice dark brown cankers growing on the trunk that look like they’re moist. They could or might not be leaking clear liquid.

Insufficient drainage is the primary cause, however overwatering or watering the trees or the foliage, could be a cause of spreading the disease.

After you have your watering issues under control then apply a fungicide that is a source of hydrogen peroxide like ZeroTol Hydrochloride, to be used as a soil drench.

If you are afflicted by this condition, you can purchase the gallon-sized container of concentrated in Arbico Organics to assist in bringing the problem under control.

Verticillium Wilt

If you notice branches that are becoming black in your trees, it’s an excellent possibility that it’s an issue with vert. If you notice dying and wilting leaves, particularly if they begin to turn brown and yellow at the edges prior to falling and then falling, you can be certain that this is the issue.

If you slice off the timber, you’ll notice dark streaks. This is caused by the Verticillium dahliae fungus that lives on earth (for at least 13 years! ).

The first thing to do is ensure that you have good drainage. drainage is essential to stopping and preventing this disease. If you have to improve the drainage of your soil, do so. Cut back the dying branches at least six inches over the obvious signs.

Best Uses

Japanese maples can be an excellent addition to any garden since they are available in many shapes and sizes.

These can serve to create focal places, tiny plant specimens, and potted, they can also be used for bonsai.

They can provide the appearance and texture of an area of shade or create shade in the corner of your backyard.

Certain species bring color to a winter landscape by their vibrant bark, while others create the eye with their distinctive leaf forms.

You Won’t Be Disappointed

So long as you’re patient about your decision, you’ll not regret having the Japanese maple in your garden.

In the first place, ensure the plant you select is one that is suitable not just for the area you live in and area, but also for the area of your garden you’ve chosen.

Be sure to nurture your plant in the first few years following its placing it in the new spot. Most of the time, you don’t have to be concerned about watering it properly.

There’s nothing more frustrating than investing your time and money in a stunning tree to see it slowly or rapidly – fall away.

Pick the ideal spot and ensure it is well-watered and you’ll be a very happy Japanese maple planter with a flourishing new part of the garden that you can take pleasure in.

Now is your turn. Tell us what type of Japanese maple you choose and the way you plan to make use of it in the comment section below.

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