Full Newbie’s Information to Rising Dragon Fruit

Tropical fruits typically really feel like a international language to temperate gardeners. We see their vibrant colours in grocery shops, however it’s laborious to think about them rising in our gardens. Dragon fruit is especially distinctive as a result of this subtropical cactus is pretty uncommon within the U.S. Rising it your self ensures the ripest, sweetest fruits doable. You may develop it outside in USDA zones 10-11, however cooler zones can develop it in containers and transfer them indoors within the winter.

Epic founder Kevin has been rising dragon fruit on the Epic Homestead in San Diego for 5 years. He attributes most of his success to the knowledge and experience of grasp dragon fruit grower Richard Lee of @graftingdragonfruit. This text outlines the nuances of this fruiting cactus and tips on how to benefit from its vigorous progress!

Let’s dig into every thing you’ll want to find out about rising dragon fruit as an entire newbie.

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What’s Dragon Fruit?

Characterized by its long, green, cactus-like stems, the Dragon Fruit plant produces vibrant pink fruits with green-tipped scales.
Develop vibrant, unique dragon fruit effortlessly in appropriate climates.

Dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus) is a subtropical cactus that yields vibrant fuchsia-pink fruits with tiny black seeds. The frost-tender crops are native to Mexico, Central America, and South America however might be cultivated in USDA zones 10-11.

Generally referred to as pitahaya, these cacti have intriguing vine-like leaves crammed with spikes that yield beautiful, brightly coloured oval-shaped fruit. Regardless of the intimidating spikes and wild look, they’re simpler to develop than you suppose.

How Do You Develop Dragon Fruit? 13 Newbie-Pleasant Steps

Dragon fruit is exclusive as a result of the fruits cease ripening as quickly as you chop them from the plant. Distinction this to bananas or tomatoes, which ripen on cabinets after harvest. Because of this store-bought fruits are virtually by no means ripe, which frequently leaves them missing in taste. The one method to get pleasure from this plant in its full glory is to reap it ripe and contemporary straight from the backyard. 

Right here’s tips on how to get began rising your individual:

Select the Proper Selection

The Dragon fruit is oval-shaped with vibrant pink skin adorned with green-tipped scales, and its interior reveals white flesh speckled with tiny black seeds.
Select dragon fruit varieties properly for profitable cultivation and fruiting.

Massive field shops typically promote dragon fruit as “purple” or “white,” however this doesn’t correctly characterize the completely different sorts of this cactus. As an alternative, you should perceive the several types of flowers and fruits that these crops produce. When taking a look at any cultivar, be taught to distinguish between these three sorts:

  1. Self-fertile means the plant doesn’t require cross-pollination to provide fruit. It may be grown as a single plant and efficiently set fruit by itself however may have some human assist transferring the pollen round within the flowers.
  2. Self-sterile varieties have to be crossed with a special selection in an effort to set fruit. They require somewhat further work and are higher for superior varieties.
  3. Self-pollinating varieties don’t want ANY human intervention.

Two of the perfect newbie varieties are ‘Vietnam White’ and ‘Sugar Dragon.’ These self-fertile crops nonetheless require hand pollination, however they yield amazingly scrumptious fruit that you simply’ll virtually by no means discover in shops. Self-fertile means the plant can pollinate itself, however it’s a must to hand-transfer the pollen between its flowers. Don’t fear, this course of may be very easy, and we’ll clarify it under.

Cuttings vs. Seeds

Close-up of many Selenicereus undatus plant cuttings in black plastic pots with a layer of mulch.
Start your dragon fruit journey with dependable cuttings for fulfillment.

It’s best to start out your dragon journey with cuttings. Cuttings are far more dependable than seeds as a result of cuttings are vegetative (cloning) propagation, whereas seeds come from sexual propagation. Whenever you begin from a chopping, you might be sure that you’ll harvest the precise fruit as the unique plant. 

However in the event you begin from seed, you gained’t know if it can style just like the fruit you tried. The flowers could have cross-pollinated with different sorts, leading to completely different flavors and shapes. It may be an actual bummer to place in all the hassle of rising this plant solely to search out that its fruits should not the juicy, candy, tropical gems that you simply’d hoped for. Keep away from this disappointment by beginning with cuttings!

Though this cactus seems unique and intimidating, rising from cuttings is just like another plant in your backyard. From a vegetable grower’s perspective, the stem of the pitahaya cactus might be rooted similar to any cactus. The herb chopping will root and develop into a brand new plant that’s precisely the identical because the mom with the identical genetics. The one distinction is, the cactus has much more fleshy progress and spines.

Rising from cuttings can be a lot sooner than ranging from seeds. A chopping can begin fruiting in a single to 2 years, whereas a seed could take 5 years or extra to succeed in maturity. 

So, the place do you get dragon fruit cuttings? You may take them your self from a neighbor’s plant, or you should purchase established seedlings from a tropical nursery. Generally, these crops are offered as houseplants. Confirm the variability is an edible one earlier than continuing.

Getting ready Cuttings

Close-up of a gardener in a brown apron and blue gloves cutting a Dragon Fruit cutting using pruning shears in the garden.
Begin with a wholesome, woody stem for profitable rooting.

To begin your journey, search for a big, plump stem branching from a mature cactus. Stem cuttings are the best to root as a result of they have already got a woody base, and there may be much less danger of rot. A flesh chopping entails slicing via the thick inexperienced stems of the cactus after which drying them out earlier than planting.

You may spot a cutting-worthy stem as a result of the bottom can have a woody nub connecting it to the remainder of the plant. The brown woody nub is like its personal dry stem. It doesn’t want to take a seat out and callous like different succulents.

Use sharp, sanitized shears to chop on the base of the nub. Be certain it’s a seven to eight- inch lengthy chopping from the mature pitahaya of your required selection. Bear in mind, the chopping will likely be an actual clone of the mom. Don’t neglect to scrub and sanitize your shears in between cuts, and sharpen them usually. Subsequent, collect these supplies to plant and root your chopping.

You want:

  • Medium-sized pot, like a 5 gallon pot
  • Bamboo stake, about 18” lengthy
  • Further well-drained soil, resembling a cactus or succulent mix
  • Tape, like backyard tape
  • Pen, for “graffiti” adorning the dragon fruit (we’ll clarify!)

Planting the Chopping

A row of black plastic pots planted with Dragon Fruit cuttings that feature green, fleshy, segmented stems standing upright, ready to develop roots and grow.
Plant your chopping shallowly to forestall rot, supporting it securely.

You need to plant eight inch lengthy cuttings about one inch deep round a put up or trellis and bind them with backyard tape to maintain them upright. Develop in well-drained soil that’s excessive in natural matter and fertilize the plant with a excessive nitrogen fertilizer. Fill your pot with well-drained soil, making certain that it doesn’t maintain an excessive amount of moisture. If the soil turns into soggy or waterlogged, it could rot the chopping earlier than it might kind new roots. 

Bury the chopping about one inch deep. You don’t need to bury it too deep, or the flesh will develop into vulnerable to micro organism and fungi that may decay the stem. Clearly, your lengthy chopping gained’t arise by itself with simply an inch buried into the soil. That is the place your bamboo stake and tape turn out to be useful!

As soon as the cactus stems attain the highest of the trellis and begin to spill over, “chop the highest” by eradicating the rising tricks to promote bushy progress. In a single to 2 years, the thorns will start to develop flower buds that develop into fruit inside 35-70 days.


Close-up of pitaya plant stems taped to vertical wooden posts in a sunny garden.
Stake and safe your chopping for wind safety.

Maintain the chopping straight up and dig the stake all the way in which to the underside of the pot proper subsequent to it. Use the tape to tightly bind the chopping to the bamboo stake. This can shield it from toppling over within the wind. 

Use a marker with ink that holds as much as the weather and write the variability straight on the plant. That is tremendous useful as a result of dragon fruit can develop fairly loopy and also you don’t need to lose observe of the plant selection. Don’t fear; the marker gained’t hurt your cactus nor contaminate the fruits.

Give the chopping a little bit of water, however not an excessive amount of. Maintain it within the shade for 2-4 weeks. Whereas it could appear counterintuitive, shade is essential for this a part of the method as a result of the chopping should channel its vitality into rising new roots. That is sometimes a sun-loving plant, however an excessive amount of solar through the rooting section can delay progress or scorch the flesh.

How Do You Know When Dragon Fruit Cuttings Are Rooted?

Close-up of a dragon fruit stem with thin creamy white roots against a blurred background.
Observe node progress and root formation for profitable transplantation.

After cuttings relaxation within the shade with average moisture for 2-4 weeks, you need to discover small whitish-green nodes rising from the leaves. The nodes appear like little warts on the margins of the cactus leaves the place small thorns develop. Each stems and flower buds ultimately develop from these nodes.

Should you give the chopping a mild tug, it ought to be tough to tug out, indicating that it has fashioned roots. You may even see the roots rising from the massive drainage gap on the backside of your 5 gallon container. At this level, the cactus is able to transplant into a bigger pot or within the floor. 

Put together a Container and Trellis

Dragon fruit is a novel cactus as a result of it prefers to vine. A big wood put up or trellis is essential for maintaining this heavy plant upright. However first, you should determine the place to plant your cuttings. 

This perennial evergreen cactus can stay for ten years or extra, and its roots develop extremely fibrous and thick. Because of this selecting the best location and trellis are key to years of scrumptious tropical fruits.

Ought to I Develop Dragon Fruit within the Floor or in a Container?

The Selenicereus undatus trailing from hanging pot, displays thick, green, segmented stems and tiny spines.
Go for containers that may be moved indoors for climates that have frost.

Should you stay in USDA zones 10-11, it’s finest to develop dragon fruit outside within the floor or in a raised mattress. Nonetheless, for many climates, It’s extremely advisable for freshmen to develop in containers. Kevin lives inside dragon fruit’s hardiness vary, however he grows his in containers, too! 

Should you stay in USDA zone 9 or colder, you should develop in a pot in an effort to transfer the plant indoors within the winter or in wet climate. A container makes it method simpler to have a tendency your plant, shield it from harsh climate, and transfer it if obligatory. You may as well totally management the soil that the cactus grows in.

Plant in a 20-35 gallon pot that’s fabricated from very sturdy materials. Ideally, it ought to be wider than it’s tall. Extensive decrease progress helps a extra steady plant and bigger root zone. Alternatively, develop in a small steel raised mattress just like the Birdies Brief Steel Raised Backyard Mattress.

Creating the Trellis

The Dragon Fruits plantation features rows of sturdy trellises supporting the sprawling, green, cactus-like stems of the plants.
Sturdy trellises assist pitahaya’s sprawling progress and ample fruiting.

Pitahaya will not be a compact plant. This cactus grows sturdy roots and lengthy vining stems. However the weight of its fleshy leaves (and hopefully an abundance of fruit) can simply trigger it to topple. To create a trellis, we extremely suggest the put up technique

You have to a 4×4 wood put up about 4-6 toes lengthy. Make sure the put up is fabricated from untreated hardwood, ideally cedar or redwood. It’s essential that the put up will not be pressure-treated as a result of the chemical substances in pressure-treated wooden might be very poisonous to the plant and your well being.

Subsequent, discover a concrete pier at your native ironmongery shop. The tetrahedral-shaped pier blocks work finest, they usually typically have already got holes or stakes to assist a 4×4 put up. Screw the put up into the pier after which put together your gap or container.

In case you are rising within the floor, you will want to dig a gap to bury the trellis put up. Verify that the concrete and wood base are at the least 10-12 inches under the floor, then backfill with soil. Place the raised mattress across the base of the trellis.

For container growers, safe a t-post, wood stake, or one other sturdy trellis to the underside of your container, resembling a big terracotta pot. Chances are you’ll want an x-shaped wood base or sturdy concrete block on the backside to maintain it upright.

Add a Body to the Trellis Prime

Dragon fruit naturally needs to develop straight up in its first yr. Then it begins to vine outward and down. The form seems like a tall tree with a wild head of hair on the prime. To assist this higher progress, construct a square-shaped body for the highest of your trellis. That is straightforward to do with 4 to 6 items of two×4 framing lumber. Safe the open field to the highest of the put up, and your trellis is lastly full!

Plant in an Space with Full Solar and Effectively-Drained Soil

The Dragon Fruits plantation with trellis showcases rows of vibrant green, cactus-like stems climbing and sprawling over sturdy trellises, with bright pink fruits hanging prominently amidst the structured growth.
Choose a sunny spot with well-draining, organic-rich soil.

Select an space in full daylight with fast-draining soil. Be sure that no buildings or neighboring timber solid shadows over the realm. Dragon fruit solely tolerates dappled afternoon shade within the hottest climates. For many gardeners, six to eight hours of direct solar per day is critical to provide fruit.

Quick-draining soil can be essential as a result of this plant is tailored to tropical situations. Within the tropics, the soil drains water in a short time as a result of seasonal monsoons convey a great deal of rainfall directly. You by no means need pitahaya to take a seat in waterlogged soil.

However in contrast to many different succulents, dragon fruit additionally wants soil that’s excessive in natural matter. This subtropical cactus may be very completely different from desert cacti. 

In case your native soil is heavy in clay or missing in natural matter, you will want to generously amend it with compost, horticultural sand, perlite, and/or vermiculite. Rising in a raised mattress or pot is way simpler as a result of you may fill the container with a top quality potting soil mix.

Plant A number of Cuttings Per Trellis

View of a plantation with young Dragon Fruits cuttings planted and tied to vertical white supports.
Place rooted cuttings strategically for optimum progress and fruiting.

With a container or raised mattress and trellis in place, it’s time to maneuver your rooted cuttings out to the backyard. You don’t must harden them off like different seedlings as a result of we’ll present you tips on how to shield them from climate extremes as soon as they’re within the soil.

You may usually plant 4 cuttings per trellis. To be able to maximize your house, you will have 4 separate vines to develop on both sides of the wood put up. Rising a number of cuttings per mattress ensures extra vines and extra fruit! You may develop a number of completely different varieties round a single trellis or develop a number of cuttings of the identical sort. 

Discover the path of the solar in your trellis and plant accordingly. The biggest cuttings can go on probably the most sun-exposed facet. Their fleshy progress can deal with extra UV rays with out dehydrating within the early levels. Smaller cuttings ought to be planted on the shadier facet to allow them to adapt and catch up over time. 

Depth and Orientation

Plant every chopping one to 2 inches deep most. Attempt to place the flattest facet of the chopping up in opposition to the put up. Orient every chopping very near the trellis and guarantee it’s pointing straight up. The aim is for every vine to race to the highest of the trellis after which produce the floppy hair-like progress on the prime (which yields the fruits). 

Use backyard tape to tie all of the cuttings to the put up. This can hold their roots in place and shield them from disturbance. You may wrap the tape round a number of instances, however attempt to not cowl an excessive amount of floor space of the stem. In any case, the cactus nonetheless must photosynthesize!

Give your newly planted cuttings a light-weight watering. You don’t must water them as a lot as different backyard transplants. They’ve a small quantity of tissue, they usually retailer lots of moisture of their fleshy stems. As soon as the soil is barely moistened, in regards to the consistency of a wrung-out sponge, it’s time to fertilize!

Feed With Excessive-Nitrogen Natural Fertilizer

Close-up of a female gardener spreading granular chemical fertilizer at the base of a dragon fruit tree in the garden.
Nurture younger crops with nitrogen-rich natural fertilizers for vigor.

Within the early levels, dragon fruit wants loads of nitrogen to assist the stems develop and climb to the highest of the trellis. An all-purpose natural fertilizer mix excessive in nitrogen is right. You should utilize granular or liquid fertilizer, however a slow-release natural product is right. 

Artificial quick-release fertilizers make it simpler to overfertilize and probably burn the cuttings. Natural merchandise nonetheless present a beneficiant dose of vitamins, however the fertilizer strikes via the “digestive system” of soil microbes earlier than it reaches the plant. This ensures that your younger cacti don’t get an overdose of vitamins abruptly.

Feed the crops generously, as much as as soon as per week. Fish emulsion is a good possibility! Excessive-frequency fertilization promotes speedy progress. This cactus grows so shortly you can typically see it develop each single day! For a enjoyable monitoring trick, draw strains alongside your wood trellis to look at how briskly the vine climbs. 

Defend from Solar

Close-up of Dragon Fruit plant with robust, green, succulent stems and eye-catching, bright pink fruit dotted with green, leaf-like scales, covered with water drops.
Defend younger crops from direct solar to assist acclimatization.

It could appear unusual to shield a sun-loving plant from the solar, however this fast step is vital, significantly in the event you planted un-rooted cuttings straight within the soil. Should you adopted the steps above, your cuttings seemingly developed in partial shade. Since we didn’t harden them off, it’s vital to assist them step by step alter to their new location. 

Wrap cardboard or a soil bag partially across the base of the trellis to guard the cuttings from drying out. Shade fabric or row cloth will also be useful for the primary week or so. It’s essential that these crops develop in fully frost-free climate, ideally above 60°F (16°C). Chilly climate will kill the crops.

Prune, Prepare, and Trellis

The Dragon Fruits plantation with trellis displays orderly rows of green, fleshy stems supported by trellises.
Prepare and prune your cactus for optimum progress and yield.

As your cactus grows, it’s vital to maintain coaching it within the form of the trellis. Chances are you’ll must tie the plant with twine or backyard tape to maintain the cuttings near the put up as they climb.

As a part of the coaching course of, we extremely suggest pruning away facet shoots! Take away each facet shoot from the plant till it reaches the highest of the trellis. Aspect shoots trigger extra competitors and stunt general progress, which may cut back fruit units later. We don’t need facet shoots till the plant reaches the highest of its trellis!

As soon as the crops develop to the highest of the trellis, it’s time to “crop the highest.” Chopping off the highest of the plant causes it to bush out. This occurs due to one thing referred to as the apical meristem. Apical meristem is a flowery botanical phrase describing the collections of cells on the higher rising ideas. This space is a hub for plant progress hormones. 

Whenever you take away the highest progress tip, the plant channels its hormones and vitality into lateral meristems (facet progress ideas) as an alternative. Reasonably than rising ever-upward, the top-pruned cactus will now produce plenty of facet shoots to yield that bushy progress. 

It could take 4 to 6 cuts to take away all of the tops of the vines. Use sharp, sanitized shears to take away about two inches of every major stalk tip. You’ll take away a tip from each stem that you simply initially planted. So in the event you planted 4 cuttings, be sure that you chop all 4 ideas.

Power the Fruit

Featuring trailing, fleshy, green stems, the Dragon Fruit plant bears large, vibrant pink fruits with dragon-like green scales.
Encourage ample fruiting by strategically tipping new progress yearly.

After a yr or two of progress, the dragon fruit ideas ought to begin branching prolifically. That is when the cactus begins to look wild and monstrous. Don’t fear; monster progress is precisely what we’re in search of! A considerable amount of stem chunks means a big harvest of fruit!

You may anticipate the plant to naturally produce flowers and fruit, or you should utilize this knowledgeable tip to “drive the fruit” to provide extra shortly. Intriguingly, this hack entails “tipping” the stems once more. In mid-to-late summer time, use sharp, sanitized shears to chop one to 2 inches off the tip of each stem. 

This can drive the brand new nodes to cease producing new vegetation. As an alternative, they may focus their vitality on producing flower buds. That is the place issues actually get thrilling! 

Search for the Flowers

The Dragon Fruit plant features sprawling, green, cactus-like stems with no true leaves and large, white, flowers that bloom nocturnally.
Thorns sign future flowers, marking the blooming timeline.

A very cool factor about dragon fruit is that its thorns are multifunctional! Each rising season, the thorns can both produce new progress or put out flower buds. Every thorn will begin to swell like somewhat wart, indicating {that a} bud is forming. The thorn falls off, and a flower will bloom into a big blossom in 30-35 days.

The ultra-special gigantic flowers solely bloom for about twelve hours after which fall off. So it’s completely important that you simply pollinate them whereas they’re open! To be able to catch the flowers in bloom, it helps to mark when the buds begin forming. Use your marker to put in writing the date on the stems with a flower button, or mark the date in your calendar. About 30 days from bud formation, you may hold an eye fixed out for when the blossom opens. 


Close-up of a gardener's hands in white gloves pollinating dragon fruit flower with a brush.
Rejoice blooming day and help pollination for fruitful progress.

Get tremendous excited on the day of blooming! The bulb begins to open its petals within the afternoon, and inside three to 4 hours, it can totally bloom. These are night-blooming cacti with beautiful white petals. 

It is extremely vital to know your selection on the flowering stage. For instance, a easy ‘Vietnam White,’ which is the commonest newbie selection, is the best since you don’t should do something. You may simply benefit from the flowers and allow them to handle pollination as a result of they’re self-fertile AND self-pollinating.

Nonetheless, you probably have a spread that isn’t self-pollinating, you have to be awake to catch these flowers through the quick time that they’re open. Varieties like ‘Sugar Dragon’ can nonetheless pollinate itself, however it’s useful to shake the flower or use somewhat paintbrush to transfer round pollen contained in the flower. This helps guarantee correct fruit formation.

When you get tremendous enthusiastic about dragon fruit, you could need to dive into rising a number of distinctive varieties and crossing them collectively. Clearly, this implies you should catch each crops with open flowers and cross them on the excellent time. The quick window of alternative is thrilling however positively a bit extra difficult.

How Do You Know That A Dragon Fruit Flower Has Set Fruit?

The sprawling, green cactus-like stems of the Dragon Fruit plant are dotted with brown, desiccated dragon fruit blossoms, signaling the end of their bloom cycle.
Monitor for profitable pollination by observing withered blossoms.

It’s tough to know if floral pollination was profitable. About 4 to 5 days after the flower closes, you will notice a useless blossom hanging from the plant. Don’t panic! The flower truly dies as a result of it’s not wanted. On the base of the withered flower, there will likely be somewhat ball

The little ball will begin to develop right into a dragon fruit inside 35-70 days. The vast variation relies on the cultivar. A ‘Vietnam White’ ripens in simply 35 days. It helps to calculate the estimated ripening date in your calendar and mark the flower opening date in your plant with a marker.

Take away Rust and Sunburnt Elements

Close-up of a gardener's hand with pruning shears trimming diseased stems of a Dragon Fruit plant, showing symptoms of rusty brown spots.
Keep plant well being by addressing rust and sunburn points.

When you’ve planted, pruned, and harvested your first fruits, you’re in all probability questioning tips on how to preserve your dragon fruit plant over time. Rust and sunburn are widespread points with these crops. The cactus could begin to develop little orange dots, that are indicators of cactus rust. If they’re localized (confined to 1 space), it isn’t an enormous deal. The rust in all probability isn’t spreading and it might shortly be eradicated with a copper fungicide. You may as well prune off your complete stem.

Should you discover that the plant is popping golden-yellow and mushy, it’s in all probability getting sunburnt. The flesh will really feel melted and “cooked” by the solar. It lacks its standard inexperienced fleshy progress. It’s vital to prune away any sunburnt areas. Relaxation assured, the plant ought to regenerate itself with no problem. In ultra-hot climates with scorching daylight, you could want to maneuver the plant to an space with dappled afternoon shade or construct a shade fabric cowl to guard it via the sweltering summers.

Prune Often

Close-up of a farmer in a white t-shirt and purple bucket hat trimming the stems of a Dragon Fruit plant with red pruning shears in the plantation.
It’s vital to prune for optimum fruit manufacturing, particularly in late fall.

Like many fruit-producing crops, pruning is useful to maximize flower and fruit manufacturing. Dragon fruit cacti can develop into overgrown, and the surplus vegetation detracts from fruiting. Use sharp, sanitized shears to chop away any facet shoots which might be rising method out past the trellis. Concentrate on eradicating the small shoots which might be shorter than six inches. Should you see plenty of sub-branches on a given stem, take away about 50% of them, leaving two to a few evenly spaced lateral branches. 

The very best time to prune is on the finish of the season, within the fall. Pruning pushes new progress and hormones into new buds. Don’t be afraid to generously skinny out mature crops on the prime of their trellis. Within the subsequent season, you’ll need to present loads of fertilizer and water to assist it regenerate. Follow “tipping” the expansion ideas each spring to advertise sturdy fruit manufacturing.

In chilly climates, you should definitely shield the crops from chilly winter nights or transfer them indoors. Row cowl or plastic greenhouses are very useful. You may as well use a frost blanket or transfer dormant potted cacti into your private home or storage the place they may keep above 35°F (2°C). Water very sparingly within the winter months and transfer the cactus again outside as quickly as the chance of frost has handed.

Last Ideas

Dragon fruit is completely different from another plant within the backyard! This distinctive fruiting cactus is a culinary delight that’s hardly ever loved ripe off the vine. There’s a little bit of a studying curve to grasp this subtropical plant’s vining and flowering fashion, however the endeavor is worth it when you style the terribly candy fruits.

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