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Asystasia gangetica

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Clambering herb with purplish zygomorphic flowers. Corolla approx. 4cm long, tubular, with yellow center. Leaves opposite, with subcordate base and acuminate tip.

Habitat: Cultivated in gardens and disturbed areas.

Hemigraphis alternata

Red Ivy

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Sprawling herb, rooting at the nodes, leaves more or less hairy, leaves suffused with purple, especially on the underside, margins crenate (wavy), corolla white with a purple throat, plants sterile.

Notes: Introduced weed grown as an ornamental.

Thunbergia erecta

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrub, typically not more than 3 meters tall, leaves simple with margins entire but otherwise variable, flower limb purple, throat yellow-white.

Habitat: Cultivated in gardens and disturbed areas.

Thunbergia fragrans

Photos: 1 2 3

Photos 1 and 2: Andy Murdock 1999
Photo 3: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: White flowered climbing vine, petals fused, 5 lobed, tube incurved, stamens 4, leaves hastate, opposite.

Habitat: Coastal, drier spots, can be found along road to juice factory.


Celosia argentea

Repe moa

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Herbaceous annual up to about 1 m tall, leaf blades mostly linear, petole winged, flowers borne in terminal ( occasionally axillary) spikes to 20 cm long, flowers pink to maroon turning white.

Mangifera indica

Vipopa'a, Tumi Vi, Vi, Mango, Manguier

Photos: 1 2

Photo 1: Vicente Garcia 2002
Photo 2: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Large tree, leaves lanceolate, margins undulate, flowers many in terminal panicles, fruit a drupe, turning red and yellow as it ripens.

Habitat: Not naturalized, cultivated for fruit crop in coastal and inland habitats, native to India/Burma.

Notes: Mango of commerce, fruit used for juices, preserves, etc. Bark and leaves used medicinally in other parts of the Pacific.


Annona muricata

Soursop, Corosol

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Small tree, shiny petiolate leaves, closely spaced, with an acuminate tip. Fruits large and conspicuous, covered with soft spines that hook away from the base of the fruit.

Notes: Fruit flesh eaten when soft, often made into juices and used in traditional medicine although a modern introduction from South America.

Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)

Centella asiatica

Tohetupou, Gotu Kola, Asiatic Pennywort

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Low leafy weed, very broadly cordate to reniform, flower with minute petals, fruit orbicular.

Habitat: Disturbed areas, fields, wayside, introduced by Europeans, native to Asia.

Notes: Used only minorly in the Pacific, and usually used as if it were Geophila repens (with which it shares a Tahitian name due to morphological similarity); heavily used in both Eastern and Western herbal medicine, mostly for memory and concentration.


Allamanda blanchetii

Photos: 1 2 3

Photos 1 and 2: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Shrub with distinctive large tubular flowers that range from lavender to pink to reddish-purple in color. Leaves opposite or pseudowhorled in groups of four, 4-15cm long, 3-5 cm wide, acuminate tip.

Notes: Native to tropical America; used locally for decoration and costume.

Allamanda cathartica

Golden Trumpet, Monette Jaune

Photos: 1 2 3

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Low shrub-like vine (or vice-versa), commonly grown for its large, yellow, tubular flowers. Leaves oblanceolate, shiny glabrous, stamens hidden by small lobes at base of throat.

Notes: Native to Brazil.

Cascabela thevetia

Piti, Yellow oleander, Be-still tree

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Andy Murdock 1999

Description: Shrub to small tree, leafy, resembles Nerium oleander, leaves to 13 cm long, less than 1 cm wide, flowers bright yellow, fragrant, drupe compressed, turning brown with age.

Notes: Poisonous - contains thevetine, a digitalin analog. Common cultivated plant.

Catharanthus roseus

Madagascar Periwinkle, Pervenche de Madagascar

Description: Short herb, flowers 5-lobed, varying in color, white, pink, or red often with a yellow center, leaves obovate, undulate, opposite.

Nerium oleander

Oleander, Rose-Laurel, Laurier-Rose

Photos: 1 2

Photo 1: Anya Hinkle 2000
Photo 2: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Large shrub with narrowly lanceolate leaves and showy flowers ranging from scarlet to white, calyx 5 lobed, leaves whorled.

Plumeria rubra

Tipani, Tipanie, Frangipani, Plumeria, Frangipanier

Photos: 1 2 3

Photo 1: Andy Murdock 1999
Photos 2 and 3: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Large shrub or tree, flowers white or red with a yellow center, or variations thereof, flowers fragrant and sweet, 5 petals, 5 stamens, leaves oblanceolate, deciduous.

Notes: Used in the Cook Islands for bites and stings; used for perfumery and lei making.

Tabernaemontana coronaria


Crepe Jasmine, Jasmine Café, East Indian Rose Bay

Description: Shrub with gardenia-like flowers, petals doubled, white with yellow center, fragrant, elliptic to oblanceolate leaves glabrous, margins undulate.

Asteraceae (Compositae)

Bidens pilosa


Beggar's tick

Description: Weedy annual, up to 1 m in height (usually much less), leaves opposite, margins serrate, flower head lacking ray florets, disc flowers yellow, tubular, fruit black with 2-3 awns.

Notes: This genus has roughly 10 species endemic to the Society Islands. This particular species is a pantropical weed.

Elephantopus mollis

Tobacco weed, Elephant's foot

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Herbaceous perennial herb, hairy oblanceolate leaves mostly basal, cauline leaves generally smaller. Clusters of heads of small white flowers with bristly pappus.

Habitat: Grows in disturbed and drier areas.

Emilia fosbergii

Flora's Paintbrush

Photos: 1 2

Photo 1: Vicente Garcia 2002
Photo 2: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Short, weedy discoid composite, corollas red to bright pink, head cylindric, leaves alternate, clasping basally, variably lobed and dentate.

Habitat: Grows in disturbed and drier areas.

Synedrella nodiflora



Description: Low weed with radiate heads, rays yellow, heads only a few mm in size, heads sessile, leaves ovate with a winged petiole.

Habitat: Grows in disturbed and drier areas.

Tridax procumbens



Description: Short composite with solitary radiate heads on long peduncles, ray florets white, disc florets yellow to tan, leaves 3-lobed, mostly basal with short, stiff hairs.

Vernonia cinerea


Little Ironweed

Description: Purple flowers with white chaff, heads discoid, narrowly cylindric, leaves alternate, simple, plant usually less than 50 cm tall.

Wedelia trilobata


Photos: 1 2 3

Photos 1-2: Anya Hinkle 2000
Photo 3: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Spreading ground-cover, recent introduction. Heads radiate, broad, yellow ray and disc florets, leaves mostly glossy, dark green, opposite, clasping basally.


Spathodea campanulata

African tulip-tree, Fountain-Tree, Flame tree, Baton du sorcier

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Large tree often exceeding 20 m in height, leave pinnately compound, leaflets mostly ovate, flower corolla curved, orange to red with yellow accents, very showy.

Notes: Invasive species, not spreading particularly quickly, but of some concern.


Cordia subcordata


Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Small trees, leaf blades 10-20cm long, broadly ovate with abrupt acuminate tip, thin, petioles yellowish, 4-12cm long. Corolla orange, tubular, papery, 5-6 lobed. Young fruits green, flattened, ovoid, 2-3cm long.

Habitat: Common on the beach strands and motus, native to Malaysia, aboriginal introduction.

Tournefortia argentea

Tahinu, Tree heliotrope

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Shrub to small tree, branchlets with conspicuous leaf scars, leaves hairy, flowers white, in scorpioid cymes, fruit white, globose.

Habitat: Restricted to motu (reef islands).

Notes: Some histroy of medicinal use, mostly used for hardwood.


Hippobroma longiflora


Fetia ("Star"), Star of Bethlehem

Description: Small herb typically 10-30 cm high, occasionally larger, leaves with winged petioles, lanceolate-oblanceolate, hirsute, margins dentate, flowers showy, white, ± one-sided though sometimes appearing radial, corrola lobes to 30 mm long.

Notes: Native to tropical America, common weed in Pacific.


Carica papaya


I'ita, Papaya, Papayer

Description: Small tree, leaves alternate, clustered apically, variously and deeply lobed, staminate flowers numerous, pendulous, pistillate flowers 1-3 on short peduncles, fruit yellow-orange when ripe, sweet, with numerous seeds.

Notes: Native to tropical America, introduced by early European visits. Cultivated for sweet fruit; seeds used as vermifuge; floral infusion used for elevated blood pressure; fruit paste used to lighten freckles; used world-wide for digestion; enzyme Papain used as meat tenderizer.


Casuarina equisetifolia

Aito, Toa, She-Oak, Ironwood, Beefwood, Horsetail Tree, Arbre de Fer

Photos: 1 2 3 4

Photo 1: Andy Murdock 1999
Photos 2-4: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Tall tree closely resembling a pine, needles are actually photosynthetic stems with highly reduced leaves, superficially similar to Equisetum, common Horsetail, also produces cone-like floral structures, heartwood is very dense and resists rotting.

Notes: Sap used for making dye; wood used for diabetes, gonorrhea, and nervous disorders; highly astringent due to high tannin levels; hard wood used for carving and boat making.

Photos: 1 - Stand of trees; 2 - Female inflorescence; 3 - Male inflorescence; 4 - Max the dog


Cecropia peltata

Trumpet tree

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Large, hollow-stemmed trees, leaves alternate, with very long petioles, blades peltate, palmately lobed, flowers unisexual, fruit to several cm long.

Notes: Invasive tree native to the American tropics, spreading rapidly, not as serious as Miconia, but definitely a plant of concern.

Clusiaceae (Guttiferae)

Calophyllum inophyllum


Tamanu, Calophyllum, Alexandrian Laurel

Description: Large tree, younger stems four-angled, leaves glabrous with highly compressed veins, elliptic to ovate, flowers in many-flowered racemes, petals 4 white, sepals 4 similar to petals, fruit a 1-seeded drupe.

Notes: Oil pressed from seed used widely in the paleotropics for healing wounds and other skin ailments, joint pain, scabies. Leaf infusion used for conjunctivitis. Oil lathers in salt water.


Terminalia catappa

Autara, Autara'a Popa'a, Auari'i-roa, Taraire, Tropical Almond, Myrobalan, Badamier, Mathake

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Large tree with whorled branches, fruit a fleshy, winged, elliptic drupe, falls off tree when green, leaves broadly obovate, turning red, flowers small, green-white, 5-lobed, no petals.

Notes: Wood used for construction and carving; used for bronchitis and tuberculosis.


Ipomoea carnea ssp. fistulosa

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrub, occasionally appearing like a large vine, stems falling over after reaching sufficient height and acting as stolons to spread the plant asexually, leaf blade typically ovate with an acuminate apex, corolla up to 10 cm long, light pink on the limb, darker in the throat, seeds hirsute.

Habitat: Lower elevations, commonly grown as ornamental.

Ipomoea littoralis

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Andy Murdock 1999

Description: Small clambering vine, leaves small, cordate, corolla composed of 5 mostly-fused petals, violet colored with a dark-purple throat, stamens 5.

Habitat: Found most commonly on Motu (reef islands), occasionally in disturbed spots inland.

Ipomoea obscura

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Andy Murdock 1999

Description: Small clambering vine, leaves small, cordate, apex acuminate, corolla composed of 5 fully-fused petals, cream colored with a maroon-purple throat, stamens 5.

Habitat: Prefers rocky slopes, fences, or low ground-cover as a substrate; disturbed areas.

Ipomoea pes-caprae ssp. brasiliensis


Description: Robust vine, leaves emarginate to bluntly obtuse, corolla composed of 5 fused petals, pink with a pink-purple throat, stamens 5.

Habitat: Grows on upper beach of all Motu (reef islands)

Ipomoea macrantha

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5

Photos: Andy Murdock 1999

Description: Robust vine, leaves waxy, corolla composed of 5 fused petals, white with a yellow throat, stamens 5, seeds brown, hirsute.

Habitat: Grows on upper beach of Motu (reef islands), especially Temae.

Notes: Commonly synonymized with Ipomoea violacea, however the two are sufficiently distinct to retain separate species names. - A.M.

Photos: 1-3 - open flowers; 4 - seeds; 5 - whole plant

Merremia peltata


Photos: 1 2

Photo 1: Andy Murdock 1999
Photo 2: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Aggressive liana, leaves peltate, broad, ovate to cordate, flowers white, petals fused, corolla campanulate.

Habitat: Covers an extensive amount of canopy in inland rainforest, often not producing leaves or flowers in the understory.

Photos: 1 - M. peltata covering entire trees; 2 - ground growing smaller leaves of M. peltata (aerial leaves are much larger)

Merremia umbellata ssp. orientalis

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Yellow-flowered climbing vine, flowers in dense umbellate clusters, leaves usually basally truncate, narrowly deltate.

Habitat: Common roadside, often found with Wedelia trilobata.


Momordica charantia

Bitter melon, Balsam pear

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Climbing vine with simple tendrils, leaves deeply palmately 3-5 lobed, flower petals light yellow to orange, resembling a squash flower, fruit turning orange with age, with bumpy vertical ribs.

Habitat: Very common weed, observed even up to the highest elevations on Moorea. Possibly introduced prior to European arrival perhaps as a food source.

Notes: Fruit and shoots eaten; fruit used medicinally and eaten in many other parts of the world.


Acalypha godseffiana

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Shrub <5m tall, leaves ovate, petiolate, often green with a coarsely serrate, white leaf margin, however leaves can be mottled green or red.

Habitat: Recent introduction, often grown in gardens along property lines.

Acalypha hispida

Photos: 1 2

Photo1: Andy Murdock 1999
Photo 2: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrub up to 4m or taller, leaves usually green, ovate, although leaf shape and color are variable, with a serrate leaf margin. Pistillate inflorescences pendulous, showy, red to purple in color, 10-50cm long.

Habitat: Cultivated, found along roadsides and in gardens

Aleurites moluccana

Tahii tiairi, Ti'a'iri, Tutui, Tahiri, Candlenut, Kukui Nut, Bancoulier

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Small to medium tree, leaves 3-5 lobed, resembling Sycamore, with stellate hairs on juvenile leaves, flowers many, terminal, small, petals white on both staminate and pistillate flowers, fruit walnut-like, waxy.

Notes: "Kukui Nut" Oil is used currently as a moisturizer, also acts as an emetic; shelled and roasted seeds can be burned like candles; source of dyes; nuts edible; bark infusion used for oral sores, coral cuts, and other wounds; used with Phyllanthus virgatus to make massage oil (Tui Roro) used for headaches.

Chamaesyce prostrata


Prostrate spurge

Description: Prostrate herb, leaves opposite, elliptic, cyathia densely packed on short branches, staminate flowers 4.

Habitat: Common lawn and roadside weed.

Notes: Commonly called Euphorbia prostrata

Codiaeum variegatum



Description: Ornamental shrub with much variation, leaves oblanceolate to narrowly elliptic, variously marked in white, yellow, red, and green, inflorescences long racemes, calyx green-white, many varieties cultivated.

Habitat: Ornamental

Manihot esculenta

Maniota, Manioc, Manihot, Maniota, Cassava, Tapioca

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Large herb to shrub, petioles long, often tinged red, leaves deeply palmately 3-7 lobed, leaf veins also tinged red at times, flowers terminal, pistillate flowers borne basally, staminate flowers apically, green-white to orange.

Notes: Common food crop, also naturalized in spots, many cultivars with varying levels of edibility, many contain hydrocyanic acid which can be extracted, but sweet varieties are preferred.

Ricinus communis

Castor Bean

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Shrub-sized herb, stems hollow, branched, leaves peltate and lobed, seeds mottled with red-purple markings.

Notes: Common cultivated crop worldwide, mostly for highly useful oil extracted from seeds. Ingestion of this plant can be fatal to humans, though the oil is used internally as a purgative.

Fabaceae (Leguminosae)

Albizia falcatoria


Photos: 1 2

Photos: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Large tree up to 40m tall, whitish-gray and reddish brown smooth speckled bark and a spreading and tiered canopy. Easy to recognize their morphology from a distance. Leaves pinnately compound.

Habitat: Common at lower elevations along slopes. Introduced.

Notes: Used as a timber tree.

Inga feuillei

Pakai, Pacay, Ice-Cream Bean, Pacayer

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Medium to large tree, leaves even-pinnate, rachis (petiole) conspicuously winged, leaflets lanceolate, basally rounded, flowers axillary, racemes of small salverform flowers, white-pink, fruit a large, green pod with shiny black seeds surrounded by a sweet, cottony, edible liner.

Notes: Sweet seed lining eaten.

Leucaena leucocephala


Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Scrubby tree, native to tropical America. Essentially a weed, this tree can be found growing in wet valleys and dry scarps forming dense, almost monotypic forests. Leaves with 3-8 pairs of pinnae, each with at least 7 pairs of leaflets, flowers white, 1-2 peduncles per leaf, pods very flat, glabrous.

Notes: Both this species and Albizia are called "Acacia".

Mimosa pudica

Pohe h'avare, Pope Haavare Sensitive Plant, Sensitive Pudique

Photos: 1 2

Photo 1: Anya Hinkle 2000
Photo 2: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Prickly prostrate creeper, stems at times purple-red, leaves 2-pinnate, sensitive and to touch, closing upon contact, flowers in pink globose heads, stamens 4.


Caesalpinia pulcherrima

Petit flamboyant

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrub to small tree, leaves twice-pinnate, leaflets 1-3 cm long, inflorescence borne on a long peduncle, flowers pink to red variously suffused with yellow or orange marginally.

Notes: Common ornamental introduced from the Americas.

Senna alata

Epis d'or, Candle-bush

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrub, leaflets 6-14 pairs pinnately arranged, oblong, racemes compact and many flowered, petals bright yellow with yellow petaloid bracts.

Notes: Commonly grown ornamentally.

Photo: Growing with Merremia peltata

Senna surattensis

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Shrub to small tree, leaflets 6-10 pairs pinnately arranged, ovate-elliptic, racemes many flowered, petals bright yellow, pods up to 10 cm long.

Notes: Grown ornamentally but possibly indigenous.


Alysicarpus vaginalis


Alyce clover

Description: Mat-like prostrate plant, spreading via stolons, leaves stipulate, stipule lanceolate and persistent, corolla typically papilionaceous, up to 6 mm long, red to purple.

Habitat: Common on lawns and disturbed areas, recently introduced.

Crotalaria pallida

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Erect subshrub with pubescent stems, leaves with 3 leaflets, difficult to distinguish whether pinnate or palmate, each leaflet ovate to oblanceolate, margin white, terminal racemes many flowered corolla up to 14 mm long, keel strongly curved, corolla yellow with red-orange veins, stamens 10, introduced weed.

Desmodium incanum

Spanish clover

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Prostrate to erect subshrub, leaves with 3 leaflets (pinnate), leaflets with white pallor above, corolla up to 7 cm long, red to purple, stamens 10, pod pubescent, sticky, 3-4 cm long, one margin entire, the other undulate.

Inocarpus fagifer

Mape, Tahitian chestnut, Chataignier tahitien

Photos: 1 2

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Large tree with conspicuous buttresses, to 30 m tall, leaves oblong, acute to acuminate, flower with white petals, fragrant, fruit 1-seeded with a leathery surface.

Notes: Seed edible when boiled and common in local markets. Many medicinal uses of this species across its range: antihemorrhagic, eases labor pain, used for a variety of skin ailments.

Vigna marina


Pipi Tatahi, Pipi, Tutu Faroa Beach Pea, Haricot du Bord du Mer

Description: Sea-side vine, trifoliate, sparsely pubescent, leaflets orbicular to obovate, apex rounded, racemes up to 15 cm long, corolla yellow, banner wide, keel slightly incurved, style bearded, used medicinally for fevers and various other ailments.

Notes: Various medicinal uses throughout Polynesia, ranging from abscesses to spiritual diseases.


Hernandia nymphaeifolia


Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Large tree, leaves mostly peltate with emarginate or truncate bases with palmate veins, pistillate flowers with 4 petals, staminate flowers with 3 petals, fruit white to red, fleshy.

Notes: Wood used for boat construction, also used as a purgative.

Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

Clerodendrum thompsoniae

Bag-Flower, Bleeding-Heart Vine, Coeur de Marie

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrub-like vine (or vice-versa), leaves opposite, elliptic, acuminate, flowers borne in many flowered cymes, corolla red to magenta, stamens and style long exserted, grown ornamentally, close relative of the beautiful Pagoda flower (C. paniculatum) also present on Moorea.

Ocimum basilicum


Miri, Miri Tahiti, Sweet Basil, Common Basil, Basilic Commun

Description: Short herb, grown ornamentally and for culinary use, leaves ovate, serrate, with highly fragrant oil glands, opposite and decussate, glabrous, stems 4-sided, flowers borne in racemes, bilabiate, white.

Notes: Early European introduction. Used for flavor in cooking; scents coconut oil for massage used in Tahiti to ward off evil spirits. Several other species of Ocimum are common wayside weeds in Polynesia.


Cassytha filiformis



Description: Parasitic vine, stems ranging from green to orange, haustoria attaching to host plants, forming tangled mats over low vegetation in seaside areas, flower composed of 3 sepals and 3 petals, fruit a green 1-seeded drupe.

Notes: Sometimes placed in its own family, Cassythaceae. Sometimes used medicinally for hemorrhoids.

Persea americana

Avota, Avocado, Avocatier

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Medium to large trees, leaves oblanceolate to elliptic, entire, pinnately veined, flowers borne terminally on branches in dense clusters, perianth yellow-green, roughly 5 mm long, fertile stamens 9, fruit green, pear-shaped with one large seed.

Notes: Grown for its fruit used in cooking and for extracting avocado oil used in the cosmetics industry.


Barringtonia asiatica

Hotu, Hutu, Tira-Hutu, Tua,
Fish-Poison Tree

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Medium to large trees, leaves obovate, sessile, becoming striped with red-purple away from veins with age, alternate, clustered near branch tips, flowers terminal, petals 4, white, stamens many, maroon, filaments up to 15 cm long, fruit 4-sided, sepals and style persistent.

Notes: Grated seed used to treat septic wounds; developed fruit (fruit that has fallen from the tree and browned) contains high amounts of saponins harmless to humans but is ichthyotoxic (traditionally used to stun and collect fish).


Fagraea berteriana


Photos: 1 2

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Tree, to 12 meters tall, leaves opposite, obovate to elliptic, flowers sweet-scented, corolla limb yellow to white, tube red to muddy, fruit an ovoid drupe typically around 3 cm long, yellow to orange to red, shiny with a citrus-like surface texture.

Habitat: Commonly found at higher elevations, mostly on exposed ridges and in fernland.

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