What is unabi and how to grow it

Jujube jujube, also known as unabi, jujube and Chinese dates, is one of the main fruit crops in the dry subtropical zone. Tasty and healthy fruits of this unpretentious plant are widely used for food and for medical purposes. This drought tolerant shrub grows well in the southern regions of Russia and Ukraine. Some amateur gardeners make attempts to grow this interesting plant in the middle zone of Russia, but with the advance of unabi to the north there are certain difficulties that cannot always be overcome.

Chinese date - a plant with medicinal fruits

Unabi is a large shrub or small tree up to eight meters high, with a rare spreading crown and leaves falling for the winter. Wild plants on branches have large sharp spikes, many cultivated large-fruited forms do not have these spikes, which is their clear advantage over game. The fruits of wild and cultural forms of jujube differ mainly in size: from 5 grams in small-fruited wild specimens to 30–40 grams in the best large-fruited varieties. There is also some difference in the taste of the fruit, and many more like the unabi game. According to medical properties, the fruits of wild and cultural forms of unabi are considered to be equivalent.

Unabi, or common jujube, is also known as real jujube, jujuba, jujube, chilon, red date, Chinese date.

Chinese date on video

Unabi fruits are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. In the middle of the last century, experiments were conducted in the sanatoriums of the Crimea, which showed that regular consumption of fresh jujube fruits helps to lower blood pressure. Since then, the active cultivation of this eastern fruit crop in the Crimea and the climate-friendly southern regions of Ukraine and Russia has begun.

It should be noted that unabi fruits, like any other medicinal plant, are not at all miraculous magic remedies for all ills. For example, my neighbor in the country, who lived for many years in the Crimea, is very skeptical of this miracle berry, because she personally has not been able to solve the problem of high blood pressure using unabi for many years.

In the wild, unabi grows in Iran, Afghanistan, the countries of Central Asia and Western China. This part of Central Asia is characterized by an arid continental climate with very hot long summers and short, but relatively frosty winters. In the zone of its natural growth, unabi has been cultivated since time immemorial, and many varieties have been created, some of which have begun to grow in Europe and America. Good conditions for jujube culture are found in North Africa, Southern Europe, Western Asia, arid regions of India, as well as in the dry subtropics of some US states, including Texas and California.

Due to the similarity of dried fruits with dates, unabi is also called a Chinese date

The traditional way of processing unabi fruits for long-term storage is drying. The dried unabi fruits in their appearance are very similar to dates, hence the names "Chinese date" and "red date" - according to the color of some popular varieties.

Unaby starts vegetation very late, much later than most trees and shrubs. Due to this late awakening, many novice gardeners ignorantly uprooted completely viable plants, mistakenly deciding that the bushes died during the winter.

On my site, the unabi bushes began to barely barely open the first leaves only by the middle of May, a couple of weeks later than all the other plants. Of course, against the backdrop of a riot of spring greenery, such slow-thinking people look very suspicious. If the bush is large, you can easily dispel doubts by cutting a twig and looking at the cut: dead wood becomes dry, black or brown. It is better not to cut a small bush in vain, just wait at least until mid-June.

In any case, there is no need to rush with uprooting: even if the aboveground part has frozen out, there is hope for the emergence of root shoots.

The small yellow unabi flowers are very melliferous

Jujube is blooming very late, only in June, after the complete termination of possible frosts. Its small yellow flowers are very melliferous and attract many bees and other pollinating insects. To get good yields, unabi needs cross-pollination, so you need to plant several varieties of plants nearby, or several different seedlings. Only a few fruits are tied to self-pollination, most of which soon falls long before ripening begins. Fully ripened fruits become soft, sweet and juicy, red or brown in color.

The moment of the best taste of jujube fruits is very dependent on the variety and on personal preferences: someone else likes more solid ones, someone prefers to over-ripen, who have already begun to wither slightly.

When ripening, unabi fruits acquire a red or brown color

In favorable conditions, jujube trees are very durable. Cases of plentiful and regular fruiting of specimens that have reached a hundred years of age are known. Under normal weather conditions, good fruit yields occur annually. Unabi refers to early crops, the first flowers and fruits, with good care, may appear within two to three years after planting a seedling. As the bushes grow, yields also increase. From a large adult tree in good conditions, you can get up to 50 kilograms of fruit. They ripen late, usually in October, in the earliest varieties - at the end of September. The fruit ripening period on each plant can last up to a month, as a result of an equally long extended flowering. Harvested fruits are poorly stored fresh, even in the refrigerator for no more than a week, and do not withstand long-distance transport. In addition to traditional drying, they are also suitable for home canning, they make wonderful stewed fruit, jams, preserves.

Unabi yields delicious jam

Types and varieties of unabi, its relatives and counterparts

Of all the types of jujube, the most famous was jujube, or Chinese unabi (Ziziphus jujuba). In tropical and subtropical countries, two more related species of jujube are cultivated for edible fruits:

  • lotus tree (Ziziphus lotus);
  • Moorish jujube (Ziziphus mauritiana).

Differences in species of jujube (table)

Russian nameLatin nameOriginLeavesFruit
Common jujube (unabi)Ziziphus jujubacentral AsiaOvoid-pointed, fall for the winterOval, red or brown
Lotus treeZiziphus lotusThe MediterraneanRounded, fall off for the winterRounded yellow
Moorish jujubeZiziphus mauritianaNorth AfricaRound oval, evergreenRounded yellow to brown

All these three types of jujube in foreign literature are often referred to under the general name jujube, which sometimes creates some confusion.

For cultivation in Russia and Ukraine, of all types of jujube, only jujube is suitable (ordinary Chinese or unabi) as the most winter-hardy of them.

Also, Unabi is often confused with two more plants that do not have any botanical relationship with jujube: crest (Chinese Simmondsia) and Oriental sucker.

  • There is purely linguistic confusion with johoba (unabi - jujube, jojoba - jojoba), which regularly appears in foreign and translated articles, catalogs of planting material, and especially in advertising various cosmetic and pharmacological preparations. Jojoba is an evergreen plant that does not withstand freezing temperatures.
  • With eastern sucker, confusion arises due to the striking external similarity of its fruits with unabi fruits. The goof is much more winter-hardy compared to unabi, its wild form (narrow-leaved goof) successfully grows without any shelter in the suburbs and in the Middle Volga.

Even in very reputable print media I came across published letters from readers who successfully grew sucker from the seeds of fruit, while remaining fully confident that they had unabi growing. But the pharmacological properties of the fruits are still very, very different.

Unabi, Jida and Jojoba: their differences (table)

TitleOriginLeavesFlowersFruitBones in the fruit
Sucker eastern (jida, pshat) Elaeagnus orientalisEastern Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia, SiberiaSilver-green, long and narrow, arranged alternately, fall in the winterSmall, yellow, bell-shaped with 4 petals, bisexual, pollinated by insectsOval, reddish brown, powdery sweet, used as foodEvenly narrow, with pronounced parallel longitudinal stripes
Common jujube (jujube, jujuba, jujuba, unabi, Chinese date, chilon) Ziziphus jujubaCentral Asia, West ChinaBright green, shiny, ovate-pointed, arranged alternately, fall in the winterSmall, yellow, wide open with 5 petals, bisexual, pollinated by insectsOval, red or brown, juicy, sweet, used as foodBroad, with irregular, slightly pronounced grooves and a well-marked pointed elongated tip
Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba, jojoba, jojoba) Simmondsia chinensisCaliforniaSilver-green, oval-elongated, arranged in pairs, evergreenSmall, yellow, wind-pollinated; male and female on different plantsDry boxes with a clearly visible cup at the baseSeeds are like nuts; seed oil is used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetology

Unaby, his relatives and doubles (photo gallery)

Moorish jujube - an evergreen fruit plant from North Africa

Lotus tree - a fruit crop from the Mediterranean, a relative of Unabi

The most famous of jujube is unabi, or Chinese date

The fruits of the eastern sucker (jida) in shape, size and color are surprisingly similar to the fruits of unabi

Oriental sucker blooms with yellow bell-shaped flowers with 4 petals

Widely unabi flat flowers always have 5 petals

The seeds of the fruit of the sucker are easily identified by the characteristic parallel longitudinal stripes

The unabi bones have an elongated sharp nose and faintly promiscuous grooves

Jojoba (Chinese Simmondsia) has dried fruit-boxes with large sepals

Valuable oil for pharmaceuticals and cosmetology is extracted from jojoba seeds

Of the large-fruited unabi varieties on the territory of Russia and Ukraine, Koktebel and Ta-yan-zao are most widely used.

  • Koktebel is a relatively new cultivar of the Nikitsky Botanical Garden in Crimea. Fruits weighing 30–35 grams, ripen late. The variety is listed in the State Register for the Russian Federation.
  • Ta-yan-zao is a very old variety of Chinese selection, introduced at the beginning of the last century from China to the USA, and from there to Russia. It still remains one of the best varieties. A variety of early ripening, fruit mass from 18 to 45 grams.

On separate sites of private nurseries, large-fruited varieties of unabi Xi-ching, Acorn and Dessert are also briefly mentioned, but neither these grades are found either in the State Register or in serious literature.

Large-fruited unabi varieties (photo gallery)

Unaby Koktebel

Unabi Ta-yan-zao

Unabi chi ching

Unaby Dessert

Unaby acorn

Features of landing jujube

For planting unabi, you need to choose the most sunlit places. This plant is very photophilous, with the slightest shading it grows poorly and hardly bears fruit. Jujube is very drought-resistant and heat-resistant, withstands the forty-degree heat. At temperatures below + 15 ° C, shoot growth almost stops, flowering is delayed.

Unabi does not tolerate heavy clay soils, excessive acidity and nearby groundwater. But this unpretentious plant grows well on poor soils, dry rocky slopes, can be used to consolidate them.

Unabi grows normally and bears fruit only in full sunlight

Unabi feels fine in open ground south of the line Kiev - Kharkov - Volgograd. In more northern regions, its cultivation becomes very problematic and requires special tricks.

The best time to plant jujube is early spring (in the south it is the end of March - the beginning of April). In regions with very mild winters, it is permissible to plant in the beginning of autumn (in the south - not later than the beginning of October). When planting, the distance between the seedlings should be at least 4 meters at the latitude of Kiev, where the unabi grows by a bush and freezes regularly. In the subtropical zone, where the conditions are more favorable and unabi grows as a tree, it is preferable to leave 5 or even 6 meters between plants.

In favorable conditions of the subtropical climate, unabi grows as a small tree and lives more than a hundred years

When choosing seedlings, it is important to ensure that their roots and branches are alive, not dry and not rotten. It is best to purchase plants grown in your region. Planting material imported from more southern regions has low winter hardiness.

Step-by-step landing process:

  1. Dig a hole about half a meter deep and wide.
  2. At the bottom of the pit, pour a mound of earth mixed with a bucket of well-rotted compost.
  3. Place a sapling on the knoll, carefully spreading the roots. Unabi does not require special deepening when planting; the root neck of the seedling should be approximately at the level of the soil surface.
  4. Gently fill the pit with earth.
  5. Carefully pour each seedling with a bucket of water from a watering can with a nozzle, without eroding the soil.

Fresh manure and mineral fertilizers are not used when planting, so as not to burn the roots.

Care for jujube in the south of Russia and Ukraine

Unabi tolerates heat and drought well, can grow without watering, even in the dry subtropics of Transcaucasia. But with irrigation, fruit yields will be higher, and the growth and development of young plants will be faster. In the hot and dry climate of Crimea, southern regions of Russia and the south of Ukraine, it is enough to water once a month, with each watering, soaking the soil to a depth of at least 80 centimeters. In the complete absence of watering, the roots lie deeper, up to two meters or more.

In arid regions, unabi yields will be higher with irrigation

Plants of the first year of planting are watered more often, in extreme heat and drought - weekly 2 buckets of water for each bush.

In a humid climate (Western Ukraine, part of the Krasnodar Territory of Russia), the irrigation rate for young plants is halved, and adult specimens do not need watering at all, except in cases of extreme drought.

Jujube grows very slowly, and at a young age can suffer greatly from weeds, especially perennial rhizomes. To facilitate the maintenance and preservation of moisture, the soil can be mulched with any organic material (straw, sawdust, wood chips) or special agrofibre.

Mulching retains moisture in the soil and inhibits weed growth

Every year, in the spring, on the unabi plantation, fertilizers are applied per each square meter:

  • 2-3 kilograms of humus;
  • 18–20 grams of superphosphate;
  • 8-10 grams of potassium salt;
  • 12-16 grams of ammonium nitrate.

Fertilizers are evenly spread over the entire area under the plants and shallowly embedded in the soil.

Winter unabi

In the zone of its natural growth in Central Asia, jujube can easily withstand short-term frosts up to -25 ..- 30 ° C. Unabi also has a rather high frost resistance in the subtropical zone of the Crimea and Transcaucasia, where it has enough hot long summers for ripening shoots. Moving to the north, where summers are shorter and summer temperatures are lower, jujube does not have enough summer heat for full development, and its winter hardiness decreases sharply. Even in Kiev, regular freezing of plants is already observed, in warmer winters only the tops of young branches suffer, in more severe frosts the bushes freeze to the root neck, but are restored in subsequent years. In regions with relatively mild winters and stable snow cover, plants can sometimes be saved, with the onset of the first autumn frosts, bending them to the ground for wintering under the snow. Bent plants should be well fixed with hooks or pressed with boards. It is not necessary to wrap it up strongly - unabi does not tolerate excessive dampness, and in the long thaw overly wrapped bushes run the risk of dying due to aging.

How to grow unabi in central Russia

Amateur gardeners from the Moscow Region and regions close to climate often try to plant unabi, but after several years of existence, these plants usually die in the coming harsh winter. The big problem here is not only low winter temperatures, but also a significant lack of summer heat, which does not allow plants to prepare normally for wintering.

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On my site in the Middle Volga region, three unabi seedlings brought from the south successfully survived the first and second winter. After the third wintering, only one bush woke up. The next winter killed him too.

One of the reliable solutions to this problem is to plant unabi in an unheated greenhouse attached to the southern wall of a heated house. Moreover, for a successful wintering of jujube, it is important not only the presence of glazing (an unheated glass greenhouse “in the open field” will not be enough in severe frosts), but also the presence of a warm wall of the house, which is both a source of additional heat and reliable protection from cold northern winds.

Landing in a greenhouse attached to the south wall of the house will reliably protect unabi from winter frosts

Another possible solution to the wintering problem is the so-called trench culture. This highly effective method was invented and successfully tested in Soviet times, and was soon safely forgotten due to its increased complexity. The essence of the method is as follows:

  • For planting, a capital trench is dug with a depth of 70-100 centimeters and a width of about one and a half meters.
  • The walls of the trench are concreted or laid out with bricks.
  • At the bottom of the trench, planting pits are dug, filled with fertile soil, and seedlings are planted.
  • In summer, plants develop in an open trench, as in normal open ground conditions.
  • In late autumn, after completion of leaf fall and the final establishment of light negative temperatures, the trench is completely blocked by boards or slate, and then with a plastic film. You can additionally insulate on top with a layer of earth or pine conifer.
  • After a snowfall, a sheltered trench is thrown from above by a layer of snow taken from plant-free areas (roads, paths, parking lots).
  • In the event of prolonged winter warming to plus temperatures, the trench should be slightly opened from the ends for ventilation to protect plants from the threat of warming.
  • In the spring after snow melts, the capital shelter is removed, and the trench is covered with plastic wrap to protect it from return frosts.
  • After the end of the frost period, the polyethylene is removed, and all summer the plants grow in an open trench until late autumn.

Trench culture is a reliable but very laborious way to protect jujube from winter frosts

Unabi pruning for different growing regions

Sanitary pruning (removal of dry and damaged branches) is necessary in any region and is carried out throughout the warm season. Forming pruning is carried out in spring and depends on the growing zone.

In the subtropical zone, where the unabi grows with a tree and does not freeze, for better coverage of the crown with the sun and the convenience of harvesting, the plants are formed in the shape of a bowl or vase. For this formation, four skeletal branches are left in young plants, growing evenly in a circle, and the central conductor is cut out. Subsequently, with annual maintenance pruning, all branches growing in the center of the crown are removed or shortened.

The vase-shaped crown provides the best illumination and is convenient for picking fruit.

In the more northern regions, unabi regularly freezes out according to the level of snow, and sometimes even to the root neck, and plants naturally acquire a bushy shape. The main forming pruning here is thinning the crown so that there is no excessive thickening. Where the bushes are bent to the ground for the winter for wintering under the snow, the branches need to be updated in a timely manner so that they are flexible enough. The oldest branches are cut under the root, and in their place the younger ones grow.

Unabi propagation

Unabi can be propagated by seeds, root shoots, layering, root cuttings. Neither green nor lignified stem cuttings of this plant under normal conditions almost never take root, even with the use of root stimulants. Valuable large-fruited unabi varieties are propagated by grafting with a cuttings or budding, using seedlings of wild-growing small-fruited forms of jujube as a stock.

The complexity of propagation of this crop is one of the main reasons preventing the widespread distribution of such a valuable fruit breed in amateur gardening.

Seed propagation

Only seeds from fully ripened fruits of wild small-fruited forms of unabi are suitable for sowing. Seeds of large-fruited garden varieties have an underdeveloped germ, so they almost never germinate. In late autumn (late October or November), seeds from the fruit are sown immediately to a permanent place, embedded at a depth of 3-4 centimeters. In winter, you can slightly warm the crops with coniferous spruce branches, which must be removed in the spring immediately after the snow has melted. To accelerate the emergence of seedlings in spring, you can cover the sowing place with translucent agrofibre or a transparent plastic film. If suddenly the seedlings were too thick, they must be thinned out so that at least 20 centimeters remain between the plants. In hot, dry weather, seedlings need to be watered once a week with a bucket of water per square meter. The soil under the plants should be kept clean from weeds. Mulching with any material at hand is very desirable. Direct cultivation when sowing immediately to a permanent place allows you to get stronger plants with a very deep root system that can easily withstand strong prolonged drought and are more resistant to frost.

Several times I tried to sow seeds from unabi fruit brought from the south before winter. There have never been seedlings.

Propagation by root shoots

Jujube, especially its small-fruited wild-growing forms, often forms a lot of root shoots, which can be successfully used for reproduction. In early spring or in the first half of autumn, you just need to carefully dig out a few young offspring from the plants you like and transplant them to another place, not forgetting to water. This method of unabi propagation is the simplest and most reliable, but possible only if an adult plant with satisfactory fruit quality is within reach.

Propagation by root shoots is the easiest way to get unabi seedlings

Propagation by layering

Unabi is relatively easy to propagate by rooting layering. In early spring, the lower branches of the bush are bent to the ground and fastened firmly, the fixed part is sprinkled with soil, and the very top of the dug up branch is brought out, giving it a vertical position, if possible. During the season, the soil under the layering should be kept moist, loose and clean from weeds. Under good conditions, cuttings take root over the summer, and in the spring of next year, you can cut the mother branch and transplant the resulting seedlings to a permanent place. In this way, you can get a root plant of a valuable variety, even if the original uterine specimen was grafted onto a stock.

Unabi can be propagated by layering - by rooting of dug up branches

Propagation by root cuttings

In the absence of a sufficient number of shoots in root plants, root cuttings can be used for propagation:

  1. In early spring, carefully scoop up the soil near the bush, digging out its horizontal root about 1 centimeter thick. This method is very traumatic for the uterine plant, so you should not be greedy and damage several roots at once!
  2. From the selected root, cut several cuttings with a length of about 15 centimeters each.
  3. The resulting cuttings should be planted horizontally or with a slight slope on a previously prepared bed with moist, loose soil. The distance between the cuttings is 10-15 centimeters, the planting depth is about 5 centimeters.
  4. The bed with cuttings during the season to keep moist, loose and clean from weeds.
  5. Soon after planting from sleeping buds, young shoots will appear on the root cuttings.
  6. Next spring, seedlings are ready for transplanting to a permanent place.

Unabi can be propagated by root cuttings

Grafting by graft and budding

All types of vaccinations - an occupation for an experienced gardener. Here, the master’s experience, the quality of the tool sharpening, the evenness and cleanliness of the cuts, the accuracy of combining the scion and stock, the quality of tying, weather conditions and the condition of the original plants play a huge role.

Experienced craftsmen strongly recommend first practicing willow twigs before tackling valuable garden plants.

Wild small-fruited forms of jujube obtained from seedlings or root shoots are used as a stock for large-fruited unabi garden varieties. Подвои обязательно должны быть здоровыми и хорошо укоренившимися. В качестве привоя берут черенки, нарезанные из молодых здоровых побегов с урожайного растения желаемого сорта.

Прививка черенком обычно проводится весной

Vaccination with the cuttings is usually carried out in the spring, before awakening the kidneys. If the diameter of the stock and scion is the same, they make the same cuts, tightly combine them and tightly wrap them with elastic tape. If the stock is noticeably thicker than the scion, there are two possible options:

  • the scion stalk slanted on one side is inserted into the rootstock bark incision;
  • the scion stalk slanted on both sides is inserted into a specially made splitting of the stock wood.

In both cases, the vaccinations are tightly fixed with an elastic bandage, after which all remaining open cuts on the stock and scion are carefully covered with garden varnish (it is better to gloss over the upper cut of the scion even in advance).

Eye vaccination (budding) is usually done in the second half of summer

Eye vaccination (budding) is usually done in the second half of summer. As a scion they use young, starting to woody shoots of the current year, from which leaves are carefully cut with a razor, leaving a piece of petiole. Then, a T-shaped incision is made in the rootstock bark, into which a shield with a kidney and a thin plate of wood cut from the shoot of the graft is inserted. The vaccine is wrapped with an elastic tape, without closing the kidney itself.

Regardless of the vaccination technology used, a clear sign that it has taken root is new young shoots emerging from the scion buds. The next year after grafting, the binding should be carefully cut so as not to interfere with the growth of branches in thickness and not to pull the bark.

Pests and diseases

In Ukraine and the European part of Russia no pests and diseases were detected on unabi. A common and very annoying problem is fruit cracking resulting from uneven moisture. Such cracked fruits should be processed first.

In the zone of its traditional cultivation in Central Asia and China, unabi is often affected by the moth, fruit rot, viral leaf spots and “witch brooms”. Theoretically, their appearance is also possible in our country, in the case of the introduction of a pathogen with imported fruits or planting stock.

Possible pests and diseases and their control measures (table)

TitleWhat does it look likeWhat to do with it
MothCaterpillars in the fruitWormy fruits to destroy; if there were a lot of them - next year spray plants with pyrethroid insecticides immediately after flowering
Fruit rotFruits rotRotten fruits to collect and destroy; in case of severe fruit damage directly on the branches, you should contact the phytosanitary service with samples of the affected fruit to accurately determine the pathogen and select the most suitable fungicide
Viral spottingLight spots and stripes appear on the leaves for no apparent reason.Uproot and destroy a diseased plant
"Witch's broom"Bunches of randomly sprouted branchesSaw and burn a branch with a “witch’s broom”, capturing a large piece of a healthy piece

Unabi problems (photo gallery)

Fruit cracking occurs from uneven wetting during ripening

Codling moths feed on seeds in unabi fruit

"Witch's broom" - ugly branch growth caused by a fungal or viral infection

Gardeners reviews

A neighbor in the country house grows three large trees. He says unabi is called a Chinese date. I, too, was on fire to plant, but having tried it, I refused. I did not like the taste of my relatives. Although it does stabilize blood pressure. At a neighbor’s pocket is a zizyphus zhenya. He says that it was he who recovered. With a date there is only an external resemblance. And the dried apple reminds one more to taste, and there are not enough sweets in it. Although, maybe the sort of ...


Unabi north of Krasnodar fails. A futile undertaking.


I have several different varieties in Crimea bear fruit without problems) As for the middle lane, there is practically no hope here. Of the examples, I recall only a woman from the Moscow Region who, for several years, was wrapping her bush, but in the end he nevertheless died out, and did not fertilize. Relatively positive results were obtained only near Samara, where one lover in the cover culture periodically has small yields.


In our Krasnodar Territory, unabi, if memory serves, begins to blossom in late April - early May. For this reason, people who planted it for the first time very often prematurely think that he did not take it, especially since the transplanted tree blossoms a little later.


The entry of jujube into fruiting for 4 years, at least in the conditions of the Crimea, two varieties are enough for me to get the crop.


The easiest way to grow unabi in the southern regions of Russia and Ukraine, where this unpretentious drought-tolerant plant feels great, grows and bears fruit without much care. The only problem of growing jujube in the southern zone remains the difficulty of propagation of this fruit crop. In the more northern regions, attempts to cultivate unabi in open ground most often end in failure - after several years of growth, plants usually freeze in the first truly frosty winter.


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