Episode 06: Stout Medal Daylily and Mercy Garden Collection
While the Bickelhaupt Arboretum is a collection of woody plant material, some of the collections that are showcased are of non-woody plants. Two of those collections are their Daylily collection, which features daylily varieties that have won the coveted Stout Medal, and the Mercy Hospice Garden, which is an area that people can contemplate and reflect. In this podcast we learn about both of these areas of the arboretum in terms of their history and development, the plants that can be found there, and how these plants can be used in gardens and landscapes for both beauty and sustenance.
Ryan Welch: Welcome to another in our continuing series of podcasts, but the Bickelhaupt Arboretum located in Clinton, Iowa. As we have said, an arboretum is a living museum of woody plant material, specifically trees and shrubs. That being said, there are collections at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum that are not considered woody plant material but rather more Herbaceous Garden plant material. Margo tells us why this is important to have at an arboretum.
Okay, so an arboretum is a collection of woody plants. And yet here at the arboretum we have collections of non woody stuff. So why have plant collections besides woody plants at an arboretum? Why would why would you want to have non woody plants around.
Margo Hanson: Well, an arboretum, you are correct is woody plant material. But I think the collections of some perennials and some of the gardens like, like our hosta garden just add another level to the arboretum. Whereas in the spring we have that flush of bloom with our crab apples in our spring blooming trees.
Then of course in the fall we have the fall color and there's nothing wrong with green. We have all shades of green here, but by having the different gardens, it adds a touch of color and it makes it, rounds it out and makes it just a little more visually pleasant to the eye.
Ryan Welch: So we use these more to showcase what we already have, and some ways you can use them as an accent to showcase the Woody stuff. But it's also a thing to sort of bring people in and be like, you know, there is this Woody stuff, but there's also all these other plants around that aren't trees, right?
Margo Hanson: Right, and when you say showcase, so what I think they do to some degree is because most of the gardens, the perennials are shorter, it fills in that lower level, whereas your trees and shrubs, of course are taller. We have trees that are 40 foot tall and then the ground is pretty much, you know, bare or non exciting. So by adding that extra level of perennials, you add another dimension and you also round out that look and you also add a little color as I mentioned
Ryan Welch: One of these collections is the Stout Silver Medal Daylily collection. First, let's define what a daylily is compared to your typical garden. Lily, think Easter Lily or any of those Michigan lilies that you might find around buildings.
According to the American daylily Society, a daylily is defined as a member of the genus Hemerocallis, which has Greek origins as two words meaning Beauty and Day, which refers to the fact that each day lily flower only lasts one day.
These plants, most recently have been considered members of the Asphodelaceae family, which is actually a plant family full of succulent plants such as aloe. Meaning they're not actually in the Lily plant family at all. These flowers are the flowers of these plants only bloom for one day.
But to make up for that, most plants will have multiple flowers on each flowering stock. Many flowering stalks are usually found per plant clump as well, and some varieties will often have more than one flowering period per season, meaning they can bloom over and over and over again as the season goes.
The daylily, that we know of today has its roots, so to speak, in Asia, where it's native, it has a long history of being used by local people in parts of China for food and medicinal purposes. Over four millennia ago, it wasn’t used much as much for its beauty until it was brought to Europe.
In the 1500s, two main species of daily were first that were first introduced to Europe. At that time, the Hemerocallis fulva and the Hemerocallis flava or the Orange and the Yellow Day Lily were also the first that were introduced to Europe. Other species were later introduced. Throughout the years, they grew in popularity among gardeners for their ease and growth and beautiful flowers. They even traveled over to North America when Europeans settled and arrived and actually escaped and become somewhat invasive in the landscape of colonial America. The daylily didn't gain huge notoriety, though, until a botanist from New York named Dr. Arlo Burdette Stout became fascinated with the flowers. Dr. Stout was born in Jackson Center, Ohio, in 1876, but he grew up in Albi in Wisconsin.
He spent his early years roaming, observing the woodlands around his home while he was studying botany at Albion Academy in 1895 to 1896, he became interested in the process of seed production. This interest led him to begin investigating how reproduction occurred in Daylilies, which led him to study the taxonomy the plant, which included importing wild clones from the Orient, and he took a look into their hybridization their heredity and selective breeding. He was so interested in these plants that by 1919 he had obtained seeds from several, several hybridization, and had made thousands of controlled pollinations of daily leaf flowers.
Unfortunately for him, the New York Botanical Garden, where he was employed, had no real interest in propagating these new cultivars of Daylilies. He made an arrangement, though, with a nursery man named Bertrand Farr, who owned Farr Nursery. An arrangement was made that the nursery would propagate and evaluate the most promising seedlings and offered them to the public at a relatively low price. Any royalties that were paid to Dr. Stout went to a fund at the Botanical Center and to establish an award for Daylilies, which was known as the American Horticultural Society's Stout Medal, which was established in 1850 between Dr. Stout and the Farr Nursery they introduced 83 Daylilies while he was alive and 12 more. After Dr. Stout's death in 1957. He started a huge breeding program and came up with over 100 new varieties. In 1934, he published the definitive book on the subject entitled Daylilies.
It has since been known as the father of the modern Daylilies. Not only did he make major contributions to Daylilies, he also wrote research articles about seedless grapes, avocados and potatoes. According to Betsy Clarke with the American Horticultural Society Archives and History Committee. Today, there is a thriving American Daily Society, which was first established in 1946 and currently has over 80,000 registered cultivars as part of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term cultivar, it refers to a type of plant that people have bred for desired traits which are then reproduced in each new generation by a method such as grafting or tissue culture or carefully controlled seed production.
In terms of daylilies, that desired trait is most often the flower itself, while the.
Day Lily is beautiful to look at. Margo points out many other benefits the people can have from planting daily lilies in their home and garden setting. Many of these go way beyond just the beauty of the flower itself.
So Margo, Daylilies are known for the beauty that their flowers have. Are there any other uses for these flowers other than just to look at them?
Margo Hanson: Well, they are beautiful, of course. The original Daylily were the orange ditch lilies that maybe some of you might know. As you drive through the countryside. So those were the original ones. And they probably weren't considered beautiful.
But with all of the developing and the hybridizing of daylilies over decades, we have all colors, all sizes, all shapes. Not, not shapes, but, you know, all, all so many more to pick from, I guess, is what I'm trying to say.
They've come a long way in color, in disease resistance and all that. So that is a big plus. Then to add to that, you can also eat the blossoms.
Ryan Welch: You can eat the blossoms.
Margo Hanson: So it's not like you're going to gain a lot of nutrients or, or vitamins, minerals from it, but it's really fun.
You can eat the flower buds, you can eat the other petals or the whole flowers. Really fun to throw edible flower petals into salads, and, I mean, you know, in this day and age, especially after the pandemic, when people started cooking more at home, they got very creative.
And nasturtiums, there's a whole big long list of flowers that are edible. And in the case of Daylilies, there is actually a little bit of flavor difference in some of the different colors of the daylilies. So it's not for a nutritional thing, just kind of a fun thing or floated in.
Ryan Welch: It's a slightly higher than a garnish maybe. Exactly. You put it in and add color.
Margo Hanson: And yeah.
Ryan Welch: You can eat that.
Margo Hanson: Let's call it a gourmet garnish.
Ryan Welch: Gourmet garnish. But it's still something we can do. It's something people don't think about when they plant plants. And then maybe they don't have a garden. They're just planting them there as accent material in their yard just to beautify things.
They don't think that maybe there's a chance that you could actually, you know, eat these things.
Margo Hanson: Right. And actually, there's one very, very popular variety called stella deoro, or she is probably considered a medium sized daylily in that the leaves don't get really big, the flower starts aren't really long. So she's probably medium category has a beautiful golden yellow flower and oh my gosh, Ryan blooms her little heart out all summer long.
But a lot of times they'll be different flushes of bloom and stella deoro blooms and all the time. And you see them probably over planted around town and on streets and in parks in LA and things like that, because they are so easy, but stella deoro fabulous variety probably over planted, but it's well worth it.
Ryan Welch: Can these flowers attract pollinators?
Margo Hanson: Oh, certainly. Okay. The one thing with Daylilies is they will kind of bloom one day. So one flower will bloom for one day. But there are always buds waiting and there's always another bud for another day or two.
So they're very heavy bloomers in that respect. And they do have pollen. I think hummingbirds are attracted to them. They wouldn't be considered a top pollinator. But there, there is some pollen and it is used by, you know, bees and in the flower flies and things like that.
And often people think of butterflies and the hummingbirds. But, but as you know, there's so many other insects that are pollinators.
Ryan Welch: There’s beetles, flies, mosquitos
Margo Hanson: Exactly.
Ryan Welch: All things are actually pollinators. Everybody ask me, what good are mosquitoes? I said, Believe it or not, they are pollinators. The only ones that bite are the females right before they're about to reproduce.
Margo Hanson: Oh my gosh.
Ryan Welch: All the other males and all the other mosquitoes are actually out pollinating, doing other things.
Margo Hanson: You know, I did not know that. So you learn something new every day.
Ryan Welch: Daylilies have been popular among plant lovers for a number of years and for a variety of reasons, from the sheer amount of diversity that can be found in this plant group to their ease of growing and maintaining, especially for a novice plant grower. Margo Hanson runs us through the long list of reasons and benefits that she tells people about when they ask her about daylilies.
Why is there such an interest by people?
Margo Hanson: Daylilies actually are one of the easiest perennials for people to grow. They are full sun. They can handle partial shade. They can handle a little bit more shade, but they're not going to bloom as much. So that's very versatile right there that they aren't really picky about where they need to be planted.
In addition to that, they can handle really poor soil. So you've got a perennial that comes back every year and it will grow in all types of soil. For the most part, it can handle clay soil - it might not do as well.
It can handle sandy soil. It struggle if we have severe drought. But, but it can handle dry conditions. And then, of course, the loam in the middle is a perfect, perfect soil in my mind. For most plants, of course, it's very happy there.
So you have a plant that can be in all kinds of light levels, all kinds of soil is very winter hardy in our location, has very few insect and disease problems, is very low maintenance. What more can you ask for?
Ryan Welch: It's only a very simple thing for any anybody, even if you didn’t have a green thumb you could grow that and make your and beautify and use it in your landscape.
Margo Hanson: Exactly. It's one of my top five sun perennials. When people I talk to people that aren't real gardeners or don't know a lot about plants, it's probably my either number one or number two of full sun plants for people that are just beginning or don't have much knowledge about plants, because I know most of the time they're going to be successful with that. One other thing I want to add is they're very easy to propagate. So you can, after a few years, dig it up, split that plant and have three or four plants. You know, it's a win-win with, with daylilies.
Ryan Welch: So there's the ease of planting these plants and there's the fact that know they'll come back, they're very successful. They can handle a variety of different light exposures. They gain more variety of different soil conditions. They're slightly edible, as we say, a gourmet garnish.
What other why do you think there's any other interest in the Daylilies other than those things? I mean, those are nothing. There's a lot of stuff right there that was just interesting enough. It was anything else, though, that would make this interesting for a person.
Margo Hanson: So they would in the case of the arboretum here, we do have the Stout Silver Medal Collection. They're kind of a border here for one of our some of our different trees. They kind of border. They're nice for mass plantings.
So if you have a hillside or a difficult area, you can mass plant them. And so that works. And so in some cases here at the Arboretum, they're kind of a borderline woody area part. Right. We're right along the edge of the wooded area.
Transitional. Yes. Or kind of an understory type plant just to cover the ground, keep it green, keep the erosion down. I didn't talk about erosion because if you plant daylilies quite thick and you get a nice carpet of them, they're very good for erosion control.
Ryan Welch: And for some people, that might be a big thing. If you've got a little spot in your yard.
Margo Hanson: Exactly where.
Ryan Welch: It tends to run, you can't grow grass there. Put some daylilies there.
Margo Hanson: Yes. Hillside?
Ryan Welch: Yup. Hillsides especially. Especially if you don't want to mow.
Margo Hanson: Don't want to mow. Exactly.
Ryan Welch: Every year, Daylilies enthusiasts and growers develop new varieties through a variety of different breeding techniques. Each year, the American Hemerocallis Society looks at these different varieties and presents one with what is known as this stout silver metal.
This metal is named after the botanist, Dr. Stout, who did much of the initial work in plant breeding. That gives us many of the varieties that we see today. David gives us more details about the Stout Silver Metal Daily collection at the arboretum, including a bit of its history, how it was laid out and how it be changing in the future.
David Horst: We have the Daylily Collection, the Stout Medal Daylily Collection, which is the top daylily earned that year by the Hermrocallis society. And that's colorful during the mid-summer months when there's not a lot between.
Ryan Welch: When was that one established, the Daylily Collection?
David Horst: I believe that was established in about 96.
Ryan Welch: 96. What was the idea behind that?
David Horst: Well, we had a gentleman call us from Bluegrass, Iowa, and he had a collection, and he’s wondering daylilies, of course, multiplied. And he also went to the Dubuque Arboretum with the same offer. – He made them the same offer
David Horst: That was like divisions that we'd be interested in growing here at the arboretum. And he was promoting Daylilies know he was big into the Hemerocallis Society and we thought it'd be a good addition and it's still here today and doing very well. And it's interesting to see. I think our collection dates back to 1950 and we have one plant from every year since then up to about 2015, I believe.
Ryan Welch: And so when you say started in 1950, you mean you have a specimen from that that won the stout medal in 1950. All right. And then you have another specimen that represents silver medal winners every year up till from 1950 to 2015.
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: Okay
David Horst: And it's interesting because people can say we planted them together and see them starting with the oldest going to the newest.
Ryan Welch: Okay, I see a sort of a spectrum or a lineage, if you will. You start on this side of the collection and move your way. You're going through time.
David Horst: A lot of people think the first ones starting in 1950 resemble the lily, as they call them ditch lilies. You see them, they're orange and a lot of time an orange or maybe a yellow at the beginning.
But as the years progressed, you can see the progress of the hybridizers made, shorter flower scapes that don't blow over, or weighted over by the flowers. Better looking foliage. Flowers. Flowers became double flowers. Oh yeah, multiple colors.
Just huge improvements with the flowers larger. So it's interesting to see and I really like how we laid it out for a visitor.
Ryan Welch: Yeah. For the people that come, come and look and be able to really look into this and see what they could do.
Because I'm guessing or I'm pretty sure that the lilies we have that are in areas like ditches and stuff aren't exactly daylilies. They are in the actual lily family. Whereas the day Lily is not actually a lily, it's Hemerocallis, which isn't a whole different family than the Lily family.
David Horst: And all of ours are labeled so that we have the year that's also on the label.
Ryan Welch: So is there any talk about adding to that or because you started 2015?
David Horst: So yes, we're going to add to that in the future.
Right now we're out of space where we have them and we have future plans for the arboretum. Our master plan is laid out and we're going to be moving that collection at that time. Hopefully we'll have plenty of more room.
We can catch up and continue adding another collection.
Ryan Welch: Another college that is located very close to the daily collection is the Mercy Hospice Herb Garden. This garden was established as a joint venture between the Bickelhaupt Arboretum and Mercy Health Care Foundation.
David gives us some information about the idea, the formation and the setup of this unique area in the Arboretum. So Dave, what is the story behind the Mercy Your Herb Garden?
David Horst: The idea for the Garden was thought of in the fall of 2002 by Randy Meyer, Mercy's spiritual care coordinator.
He conducted a remembrance service at the arboretum and thought it would be a great idea if there was a garden for similar reflection.
Ryan Welch: Okay,
David Horst: The Mercy Healthcare Foundation then donated a substantial sum of money which was used to build a wall using anamosa of stone and purchase plants with. Randy Dykstra of Heartland Gardens, from Fullton, Illinois, constructed the wall, Francie Hill of the Arboretum, and Evelyn Palm, Mercy Hospice's bereavement coordinator, came up with the location of the garden, which is just here by the upper driveway and along the walkway coming up over parking lot where visitors park. So it's an ideal location. The main idea behind the garden was to provide a place for residents of Mercy Hospice to reflect and reminisce.
Ryan Welch: Okay.
David Horst: In May of 2003, the volunteers from both Mercy Hospice staff and from the Arboretum planted herbs in the garden.
The garden layout was designed by horticulturist and garden designer Catherine Newman of Galva, Illinois. There is also a small water feature and a teak bench for people to sit on while reminiscing. And the garden was officially dedicated that month of September.
Ryan Welch: So September of 2003, September 2003
David Horst: It was dedicated.
Ryan Welch: How many plants are in that little area? A little herb garden, is it an herb garden?
David Horst: It's an herb garden.
Ryan Welch: So most of those plants are there you could use for medicinal purposes or for cooking or for anything like that.
You can't use them for this. But I mean, it would give people an idea of if you grew this, you could use it for your own consumption, uses it for your own uses in that manner.
David Horst: That's correct.
Ryan Welch: Okay
David Horst: And we started out with quite a few plants at the beginning. It was probably 60 or 70. And over the years we reduced it down now and we've got some there that get larger, take up more space. But one big improvement we've made a few years ago was on the labels that we have and these are the same labels that we use. They're black plastic two and a half by four and a half inches, and that we design and run our own engraver down here. We have instead of just having the common name and the scientific name and the year it was planted, we added a long bar and a couple of lines saying this or what type of use they had for cooking.
Ryan Welch: So both historical uses like medicinally and on culinary wise.
David Horst: So yeah, and we're, we're very limited on how much space we have on the labels. So we have to use we kind of use the main benefit that typically most of the time we use it for the cooking benefit as most of us probably know that. But it is a big addition to the label and a lot of people find that interesting, a little bit of information written on it. And then we've actually started doing that with some of the other trees and shrubs in the arboretum to.
Ryan Welch: Sort of add, add to what they've got and then give people a little bit more of a background and things like that.
David Horst: That really makes it a more of a learning experience of people, whether it's old people or students that come here to learn.
Ryan Welch: Okay. And so you've downsized that.
A little bit compared to what it was. What other potential updates, additions or changes might you be making to that area in the future?
David Horst: Well, this is an area that's going to be totally redesigned with our new plans for the future of the Arboretum.
So we will have to move it to a new location in the future and ensure that moving to a new location,
Ryan Welch: Then you have to take and take stock, take inventory, say, okay, here's what works in this location and why.
But we may have to rethink, you know, you might be having a different aspect in order in terms of where the plant will be facing or wind conditions or other things like that. And that may affect how or what you even plant.
But you probably no matter what, even when you move things, you'll still have this mercy herb garden in some way, shape or form in the future.
David Horst: Yes, that's the plan.
Ryan Welch: That's the plan.
David Horst: Yeah.
Ryan Welch: All right. Well, the herb garden was already established.
Margo came to the arboretum. She was involved with both the maintenance and educational aspects of this collection. She says some of that initial history with us that she has about the collection.
Margo Hanson: The Mercy Hospice Garden was established when I started working here. So I know it as a wonderful collection of perennial and annual herbs. The back history is it was part of a donation from Mercy Hospital and then their hospice program to just kind of memorialize that program that they have.
And so as far as I was involved with it, it was more an herb garden. And what was interesting is we had the annual which had we planted every year and then the perennial herbs that would come up and some, like the, the oregano just gets away from you.
It's oregano. Oregano and mint are very aggressive and they do spread quite readily. And that's fine because we would just dig it up and then pot it up and give it to other people, warning them that, you know, it has to be in an area that it doesn't overtake other herbs.
Ryan Welch: This collection of herbs also as a unique educational opportunity for both the volunteers and staff of the Arboretum as they explain to us. It allows them to make the unique connection, especially among children, that many of the foods they eat come initially from plants that can be grown in home gardens.
They have also been excited by some of the additions that have been seen coming to this area and what they have learned from some of these plants themselves.
Volunteer: There's also the herb garden. And it's it's fun, too, to tell anybody that this this herb garden is our former this is our pharmaceutical. I mean, we get all our drugs and things from
Ryan Welch: From plants.
Volunteer: From plants.
Ryan Welch: Yes. Many of the drugs that we take for granted seeds, their initial roots of how we came about, figuring out that it was good for you or vice versa, bad for you came from because we tested the plant.
Ryan Welch: And what I tell a lot of my students that they're always surprised by this is that, you know, for that plant, it is not a drug, it's a defense mechanism. The plants can't get up and walk around.
They can't run away. They are good biochemists and they create these things because they're getting eaten on oftentimes by bugs and other things. I said we are just a really big animal that happened to figure out, but if we eat it, we get woken up in the morning or we do this or we do that or relieve some pain. If you're a smaller bug and do that, it doesn't an end as well for you usually. But yeah.
Volunteer: When we take kids to the herb garden, it's not just medicines but flavoring foods. And so there are things to taste there that we always tell them. You know, if you don't know what it is, don't eat it.
Ryan Welch: Don't go.
Volunteer: It comes in a plant. It's not in a bag
Ryan Welch: As well as in other spices and stuff using their kitchen, all those kind of things. Oregano, basil, rosemary, all that kind of stuff. A lot of them say, Well, that comes in the spice jar.
That's where it comes from. That's right. You get it. You put it on the thing, you'll realize it before it got to that jar. It was a leaf. It was just to be dry processed.
Margo Hanson: And so, so the volunteer teachers, some of them would say, well, do you like oregano? And the kids, you know, kind of deer in the headlights look. It's like, we don't know what you're talking about. And then you would say, well, do you like spaghetti or do you like pizza?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's like, well, where do you think some of that flavoring comes from? This goes in spaghetti sauce or this goes in pizza sauce, and then they're okay with it and then some will try it.
So that's kind of fun because like you said, they think it comes in a jar, you know, from the store. And so it's just fun to really get that, you know, that take from them. And so we'll try it.
Ryan Welch: And make those connections, right? Right. I mean, look at things are different from a different light, if you will.
Volunteer: Stevia comes from.
Volunteer: We had stevia plants and now I use stevia instead of real sugar in all my cooking.
Volunteer: Yeah, that was exciting when we got it. At first nobody else knew about it. The Japanese were using it, but not. But now we can get it in jars and all this stuff.
Volunteer: But we had the first plants here. I mean, not the first, first plants, but we at least in for for us, it was our first plant.
Volunteer: Yes. We learned from there. Yes, we had the children taste that, too, because it was.
Margo Hanson: And any of you listening that don't know what stevia is, it is grown as an annual here the leaves are 10 to 100 times sweeter than sugar. I don't know the exact figure, but it is a sugar substitute with no calories.
So and it just really became popular in this area maybe ten years ago. And now it's kind of a rage, but it is a plant that can be grown very easily as an annual just pick the leaves and dry them and use them and you cut back a lot of the sugar calories.
Ryan Welch: Children aren’t the only ones that can learn from this part of the Arboretum. Margo explains how adults are able to also learn about where their spices originate. She also explains some of the other benefits that these plants have other than flavoring our food and some of the other benefits this particular garden can have for people beyond its educational value.
Margo Hanson: Because we have adults that come and if they don't have an herb garden or don't even garden, it's like, I didn't know this what dill looked like or I didn't know that's where, you know, oregano came from. And actually the original flower is a magnet for pollinators.
They absolutely love oregano flowers. In addition to that, I love to use oregano flowers as fillers in flower arrangements. There are beautiful lavender little, little cluster of flowers, and they grow so fast and they bloom so readily that it's great for pollinators.
All kinds of insects love oregano. And then again as a cut flower in addition to being in addition to being an herb.
Ryan Welch: And then with the fact that it was a mercy hospice garden. Something else that was mentioned at one point, I think, by David, in earlier conversations I had with him, it was one of those things that was sort of a put in place as a place to reflect and think about things and maybe even think about loved one you’ve lost in the past and things like that. And that's another aspect of this Arboretum that a lot of people may not think about is it can be a place to sort of come and unwind or.
Margo Hanson: Right. Right, exactly. And we also and I think part of it being hospice in herbs and healing, I think that is all kind of so every, every year the Mercy Hospice Group does come here and they do celebrate the lives of ones that were lost that year.
So it's a celebration of life. And they do, it's close to the herb garden. But then they also release butterflies, monarch butterflies in members of the loved ones that they had lost that year. So there's a connection there and it's always very well attended and it's just a wonderful, peaceful way to remember the ones that they've lost.
Ryan Welch: So while Arboretum is a place to showcase Woody plant material, it can also be a place that people can learn about the types of plants you can use around your trees, as well as plants that provide educational opportunities to learn more about our food resources, along with learning about the plants that make up some of these collections, it also gives people an opportunity to reflect and relax in an ever changing and busier environment. I would like to thank David Horst and Margo Hanson for their insight on the history and the plants of these collections and to the educational volunteers Joyce Holly, Raymond Smith and Marion Johnson for sharing their time and insights with me for this podcast, as well as to Otis Welch for the musical selection.
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