TREES & plants

Cucumbertree

Flower buds of cucumbertree opening in spring.

This large, deciduous magnolia tree is excellent for large properties such as parks, golf courses, and naturalized areas. Cucumbertree's wide-spreading branches are covered with dark green leaves that turn an attractive yellow-brown in the fall. Although its flowers are not as showy as those of other magnolia species, the cucumbertree yields interesting pinkish-red fruit pods. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

 

Botanical name: 
Magnolia acuminata
All Common Names: 
cucumbertree, cucumber magnolia
Family (English): 
Magnolia
Family (Botanic): 
Magnoliaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
50-80 feet
Mature Width: 
50-80 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Prefers
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Intolerant of pollution, 
  • May be difficult to find in nurseries
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Summer blossoms, 
  • Fall color, 
  • Persistent fruit/seeds, 
  • Showy fruit, 
  • Showy flowers, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant, 
  • Yellow
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval, 
  • Pyramidal
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate, 
  • Fast
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
Wildlife: 
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Cucumbertree magnolia (Magnolia acuminata)Cucumbertree magnolia (Magnolia acuminata)photo: John Hagstrom
Tree & Plant Care

Best planted in the spring.  Does well in both full sun and partial shade.  Will not do well in windy or polluted sites.

Disease, pests, and problems

Very few disease and insect problems.  Scale insects can attack occasionally.  Leaves may scorch during summer in dry sites.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

The native distribution of this tree is somewhat scattered in the eastern United States,   It is found in isolated areas in many states and found most frequently in Appalachia.  Commonly found growing in sheltered, wooded ravines.

Bark color and texture 

The bark is gray and fairly smooth when young, maturing to shallowly furrowed.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves with entire leaf margins.  These leaves are larger (4 to 10 inches) than many species of magnolia commonly used in the landscape.  Leaves are dark green in summer, becoming attractive yellow-brown in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Large flowers, borne singly in late spring after many other magnolias have flowered.  Not as showy as other magnolias due the color of the flower (yellow-green) and the fact that the foliage has emerged by flowering time.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

A  2 to 3 inch long aggregate fruit with a knobby surface, pinkish-red in color, resembling a small cucumber.  The fruit splits open in fall to reveal the reddish-orange seed.  This species tends to produce more fruit that other magnolias.

Related hybrids

These cultivars have cucumbertree as one of their parents.

Butterflies magnolia (Magnolia 'Butterflies'): 18 to 20 feet high and 12 to 18 feet wide; upright, pyramidal form; blooms in late May.  Small tree with deep yellow flowers that appear before the leaves.  Zone 5-7

Coral Lake magnolia (Magnolia 'Coral Lake'):  upright flowers with a mix of pink, peach, coral and cream; fragrant.  Flowers later than some magnolias.  Grows 20 feet high.  Zone 4.

Daybreak magnolia (Magnolia 'Daybreak'):  A narrow cultivar with rosy pink flowers.  Grows 20 to 25 feet high and 6 to 12 feet wide.  Zone 5-8.

Elizabeth magnolia (Magnolia 'Elizabeth'):  30 to 50 feet high and 20 to 35 feet wide; upright, pyramidal form; blooms in mid-May.  Vigorous large tree with primrose yellow flowers; blooms at an early age.  Zone 4-8

Goldfinch magnolia (Magnolia 'Goldfinch'):  35 to 40 feet high and 30 to 40 feet wide; upright, pyramidal form; blooms in early May.  Mid-size tree with light yellow flowers before the leaves emerge.  Zone 4-8

Gold Star magnolia (Magnolia 'Gold Star'):   20 to 25 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide; broad, pyramidal form; blooms early May.  Small, multi-stemmed tree with star shaped, yellow flowers.  New leaves emerge bronze-colored.  Zone 4-8

Sunsation magnolia (Magnolia 'Sunsation'): Large (6 to 7 inches wide)  creamy-yellow flowers accented with a blush of pink.  Grows 20 to 30 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide.  Zone 4.

Yellow Bird magnolia (Magnolia 'Yellow Bird'):  Yellow, upright flowers are produced later than some cultivars.  Grows to 40 feet high and 25 feet wide.  Zone 4-8.

 

Magnolia acuminata or Cucumbertree