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Cucumber Magnolia Magnolia acuminata

Phonetic Spelling
mag-NO-lee-ah ah-kew-min-AY-tah
Description

Cucumber Tree is a native deciduous tree found in eastern North America and is found in the foothills and Appalachian Mountains of NC. The tree is found naturally in subxeric forests (especially over rock) and in moist to dry slopes.  It will grow 60-80 feet tall with a pyramidal crown and a straight trunk. The trunk diameter can reach 3-4 feet.

This is a deciduous magnolia that produces 2-4 inch slightly-fragrant, greenish-yellow, tulip-like flowers at the twig tips in late spring, but is named for the green, warty, cucumber-shaped fruits that follow the flowers. The leaves have nice yellow-gold fall color. Cone-like fruits mature to a showy red in late summer, releasing individual red coated seeds suspended on slender threads at maturity.

This plant tolerates a wide range of pH and prefers moist well-drained soil with organic matter in full sun to partial shade. It is sensitive to heat and drought, and has a low soil compaction tolerance.

These trees cast dense shade, and are beautifully symmetrical making them a park, residential and golf course tree of preference.

 Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  No serious insect or disease problems.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Butterflies'
    Large yellow flowers
  • 'Elizabeth'
    Very cold hardy with yellow flowers before leaf-out
  • 'Ellen'
    Variegated leaves
  • var. subcordata
    Shorter and shrubbier with yellow flowers
  • 'Yellow Fever'
'Butterflies', 'Elizabeth', 'Ellen', var. subcordata, 'Yellow Fever'
Tags:
#fragrant#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#shade tree#wildlife plant#native tree#pink seeds#low maintenance#showy fruits#small mammals#low flammability#NC native#deer resistant#native garden#fire resistant#Braham Arboretum#food source fall#food source herbage#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Butterflies'
    Large yellow flowers
  • 'Elizabeth'
    Very cold hardy with yellow flowers before leaf-out
  • 'Ellen'
    Variegated leaves
  • var. subcordata
    Shorter and shrubbier with yellow flowers
  • 'Yellow Fever'
'Butterflies', 'Elizabeth', 'Ellen', var. subcordata, 'Yellow Fever'
Tags:
#fragrant#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#shade tree#wildlife plant#native tree#pink seeds#low maintenance#showy fruits#small mammals#low flammability#NC native#deer resistant#native garden#fire resistant#Braham Arboretum#food source fall#food source herbage#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Magnolia
    Species:
    acuminata
    Family:
    Magnoliaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Early Americans once used immature Cucumber tree fruit to flavor whiskey.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Ontario to East Central & Eastern U.S.A
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Twigs and buds are browsed by white-tailed deer.  Seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals.
    Play Value:
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to fire damage. This plant is moderately resistant to damage from deer.
    Bulb Storage:
    Found as far north as southern Ontario and New York, south to Florida across to Louisiana, west to Oklahoma and Missouri.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 50 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 35 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Aggregate
    Follicle
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a 2-3 inch long aggregate of follicles in a cone shape that is green turning to red when young and matures to brown. Individual red-coated seeds are suspended on slender threads at maturity. Persists.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are slightly-fragrant, greenish-yellow, tulip-like flowers (2-4” long) at the twig tips in late spring. Flowers bloom April-June. Often hidden by the foliage.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are simple, alternate, oblong to oval with smooth and often wavy margins. They are 6-10 inches long and 3-6 inches wide, shiny yellow-green on the upper side and paler below with hairs, pointed tips and pinnate venation. Unlike most magnolias, this one has a respectable yellow fall color.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    Furrowed dark gray-brown soft bark. Easily damaged by lawn equipment.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Buds:
    Hairy
    Stem Leaf Scar Shape:
    Heart or shield shaped
    Stem Description:
    Reddish-brown stems with vertical gray lenticels have a spicy scent when bruised.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Native Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Fire