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Cucumbertree Magnolia Magnolia acuminata

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

Magnolia acuminata, commonly known as cucumber tree, is a native deciduous tree found in eastern North America, reaching its largest size in the southern Appalachian Mountains and were among the first flowering plants to appear on earth. This plant is found naturally in subxeric forests (especially over rock) and in moist to dry slopes. This plant prefers to grow at at least 1500m high, where Betula alleghaniensis, Abies fraseri, Picea rubens, and Sorbus americana. This is a deciduous magnolia that produces slightly-fragrant, greenish-yellow, tulip-like flowers (2-4” long) at the twig tips in late spring, but is named for the green, warty, cucumber-like fruits (seedcones) that follow the flowers. The leaves have a 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. Cucumber tree is a straight-trunked tree that typically grows 60-80’ (less frequently to 100’) tall with a pyramidal crown. Trunk diameter of mature trees can reach 3-4’, with furrowed dark gray-brown bark. This plant also tolerates a wide range of pH. This tree 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.

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

     Leaves:   Fall     Bloom:  Spring     Fruit/Seed/Nut: Late Summer

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

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Yellow Fever'
'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:
  • 'Yellow Fever'
'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: 30 ft. 0 in. - 40 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:
    Medium
  • 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 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:
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Fruit Description:
    Fruit is a pink-red, cob like seed cone which is shaped like a cucumber, giving the tree its name. Cone-like fruits mature to a showy red in late summer (July-August), releasing individual red coated seeds suspended on slender threads at maturity.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The Cucumber tree is a deciduous magnolia that produces slightly-fragrant, greenish-yellow, tulip-like flowers (2-4” long) at the twig tips in late spring, but is named for the green, warty, cucumber-like fruits (seedcones) that follow the flowers. Flowers bloom April-June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The Cucumber tree has alternate, simple ovate, yellow-green leaves (6 to 10” long) and are pointed at the tip (acuminate), but not classic narrow-tapering acuminate form. Unlike most magnolias, this tree often produces respectable fall color (gold). Leaves are smaller than those of other Magnolias and are thin with a sharply pointed end.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    Furrowed dark gray-brown bark.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Theme:
    Native Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Shade Tree
    Attracts:
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Fire