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Cucumbertree

Cucumbertree (Magnolia acuminata) is by far the most common of the three native Magnolias found in Ohio forests, occurring primarily in eastern Ohio, but scattered throughout portions of central Ohio. It has the smallest leaves of the three (when compared to Bigleaf Magnolia and Umbrella Magnolia), but it still has large leaves when compared to other trees, being about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide. It is named for its often-contorted fruits, which vaguely resemble cucumbers in their shape (although many other Magnolias have similar-looking fruits). As the most cold-hardy and northern-ranging of the Magnolias, Cucumbertree easily reaches 70 feet tall and 30 feet wide, with a medium to rapid growth rate. It is native throughout parts of the Eastern United States, but is concentrated in the Appalachian Mountain region. As a member of the Magnolia Family, it is related to the other Magnolias (including the species and hybrids commonly found as landscape ornamentals) and to Tuliptree.

Planting Requirements - Cucumbertree prefers moist, deep, well-drained, rich soils of slightly acidic pH, but adapts readily to average soils of neutral or alkaline pH. It does not like either prolonged drought or wet soils, and does not tolerate city pollution very well. As with all members of the Magnolia Family, it is fleshy-rooted without many root hairs, and prefers being transplanted in early spring, rather than autumn. It grows and is found in zones 4 to 8.

Potential Problems - Cucumbertree is basically free of any serious disease or pest problems, but likes to be sited in optimum environmental conditions, as noted above.

Identifying Features - Cucumbertree

Leaf

Cucumbertree Leaf

Cucumbertree has large, alternate, medium green leaves that are ovate with wavy margins.

Cucumbertree Leaf - autumn color

Fall color is often chartreuse and insignificant, but sometimes a clear yellow to yellow-brown. Shade is very dense under this tree, and fall cleanup is significant on mature trees, due to the size of the leaves.

Flower

Cucumbertree flower

Cucumbertree, as a type of Magnolia, has fairly large flowers, but they can be easily overlooked because their green and light yellow colors blend well with the fully expanded foliage of the tree in mid-spring, and, like the closely related Tuliptree, most of their flowers occur in the upper canopy of trees at least twenty years old.

Fruit

Cucumbertree fruit

Flowers are interesting upon close inspection and give rise to immature fruits in early summer that bear a resemblance to small cucumbers. By late summer and early autumn, the remaining fruits mature to a pink-red or purplish color.

Bud

Cucumbertree bud

All Magnolias tend to have fuzzy buds, and Cucumbertree is no exception, having silvery-green buds that form by mid-summer and mature to silvery-beige buds in winter.

Bark

Cucumbertree bark

The young bark of Cucumbertree is smooth and gray like most Magnolias, but the mature gray bark is deeply furrowed with tall but flattened ridges.