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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.

  • Family (English) Magnolia
  • Family (botanic) Magnoliaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Illinois, North America
  • 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
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil
  • Season of interest late spring, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Yellow
  • Shape or form Oval, Pyramidal
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Intolerant of pollution, May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Wildlife Songbirds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

This is of hybrid origin. 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 two to three 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 than other magnolias.

Cucumbertree is best planted in the spring. It does well in both full sun and partial shade. It will not do well in windy or polluted sites.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

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

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.


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