Cucumbertree, A Common Tree in North America

Cucumbertree (Magnolia acuminata) is the most widespread and hardiest of the eight native magnolia species in the United States, and the only magnolia native to Canada. It is a deciduous magnolia and medium in size with a height range between 50 and 80 feet and mature diameters between 2 to 3 feet.

The physical appearance of the cucumber tree is a straight but short trunk with spreading and slender branches. A great way to identify the tree is by finding the fruit that looks like a small bumpy cucumber. The flower is magnolia-like, beautiful but on a tree with leaves that do not look like the larger evergreen Southern Magnolia.

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The Silviculture of Cucumbertree


Cucumber trees reach their greatest size in moist soils of slopes and valleys in the mixed hardwood forests of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Growth is fairly rapid and maturity is reached in 80 to 120 years.

The soft, durable, straight-grained wood is similar to yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). They are often marketed together and used for pallets, crates, furniture, plywood, and special products. The seeds are eaten by birds and rodents and this tree is suitable for planting in parks.

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The Images of Cucumbertree

Cucumber tree and flowering part. T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, provides several images of parts of cucumber-tree. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Magnoliales > Magnoliaceae > Magnolia acuminata (L.) Cucumbertree is also commonly called cucumber magnolia, yellow cucumbertree, yellow-flower magnolia, and mountain magnolia.

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The Range of Cucumbertree

Range of Cucumbertree

Cucumbertree is widely distributed but never abundant. It grows on cool moist sites mostly in the mountains from western New York and southern Ontario southwest to Ohio, southern Indiana and Illinois, southern Missouri south to southeastern Oklahoma and Louisiana; east to northwest Florida and central Georgia; and north in the mountains to Pennsylvania.

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Cucumbertree at Virginia Tech

  • Leaf: Alternate, simple, elliptical or ovate, 6 to 10 inches long, pinnately veined, entire margin, acuminate tip, dark green above and paler, whitened below.
  • Twig: Moderately stout, red-brown, light lenticels; large, silky, white terminal bud, stipule scars encircle the twig. Twigs have a spicy-sweet smell when broken.
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Your Citation
Nix, Steve. "Cucumbertree, A Common Tree in North America." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nix, Steve. (2023, April 5). Cucumbertree, A Common Tree in North America. Retrieved from Nix, Steve. "Cucumbertree, A Common Tree in North America." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).