~ The Cucumber Magnolia, Magnolia acuminata ~
The Cucumber Magnolia is a very special tree that deserves more attention for gardeners and landscapers. A native of North America, and the Canadian native of the magnolia family, the tree is hardy to zone 5. It grows into a large shade tree with a graceful conical shape that becomes rounded when greatly mature, with large (25 cm), healthy leaves. The 8-10 cm flowers of the Cucumber Magnolia are of limited interest, being greenish-yellow or yellow in some cultivars and high in the tree, but fragrant with the perfume of cinnamon and oranges.
The understated beauty of the tree is best enjoyed in late summer and fall, when the tips of the branches are topped with big, velvety red cucumber-like receptacles with slits from which bright orange seeds "pop out," hanging from a fibrous string. When handled, the fruits alive with a very strong and delightful fragrance odor of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cilantro. It's worth growing for this alone.
This rare and unusual tree has great potential to bring a unique character to a front lawn.
The tree reaches a height of 20m and a width of 7m. While cultivars do exist, they are yet unavailable in Canada: for instance, 'Butterflies' produces light yellow flowers on a shorter tree (6m), as does 'Koban Dori' to 7m. 'Gold Star' has yellow flowers amidst bronzed foliage in spring.
The Cucumber Magnolia is reliably hardy to zone 5 and enjoys the humid summers of the East.
Site, Soil and Habit
Grows in full sun. In its natural habitat, it favors rich, well-drained, loamy bottomlands and cooler eastern and northern slopes, but is tolerant of a wide range of soils.
Generally from seeds, occasionally from grafts. Seeds are sensitive and should not be dried or overwintered at room temperature. They must be stratified for several months before planting; this is accomplished by storing the seeds in moist (not wet) peat in a refrigerator for a period of 2-3 months.
Provide seedlings with some afternoon shade before planting in their final location. The tree transplants easily.
Cucumber Magnolia Links
Pfeiffer Nature Center - More information on the Cucumber Magnolia.|
Virginia Tech Dendrology - Nice photographs of the Cucumber Magnolia.
Garden of Eden Tree Farm - Offers the seed-propagated species under the name "Cucumber Tree."
Hortico - Offers the seed-propagated species.
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