The Cucumber Tree is a native magnolia tree that has large leaves and yellow flowers. It is one of the largest magnolias and it is also one of the hardiest species. It is native to eastern North America, reaching its largest size in the southern Appalachian Mountains. It grows in moist soils in rich forests, wooded valleys, bluff bases and thickets. It produces slightly-fragrant, greenish-yellow, tulip-like flowers (2-4” long) at the twig tips in late spring, but is named for the green, cucumber-like fruits (seed cones) that follow the flowers. 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 40-70’ (less frequently to 100’) tall with a pyramidal crown. Trunk diameter of mature trees can reach 3-4’, with furrowed dark gray-brown bark. Ovate, yellow-green leaves (to 10” long) are, as the specific epithet suggests, pointed at the tip (acuminate). Unlike most magnolias, this tree often produces respectable fall color (gold). It is one of the few magnolias that will serve as a shade or lawn tree. Best grown in moist, organically rich, well-drained loams in full sun to part shade. Hardy in zones 3-8.
Growing Instructions for the Cucumber Tree
The seeds have a period of dormancy and need to be cold stratified to break their dormancy. The seeds are stored in a refrigerator to maintain viability so they have already been stratified. The seeds need to be planted when received or stored in a refrigerator until they are planted. 1. Scarify the seeds by nicking or sanding the seed coat. The seeds can be sanded with sandpaper, a nail file or an emery board. 2. Soak the seed in water for several hours. 3. Fill a pot with potting soil. Use a pot that has drainage holes in the base. 4. Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil. 5. Water the container and leave it to drain. 6. Put the pot in a warm, sunny area. 7. Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist but not wet. 8. The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.