Common Name: cucumbertree, cucumber magnolia

Scientific Name: 
Family: Magnoliaceae
Genus: Magnolia
Species: M. acuminata

Hardiness Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 50 to 80 ft
Width: ​50 to 80 ft

Common Characteristics:

Cucumbertree is a large magnolia that has a straight trunk with short upright to spreading branches. It has large leaves, often 5" to 10" long and 6" wide. They are elliptical to ovate in shape and sometimes have wavy edges. The leaves are green and paler with soft hairs underneath. It has fragrant, yellow-green flowers that blend in with the foliage. The bark on cucumbertree is dark brown, furrowed into narrow scaly forking ridges. The twigs are stout with ring scars at the nodes. Younger twigs and buds are heavily pubescent. Cucumbertree fruit is conelike and dark red. It is composed of many pointed fruits that split open have 2 seeds hanging down.

 Where it Grows:

Cucumbertree prefers moist, well-drained, acidic soils. It is intolerant of salt, drought, poor drainage, and pollution. Prefers full sun to part shade.

How it's Used:

Cucumbertree is one of the few magnolias that can be used as a shade or lawn tree. It is best suited to parks and residential areas with plenty of room. 

Ecosystem Services:

The seeds are a food source for songbirds.

Where it is Native To:

Its native range is from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania down south to northern Georgia. It can be found in areas in Mississippi, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

Known Varieties and Their Traits:

These hybrids have one parent being cucumbertree. 

  • 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.


Cucumbertree has few disease or pest problems. The leaves can be scorched in dry locations and scale insects may attack the tree.


The Morton Arboretum

Missouri Botanical Garden

Little, E. L. (n.d.). National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees; Eastern Edition. (Original work published 1980)

cucumber tree flowers
cucumber tree flower