The Cucumber Magnolia is a primitive plant that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs. Fossils back up the theory that Magnolias have been on the Earth for at least 100 million years.
This Magnolia is one of the hardiest of the group, being native to the USA and thriving in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 8. It thrives in the alkaline to slightly acidic moist clay loam soils common to much of Illinois. There are no serious insect or disease pests. Young plants appreciate some afternoon shade during the summer and are medium to fast growing. They are pyramidal when young, maturing to a broad oval form of 60 feet tall and 35 to 60 ft wide. Obviously this Magnolia needs adequate space, being a great tree for parks and residential/commercial landscapes.
Unlike most Magnolias, the Cucumber Magnolia’s slightly fragrant flowers are not particularly showy, being typically small yellow-green and are born high in the tree. However, the “cucumber shaped” unripe green fruit (where the tree gets it’s name) matures in Autumn to a striking red orange color, splitting to reveal bright red seeds. Older trees have a stately silhouette, especially in winter with branches bare, sporting a number of large diameter branches growing from a dominant central trunk.
So, for a tree that has year ‘round appeal, adaptive and attractive in many sites, Cucumber Magnolia is a great addition to the ‘Diversified Tree Planting List’.
Harold Hoover, Board Certified Master Arborist