A member of the magnolia family, the cucumbertree magnolia (Magnolia acuminata var. subcordata) is medium-tall with straight trunk and spreading branches. Its elliptical leaves, dark green above and paler green below, are large with pointed tips and wavy edges. The leaves shed each autumn. Its cup-shaped flower has yellow-green upright petals. Its fruit is a cylindrical cluster of berries, green at first and cucumber-shaped, and then maturing to red. It has a brown-gray furrowed bark. It is the only magnolia with furrowed bark and yellow-green flowers. The cucumber tree magnolia is native to North America. The subcordata is a smaller variate. The specific epithet describes the pointed leaf tips (acuminate). The genus name honors Pierre Magnol, French botanist (1638 – 1715). The specific epithet describes the pointed leaf tips (acuminate). The important in the the subcordate variety is the smaller shape and yellow flower color. The variety name subcordata, “almost heart-shaped” appear to refer to the shape of the leaf.
Common name: Yellow Cucumber Tree
Scientific Name (family and order): Magnolia acuminata var. subcordata (Spach)Dandy (Magnoliaceae, Magnoliales)
Species Origin: Eastern North America
New Jersey Status: (parent strain) USDA Native
Habit: A large shrub or busy tree, 20 – 30‘ high.
Habitat: Zones 5 -8.
Trunk/Stem: Stems are more pubescent than M. acuminata.
Leaves: Deciduous, Simple, Alternate. The leaves 4 – 6” long, and 2 ½ to 3 ½” wide. They are more lustrous dark green above and more pubescent below than M. acuminata leaves.
Flowers: Perfect. Resemble those of M. acuminata but they are smaller and yellow in color 2 ½ to 3 ½ “ wide flower, yellow-green to bright yellow; tulip-shaped with 9 vertical oriented tepals (the 3 outer tepals are reduced). The flower sits upright at the end of a twig. The flower is slightly fragrant. The flowers contain numberous yellow stamens. The opened flowers have papery bud scales. Flowers open at the same time as the leaves between March and June.
Fruits and seeds: The fruit is a cone-like cluster of follicles. Its distinctive fruit looks something like a small lumpy cucumber when immature, from which its common name arises. The fruit is green at first turning pinkish red at maturity; not hairy. Each follicle is pointed at its tip. The cones release individual red coated seeds suspended on slender thread at maturity.