The cucumber tree is the only native magnolia species in Canada. It gets its name from the unripe fruit, which slightly resemble cucumbers.
This tree likes moist deciduous or mixed forests, and does best in well-drained soils typically in headwater areas or low swampy areas. Cucumber trees can grow to be 30 metres tall with trunks up to 1.5 metres thick. If you are considering planting a cucumber tree, they require a large open space with full sun or only partial shade. Young trees have a pyramid shape, and as they age, they become oval shaped.
Cucumber trees produce yellow green flowers in early spring. The fruit ripen to showy dark red pods in late summer, each containing one to two seeds.
Although its range extends in the USA from New York to northern Georgia (and is considered “secure” on the global scale), the cucumber tree is considered a species at risk in Ontario because of its rarity in the province (being at the northern limit of its natural range). There are only 18 populations of cucumber trees in the province, occurring in Norfolk County and the Niagara Region. Cucumber tree is also impacted by deforestation and habitat fragmentation, which reduces the opportunity for cross-pollination.
As an endangered species, this tree and its habitat are protected under the Canadian Species at Risk Act. You can help by submitting photos and exact locations of tree sightings to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
Please do not eat the fruit, it does not taste like a cucumber.
University of Guelph, Arboretum. “Cucumber Tree”