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Magnolia acuminata - cucumber tree


On Etelärinne (Southern Slope) at Mustila, a large old cucumber tree which had survived even the cold winters of the 1940s, was finally destroyed in the 1970s by a combination of midsummer frost, dry summer, and an early cold winter. Only the stump was left, but from it sprouted a shoot, which has again grown to flowering size. The pale green blooms appear around Midsummer (about 21-22 June), and are easy to miss among the foliage. The showiness of the species does not lie in the flowers, but rather in the luxuriant general appearance and the large leaves, which can reach 20 cms. The common name derives from the appearance of the fruit, which resembles a small outdoor cucumber.

In its native range in the east of North America, the species can reach 20m with a broad crown. In Finland, where it has been grown for about 100 years, it remains much smaller, and is restricted almost entirely to collections in the south.

The cucumber tree is an interesting magnolia species from the breeding viewpoint. The flower petals contain yellow pigment, rare in magnolias, which can be introduced into white-flowered magnolias by crossing.