Dave Mather Cucumber Magnolia

     Every now and then I embarrass myself professionally. This happened the other day when I was looking at a pile of lumber in Bradford, Vt. I didn't recognize a few boards and asked what they were. "Cucumber wood", the owner told me.
     I said that I had lived and worked in the woods for over 25 years and that I had never heard of a Cucumber tree. I couldn't believe it grew around here and asked him if he were sure.
     "Yup", I was patiently assured. "Theres a whole mess of them over in western New York State. And that's where these boards were sawed out."
     Later, when I returned to Tuckaway, I did a little research. The Cucumber tree, or Cucumber Magnolia (Magnolia acuminata l.), likes moist soils on mountain slopes and valleys and it grows from extreme southern Ontario and western New York to northern Florida. It can grow to 90' tall and up to 2' in diameter. Its bark can be scaly, grayish-brown in color, and it has elliptical leaves 5" - 10" long and and 3" - 6" wide. Its flowers are about 2" long and have 6 greenish-yellow petals. Its common name refers to the shape of the fruit which is 2-1/2" - 3" long and contains many pointed fruits that split open to expose 2 seeds that hang down on threads when they mature in late summer.
    The sapwood is whitish and the heartwood is greenish-yellow to brown. The wood is very similar to the wood of the southern magnolia. About the only difference is that the latter has a darker (greenish black) heartwood. The wood is frequently mixed with yellow poplar and is sold as such. Like yellow poplar, its used for interior trim, doors, and general millwork. I might add that the yellow (or tulip) poplar is also of the magnolia family and so is not a true poplar. The true poplars are from the Populus family which includes the aspens. The quaking aspen and especially the large tooth aspens are the poplars we stock at Tuckaway.


© 2001 by David Mather. All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.