Species Profile

Cucumber Tree

Scientific Name: Magnolia acuminata
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2010
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Cucumber Tree

Cucumber Tree Photo 1



The Cucumber Tree measures up to 30 m. The leaves measure 10 to 24 cm in length and about half that in width; the tips of the leaves are pointed. The bark of this tree is brownish-grey and is marked by long scaly ridges. The greenish-yellow flowers are solitary, measure 6 to 8 cm, and have 6 petals and numerous stamens and pistils. The fruit of the Cucumber Tree is in the shape of a cone and measures 3 to 8 cm; the seeds have an orange to scarlet coating.


Distribution and Population

The Cucumber Tree occurs in the United States from New York and Ohio, south to Arkansas, Louisiana and Georgia. In Canada, it occurs only in southwestern Ontario. Sixteen extant sites are currently known in the province, of which nine show some regeneration. This is an increase from 1984, when nine extant populations were known, only three of which showed significant regeneration. The most recent population estimate available in 2001 indicates that there are 226 cucumber trees in 15 natural sites. Detailed surveys since 1984 have shown that sites in the Niagara Regional Municipality contain more Cucumber Trees than previously thought; all of the Niagara sites occur on private land. Half of the eight sites in Haldimand-Norfolk Regional Municipality show some regeneration; only one site, recently discovered in the Long Point National Wildlife Area, is not on private land.



The Cucumber Tree requires rich, moist, medium- to coarse-textured acidic soil. The species is shade-intolerant, and hence requires forest with openings, such as wet woods with scattered pools. Regeneration will only occur under good light conditions.



The flowers of the Cucumber Tree appear in late May. Beetles are the main pollinators. The dispersal of the seeds, mainly by birds, occurs over a short distance from the parent tree.



The potential habitat for Cucumber Trees in Canada has been reduced through clearing for agricultural purposes. Habitat loss through logging and clearing continues to be a limiting factor for this tree. The harvesting of Cucumber Trees has not been controlled and threatens the remaining Canadian populations. The species is also limited by its low reproductive potential and its need for forest openings and gaps for seedling establishment.



Federal Protection

The Cucumber Tree is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Cucumber Tree occurs in the Long Point National Wildlife Area, which is federal land protected under SARA. This species is also protected by the Ontario Endangered Species Act in specific locations. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, harass, or collect the species, or to destroy its habitat.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata L.) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Cucumber Tree Recovery Team

  • Donald Kirk - Chair/Contact - Government of Ontario
    Phone: 519-826-4925  Send Email


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date Over the next 25 years, the national Cucumber Tree recovery team aims to increase the population to 50 reproductive individuals in at least two sites within each of the two regions where the species occurs. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Between 1998 and 2002 all known Cucumber Tree populations were assessed and monitored and their habitat mapped for the purpose of the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program (see Recovery Activities, below). Many trees are not successfully producing fruit, and pollination studies indicate two probable causes. First, Cucumber Trees have become so sparse on the landscape that there may be a reduced probability of pollinators transporting pollen from one Cucumber Tree to another. Second, the trees’ pollinators may themselves be rare. For more information about Cucumber Tree reproductive ecology, see www.isaontario.com/pages/Resources/spec_focus/02Sept_cucumber.php. The Long Point Region Conservation Authority is studying habitat requirements of young Cucumber Trees and is considering testing habitat enhancement techniques such as removal of trees adjacent to the shade-intolerant Cucumber Tree. Summary of Recovery Activities A large proportion of Ontario’s Cucumber Tree population occurs on private lands. The Ontario’s Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program provides tax relief to private landowners who protect the portion of their property determined to be Cucumber Tree habitat (minimum size 0.5 acres). Since 1998 the recovery team has contacted many landowners to enlist their support in recovering the Cucumber Tree. A significant Cucumber Tree population occurs on a 50-acre property owned and protected by the North American Native Plant Society. Habitat restoration and enhancement options are being considered for this site (see www.nanps.org/feature/shiningtree.html). Three tracts of land with Cucumber Trees are protected by the Long Point Region Conservation Authority. As mentioned above, habitat enhancement techniques may be tested on this site. URLs:www.isaontario.com/pages/Resources/spec_focus/02Sept_cucumber.php.www.nanps.org/feature/shiningtree.html


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Cucumber Tree Magnolia acuminata in Canada (2010)

    Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata) is a forest canopy species of the Magnolia family that can grow to 30 m in height. It has simple, alternate leaves 10-24 cm long, oblong-ovate to elliptic shape with a pointed tip. The buds have a single scale covered with short downy hairs. The bark is brownish-grey and longitudinally furrowed into loose scaly ridges. Flowers are solitary, greenish-yellow and 6-8 cm long. Immature fruits are elongate and cucumber-like, and mature into a red knobby cone-like structure from which the seeds are suspended on long slender threads. Mature seeds have a fleshy orange to scarlet seed coat.

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment Summary and Status Report: Cucumber Tree, Magnolia acuminata (2010)

    Assessment Summary – April 2010 Common name Cucumber Tree Scientific name Magnolia acuminata Status Endangered Reason for designation This forest canopy species of the Carolinian zone of southern Ontario is present as a series of small populations in a region of highly fragmented forest cover. Its total Canadian population consists of about 200 trees with most of the sites having only a few mature reproductive individuals. Several sites only have single trees without evidence of regeneration, which makes the species highly susceptible to certain catastrophic events, such as ice storms. Its habitat is under continued impact from local disturbances and loss of forest area. Occurrence Ontario Status history Designated Endangered in April 1984. Status re-examined and confirmed Endangered in April 1999, May 2000, and April 2010. Please note that the related COSEWIC Status Report is available below in PDF format. You will be asked to provide your e-mail address then you will receive a link to download the publication. After processing, your email address is not retained in any way and is automatically discarded by our system.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Cucumber Tree (2010)

    This forest canopy species of the Carolinian zone of southern Ontario is present as a series of small populations in a region of highly fragmented forest cover. Its total Canadian population consists of about 200 trees with most of the sites having only a few mature reproductive individuals. Several sites only have single trees without evidence of regeneration which makes the species highly susceptible to certain catastrophic events, such as ice storms. Its habitat is under continued impact from local disturbances and loss of forest area.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata L.) in Canada (2007)

    The Cucumber Tree is under the management jurisdiction of the Ontario provincial government and Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario Region). The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent Minister to prepare a recovery strategy for all listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species. SARA Section 44(1) allows the Minister to adopt an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (Section 41). The Cucumber Tree was listed as Endangered under SARA in June 2003. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources led the development of this recovery strategy for the species in cooperation with the Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario Region, Environment Canada. An addenda to this document presents how responsible jurisdictions receive of this strategy.

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata) in Canada (2015)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the Cucumber Tree and has prepared this action plan to implement the recovery strategy, as per section 47 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010)

    Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. During the past year, COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings and reviewed the status of 79 wildlife species (species, subspecies, populations). During the meeting of November 2009, COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of the status of 28 wildlife species. COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of an additional 51 wildlife species (species, subspecies and populations) during their April 2010 meeting. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2009-2010 reporting period include the following: Extirpated: 6 Endangered: 39 Threatened: 16 Special Concern: 17 Data Deficient: 1 This report transmits to the Minister the status of 46 species newly classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, fulfilling COSEWIC’s obligations under SARA Section 24 and 25. A full detailed summary of the assessment for each species and the reason for the designation can be found in Appendix I of the attached report. Since its inception, COSEWIC has assessed 602 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 262 Endangered, 151 Threatened, 166 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated. In addition, 13 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct. Also, to date, 46 wildlife species have been identified by COSEWIC as Data Deficient and 166 wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk. This year has been a particularly productive year for COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee. In April 2010 COSEWIC approved the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Process and Protocol Guidelines, providing clear and agreed principles for the gathering of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to carry out COSEWIC functions as required under Section 15(2) of SARA (See Appendix III of the attached report). We are grateful for the rich and enthusiastic contribution made by community elders and experts in helping the ATK Subcommittee prepare the ATK protocols.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – November 2010 (2010)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by February 4, 2011 for species undergoing normal consultations and by February 4, 2012 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Residence Description

  • Residence Rationale - Cucumber Tree (2007)

    Individual Cucumber Trees do not appear to use a dwelling place similar to a nest or den, and therefore do not qualify for having a residence. There would be no additional legal protection not already afforded by protection of the individual and its critical habitat.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette