Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata)

March 24th - April 21st, 2012. We returned to the Piedmont NWR to check on plants we saw on March 24th and took the same route as on our last trip. We took Starr Road from GA-83 south on through the Oconee National Forest into the Piedmont NWR. We drove through Tribble Fields to the bridge over Little Falling Creek and then north to Pond 2A. We returned the way we’d come and then took the first road on the right down to the Round Oak – Juliette Rd, drove east and then back into the NWR on the first road on the left. From there we drove north to the intersection with Sugar Hill Road, turned west and forded Stalking Head Creek. We then drove north and took the first road on the right to ford Stalking Head Creek again, east past a small pond and southeast to meet Sugar Hill Road again and then east to GA-11.

As we drove out of the NWR on Sugar Hill Road, a pale cream-yellow flower caught my eye. I thought is was a Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) in bloom and, although I’ve seen the blooms up close, I couldn’t resist stopping to take a closer look. But something wasn’t quite right and it took a few minutes to realize that I wasn’t looking at a Tulip Poplar but at something different.

The bloom. The petals are uniformly cream-yellow. The petals didn’t have the green or orange found on the Tulip Poplar. It took a few more minutes to

The tree had only a few leaves at the tip of the branches, and the leaves certainly weren’t those of a Tulip Poplar. But then I remembered that one of the Magnolia species had cream-yellow flowers. This must be it. A lucky find since it was one of the species I’d wanted to find.

The remains of the flowers that were within reach and which had lost their petals, were clearly those of a member of the family Magnoliaceae. I couldn’t remember which one, other than there was a species with cream-yellow flowers.

This was the most recent of the flowers. The anthers and stigmas are still relatively fresh.

A slightly older flower. The anthers and stigmas are drying up. And…

the oldest flower I could reach. Both anthers had stigmas have dried up.

A quick internet search revealed that it was Magnolia acuminata commonly known as the Cucumber Tree or Cucumber Magnolia. Magnolia acuminata is a deciduous Magnolia species that is native to North America and grows in most of the eastern United States as well as in Ontario, Canada. In Georgia, it’s found mainly in counties in North Georgia.

On April 21st, we stopped by the tree to see if the fruit were developing. It was almost dark so we had to depend on artificial light for these photographs.

The tree had leafed out nicely.

The leaves. The branches were lower due to the weight of the leaves so it was easier to reach the developing fruit.

The fruit is developing and its cucumber shape, which gives it its common name, is clearly visible.

A closer view of the fruit composed of aggregate follicles, each of which should produce a seed.

We’ll be following this tree to see the changes in the fruit through the Summer and Fall.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- Southeastern Flora: Magnolia acuminata (Cucumber tree)

- Name that Plant. Natural and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia: Magnolia acuminata (Cucumber-tree, Cucumber Magnolia)

- University of North Carolina Herbarium: Magnolia acuminata

- USDA Plants Database: Magnolia acuminata (Cucumber-tree)

Related Posts
Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge: Atamasco Lily (Zephyranthes atamasco)
- Jasper County, Georgia: Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops)

- Jasper County, Georgia: New Life – Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) & Green-and-gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)

- Piedmont NWR: Flowering Dogwoods (Cornus florida)

- Piedmont NWR: Bulbous Bittercress (Cardamine bulbosa)

- Piedmont NWR: A Wildflower Miscellany

- Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri)

- Mushrooms At Stalking Head Creek

- Mayapples At Stalking Head Creek

- Devil’s Urn (Urnula craterium) At Stalking Head Creek


Joy Window said...

I saw some wonderful magnolias in bloom on Cumberland Island and in Charleston - the flowers where the size of dinner plates. Awesome!

JSK said...

They sound like Magnolia macrophylla, the bigleaf magnolia. Many years ago, one of these grew and bloomed by our cafeteria at work. It was cut down to build some new buildings. It was a real tragedy to lose that tree. I still miss it.