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Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata L.)


1.   Recovery Goal:

To conserve and if necessary restore Cucumber Tree to self-sustaining (i.e., demographically viable) populations in both regions of its native Canadian range in southern Ontario (i.e. Norfolk County south and west of Simcoe and the Town of Pelham within the Regional Municipality of Niagara).  

2.   Recovery Objectives: 

Objective I:  Protect existing natural populations and their habitats, with priority on the critical habitats in the next 5 years (i.e., those identified in section 13.2). 

The landowner contact process for the regulation of remaining unregulated populations under the Ontario Endangered Species Act was completed in 2005.  Significant habitat mapping for the purpose of the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program (CLTIP) will be undertaken on eligible properties.   The CLTIP offers landowners the option to participate in a tax reduction program on the portion of their property which has been identified as significant habitat for a regulated Endangered Species.  Other means to protect and secure habitats should also be employed, such as stewardship, conservation easement agreements, use of income tax incentive programs such as the Ecological Gifts program, and other land securement measures, education and awareness within the local regions, partnering with landscape restoration programs, such as Carolinian Canada’s Big Picture for the entire zone, and local projects of the Long Point and Niagara regions.   Protection of identified endangered species habitat can be achieved by means of implementing Section 2.3 of the Provincial Policy Statement.

Objective II:  Increase population size to 50 reproductive individuals in at least two sites within each of the two regions where this species occurs over the next 25 years.   

Population increases could be achieved by natural recruitment, through management or restoration that will allow reconnection of forest fragments and thus better contact of sub-populations on adjacent properties.  Achieving populations in the range of 50 reproductive individuals is seen as a measure of success to ensure stable populations and will be used as an initial population and distribution goal.  However, as research continues on the demographic rates of this species, revised objectives may be required to reflect improved knowledge of the species’ population and distribution needs for recovery.  Management to achieve a habitat matrix for pollinators and seed dispersers (once they are better understood), and seedling recruitment (once guidance can be provided from current studies) may also be important to promote population expansion through natural processes. 

Objective III:  Conduct research to better understand this species biology and ecology with respect to its state of jeopardy over the next 3 years.  

Undertake a preliminary assessment of pollination biology, seed dispersal, seedling establishment, population genetics and how these are affected by fragmentation of Cucumber Tree habitat in the landscape of southern Ontario.  Develop a research plan to address the information gaps and provide guidance necessary to effectively manage Cucumber Tree and its ecosystem.        

Objective IV:  Develop and carry out a landscape restoration plan to reduce the impacts of fragmentation or other factors on the identified habitats. Include public awareness and opportunities for landowner stewardship and community participation, with site specific management plans over the next 5 years. 

Work with land owners and seek willing participants; seek partnerships with funding organizations to cover expenses and community volunteers to carry out work.  Participate with partners in landscape restoration initiatives to reduce the habitat fragmentation and maximize effectiveness in natural landscape restoration for Cucumber Tree, including Carolinian Canada’s Big Picture project, stewardship councils and local initiatives in both regions.

3.   Approaches to Meeting Recovery Objectives:  

Table 1.  Recovery Strategy Priorities for Magnolia acuminata L.



   Broad Approach   Specific Steps  Anticipated Effect  Threats Addressed




I Legal and Policy Protection

·        Complete regulation of new sites under provincial Endangered Species Act (ESA)

·        Develop and apply provincial habitat mapping guidelines for application of the Provincial Policy Statement and Endangered Species Act

·        Provide mapping and information on the status and protection of the species to affected municipalities

·        Identify and map critical habitat on federal lands

·        Legal and policy protection of the species and its habitat

·        Poor forest management practices

·        Habitat fragmentation

UrgentI Habitat protection- Stewardship

·        Contact eligible landowners to encourage participation in the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program (CLTIP)

·        Secure land where appropriate through conservation easement agreements and use of income tax incentive programs such as the Ecological Gifts program

·         Encourage stewardship of sites

·        Landowner cooperation to protect occupied habitats

·        Enhanced cooperation over wider habitat area

·        Community awareness

·        Poor forest management practices

·        Habitat fragmentation

Necessary IIHabitat Management

·        Assess best opportunities for restoring connections between small populations

·        Connect small  populations to increase recruitment

·        Encourage sustainable forest management to protect habitat and trees and increase recruitment

·        Increased size of small populations (short-term)

·        Enhanced ability of populations to be self-sustaining

·        Increased recruitment at managed sites

·        Fragmentation of habitats

·        Poor forest management practices

·        Low connectivity and small population size

 Urgent/ necessary IIIResearch·        Complete a preliminary assessment of  the effects of habitat fragmentation on pollination 

·        Improved understanding of this threat

·        Development of management & restoration approaches to mitigate threat

·        Improved understanding of biology and ecology to direct management action

·        Development of management & restoration approaches and guidelines

·        Fragmentation of habitats
NecessaryIIIConduct research

·        Conduct detailed pollination,  demographic and seed dispersal studies

·        Determine genetic composition of populations

·        Characterize critical habitats

·        Develop forest management guidelines to mitigate the effects of forest harvest  and promote recruitment

·        Improved understanding of biology and ecology to direct management action

·        Development of management & restoration approaches and guidelines

·        Low connectivity and small population size

·        Poor forest management practices


Landscape restoration

(long term)

·        Assess best  opportunities for creating landscape connections between populations

·        Seek willing landowners and volunteers to participate in restoring landscape connectivity

·        Develop and implement regional  and site-specific management plans

·        Cooperate with other organizations involved in landscape restoration (ex. Carolinian Canada, stewardship councils, etc.)

·        Increased habitat for recruitment

·        Increased effective population sizes

·        Improved connectivity between populations

·        Guidance for targeted landscape restoration activities

·        Coordination among partners for more effective actions and use of resources

·        Low connectivity and small population size
BeneficialIVPublic awareness and participation·        Seek willing land owners and volunteers to carry out planting

·        Raise profile

·        Increase interest by local community

·        Low connectivity and small population size

·        Habitat fragmentation

·        Poor forest management practices

4.  Potential Impacts of Recovery Strategy on Other Species/Ecological Processes: 

From management trials we know that regeneration of this species can be enhanced in its natural habitats.  We must also examine impacts (positive and negative) on other species and the ecosystem as a whole.   Contact and cooperation with other recovery teams and taxonomic group specialists will be important before recommending management throughout the two regions.  Management for this species has shown that sensitive opening of the forest promotes regeneration.   For management recommendations the form and size of openings will need to be better defined.  However, it is also important to consider the positive or negative impacts that such management would have on other species in the forest ecosystem. 

5.   Actions Already Completed or Underway:

Cucumber Tree was first regulated by individual sites under the Endangered Species Act in 1986.  New sites representing natural and/or regenerating populations have been discovered since then and were put in regulation under the Act in 2005.  Endangered Species Habitat Mapping was completed for OMNR for the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program (CLTIP) (initial mapping in 1998, additional sites completed in 2000).  OMNR is currently assessing suitability of identified habitats for CLTIP and, pending the availability of resources, may initiate a new round of landowner contact sometime in the near future.

Carolinian Canada has produced the mapping for the Big Picture Project, including core natural areas and best connections for restoration.  These need to be viewed in light of this species’ habitats and assess where restoration action would be best sited.

Long Point Region Conservation Authority (LPRCA) and the University of Guelph (Uof G) are conducting habitat surveys and analysis of recruitment under different conditions that will add to our understanding of Cucumber Tree habitat characterization and regeneration dynamics.   

In 2002, the Department of Environmental Biology at the University of Guelph conducted investigations on the pollination dynamics of Cucumber Tree, which included the trapping of potentially important pollinators and the examination of their bodies for pollen.  In addition, preliminary monitoring was carried out on mammalian and avian fruit and seed dispersers.  This work continued into 2003.

LPRCA received funds from the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) in 2004 to complete a project titled Long Point Region Natural Heritage Woodland Special Species Protection.  This included inventories and the preparation of management plans for LPRCA properties to assist with the recovery of species at risk.  In 2005 and 2006 the LPRCA embarked on a Cucumber Tree habitat management program for the Smith Tract.   In the winter of 2006 other species of trees and saplings were carefully marked and culled in order to reduce competition and promote the regeneration of Cucumber Tree.   

Management options are currently under consideration for the Shining Tree Woods property.  A document was prepared to investigate the available options and a final decision will be made by the North American Native Plant Society board.  Management options under consideration include: removing some mature trees to open the canopy and promote Cucumber Tree regeneration, encourage the expansion of habitat into the adjacent old fields so that Cucumber Trees might colonize when conditions are favourable, and more active restoration of the old fields including planting some Cucumber Trees from the local seed source.

6.   Statement of when One or More Action Plans in Relation to the Recovery Strategy will be Completed.

An action plan addressing implementation of the recommendations in the strategy will be prepared by 2008 dependent on priorities and constraints of the lead and participating organizations.

7.   Evaluation:

Performance measures for evaluating the success of recovery planning and efforts will include the extent to which goals and objectives have been met, specifically:

1.     Changes in population size, trend, recruitment, productivity, with explanations for the changes.

2.     Characterization and identification of critical habitat.

3.     Proportion of identified critical habitat that has been protected.

4.     The extent to which stakeholders have been consulted with or become involved in recovery activity.

5.     Success in mitigating threats.

6.     Level of public support for recovery work.