Ash is a common variety of firewood that is often burned as a fuel source in furnaces, wood stoves and fireplaces. In total, the USDA has identified 16 native species of ash trees (genus Fraxinus) growing in the United States and Canada. Of these, three have long been harvested for firewood. As a measuring tool, the heat output of all firewood is rated according to its MBTU (millions of British Thermal Units) per cord, which is a volume measurement of 128 cubic feet.
As a species, white ash (Fraxinus americana) grows across the eastern two thirds of the U.S as well as eastern Canada. Also known as Biltmore ash or cane ash, it is a fast growing tree with a straight trunk. According the USDA plant guide, white ash is considered the most valuable of the ash trees harvested commercially. A mature specimen of prime firewood size might be nearly 100 feet tall. Laboratory tests have shown that white ash produces 23.6 MBTU per cord, ranking it just slightly below both red oak and sugar maple for heat output.
Of the native ash species harvested for firewood, green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) has the greatest geographical distribution, with a growing range that extends across the eastern three quarters of both Canada and the United States. Known for is hardiness, a mature green ash will grow to about 50 feet in height. A seasoned cord of green ash will yield approximately 20 MBU, ranking its heat output about the same as that of black cherry or white birch.
Of the three ash species typically harvested for firewood, black ash (Fraxinus nigra) has the smallest growing range. It grows only in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canadian provinces. Because the wood is softer than either white ash or green ash, it produces the lowest heat output when burned, only about 18.7 MBTU per cord, which is about the equivalent of red maple.
- "The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees"; Knopf Inc.; 1984; Elbert L. Little
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