What Trees Are Good for Firewood?

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Firewood quality depends on its source.
Firewood quality depends on its source. (Image: firewood image by Marcin Janiec from Fotolia.com)

When selecting wood for firewood, it's important to remember that not all woods are alike. Depending on the type of tree it came from, firewood can burn slow and hotter or fast and relatively cooler. According to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, dense hardwoods "can yield 40 percent more energy than lighter woods," an important thing to remember when energy efficiency is a concern.

Oak (Quercus sp.)

Oak is one of the most popular dense hardwoods for burning. According to statistics from the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, it is also one of the hotter-burning woods. Seasoning is essential for clean burning, so oak should ideally cure for at least a year before being used for firewood.

Madrone (Arbutus menziesii)

Also known as the strawberry tree or bearberry, the wood of this tree is also dense, and a favorite of those who are serious in their use of firewood. Properly seasoned, and because it has little bark, madrone wood burns more cleanly than other firewood.

Hickory (Carya sp.)

Known for its fragrance, hickory is a favorite wood for those who may be looking to create some ambiance with their fireplaces. Hickory is also used to season meats, if you're looking for a wood for barbecue. It's also a clean-burning, long- lasting firewood.

Ash (Fraxinus sp.)

Ash is another cooking firewood that imparts flavor to your meat or fish. Unlike other hardwoods that need seasoning, ash will produce a good fire when still wet. Ash, however, is susceptible to the Emerald Ash Borer beetle, an insect that was introduced into the United States in 2003, and has been spreading ever since, so handling and moving of the firewood is regulated in some states.

Beech (Fagus sp.)

Beech wood is light-colored, dense and smooth, so the wood burns consistently without pops and cracks. Because this wood is also subject to beech bark disease, a combination of attacks from the beech scale insect and subsequent nectria fungus, this is another kind of firewood you wouldn't want to transport from site to site.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

The tree that provides the tasty syrup for your pancakes also provides excellent wood for fires. It is one of the harder maples, so in contrast to other trees of the acer species, it burns more efficiently. It's also a fragrant wood when burned and can be used to flavor different kinds of meats.

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