Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Comparison of the fuel value of firewoods

Wood burners agree that oak and hickory are great firewoods.


If you have a wood stove or fireplace, it's prudent to know what types of wood will produce the most heat per cord (or rick, or truck-load, or whatever unit by which you buy wood!)

A great chart is available at Firewood Ratings and Info. A short study of the chart reveals that oaks, hickory, white ash, and beech wood are some of the very best.

The Utah State Forestry also has an excellent firewood ratings chart with information about a somewhat different set of trees than would be found in my area (Kentucky). It gives high ratings to osage orange, pinon, honeylocust, and black locust, as well as oak and beech.

Compare those results with the following observations from about 130 years ago. It's interesting, but not surprising, that they liked oak, hickory, and white ash as firewoods. Beech didn't make their list, for some reason.

It is a great convenience to know the comparative value of different kinds of wood for fuel. Shellbark hickory is regarded as the highest standard of our forest trees, and calling that 100, other woods will compare with it for real value as fuel for house purposes as follows :

Shellbark Hickory, 100
Pignut Hickory, 95
White Oak, 84
White Ash, 77
Dogwood, 75
Scrub Oak, 73
White Hazel, 72
Apple Wood, 70
Red Oak, 67
White Beech, 65
Black Birch, 62
Yellow Oak, 60
Hard Maple, 59
White Elm, 58
Red Cedar, 56
Wild Cherry, 55
Yellow Pine, 54
Chestnut, 52
Yellow Poplar, 51
Butternut and White Birch, 43
White Pine, 30.

It is worth bearing in mind that in woods of the same species there is a great difference, according to the soil on which they grow. A tree that grows on a wet, low, rich ground will be less solid and, less durable for fuel, and therefore of less value than a tree of the same kind that grows on a dry and poor soil. To the ordinary purchaser oak is oak and pine is pine, but for home use, the tree grown on dry upland and standing apart from others, is worth a great deal more.

Source: Manufacturer and Builder, January 1878. Volume 10, Issue 1, page 19.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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