Which wood for my fire?

As an instructor I am offen asked during courses which woods are best burnt for what purposes. Here I aim to narrow down some of the detail for you to enable you to make an appropriate choice, but on the whole it is worth remembering that all wood will definately burn better when seasoned and split.  

If you are looking to increase your knowledge of burning properties then it is worthwhile starting this whilst you are learning tree identification.

Below is a list of woods and their associated usefulness, however please note this is not exhaustive, its just a list of woods that I have burnt in the past and present to experiment with in my woods. My knowledge of these comes through applied practical experiences. I have found that some resources in books give a wholly innacurate description and some are spot on… but in my view there is only one way to find out, get out there and try it. Those trees that are highlighted are classed as Native, that is that they colonised Britain during the retreat of the last ice age c. 10, 000 years ago (more on this in another blog)

Alder:  Does not burn very hot and yet burns quite quickly

Apple:  A great wood to burn once seasoned, it burns steadily and slowly, there is usually little flame but good solid heat. It also disperses a very pleasant scent and is one I used on our woodburner last year at Christmas.

Ash:  In my view a good all rounder, will burn (if yet poorly) when green, when seasoned it has both flame and heat.

Beech:  A good hot burn with flame when seasoned but not as good as Ash when green, however please note that it can spit out embers from the fire a good distance, not great for a Marshmallow camp fire then.

Birch (Silver and Downy being Native):  The fire group of trees! It will burn very quickly but the heat is great, fantastic for a quick brew.

Cedar:  A wonderful smell will be emmited when burning but it can spit like Beech. Not great for a fire for light, but wonderful for heat.

Cherry (Wild and Bird being Native):  A nice long slow burn associated with a lot of the hard woods, again smells lovely but seems a waste to burn it as the grain can be put to much better purposes.

Chestnut:  Forget it, it’ll shoot our embers everywhere and give you little heat… hunt around for something else if there is.

Douglas Fir:  Again a poor burner with little heat or flame for light.

Elder:   Common and so easy to gather but it will burn very smoky, very quickly, and with little heat. People say you should not cook with this wood but why would you bother anyway? You’d be stoking the fire every few minutes.

Elm:  This tree needs to be seasoned for at least a couple of years before it will burn well, but it is a very smoky fuel and so not the top choice for a windy day.

Hazel:  Surprisingly good and obviously a good source of sustainable timber if coppiced well. Good for charcoal also.

Holly:  Like Ash the Holly will burn green but it is best to season it for a worthy fuel.

Hornbeam:  Once again a tree that will burn green but not very well, but once seasoned has a long burn.

Laburnum:  Avoid this, a posionous species and you wouldn’t want to be inhaling the fumes (not that any smoke is good for you!)

Larch:  This is a good wood which will create lots of sound for that halloween fire, not great for cooking on but will do the job, burns with a nice odour.

Laurel:  Burns very bright and nice and hot.

Lime: Despite being great for friction fire lighting once used as a fuel it burns with a very low light flame

Oak (Sessile and Penduculate being Native):  A very efficient burn when seasoned and will provide some great long lasting heat.

Pine:  Will spit worse than a 40 a day smoker but does burn with a brilliant flame.

Poplar:  another poor tree for burning, low heat and low light.

Sycamore: Will burn with a moderate heat but is readily available, will not burn well green though.

JasonFlora 1843