A Quick Guide to Firewood: Birch and Pine

BIRCH. POPLAR. TAMARACK. PINE
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Most people do not bother to familiarise themselves about the tree species in their area and nor are they striving to learn about the many firewood types. This is a huge mistake, especially if you regularly use firewood and use a log splitter to make them. Many people assume that any type of wood can be used for firewood, which is technically true. Wood burns, as wood are wont to do when exposed to fire and extreme heat. However, what many people don't know that all types of wood are not made equal. Some types of wood do indeed burn better, hotter and brighter than others. People would also be surprised to learn that some wood types are unsuitable for burning, even it can burn.

There are over sixty thousand tree species in the world, with an almost infinite number of varying characteristics and variations, even within the same species. The same variations that make apple trees different from oak trees also greatly influence the way the wood burns. Some types of wood burn hot and fast, while others can burn for hours at low temperatures. As I've previously mentioned, some wood species don't lend themselves to burning as well as their counterparts.

If you live in an area with a cold climate, then you probably use firewood for cooking meals and heating your home. Knowing the differences between the many wood species in your area can go a long way in building better and hotter fires at a lower cost. Not only can you choose better wood for burning, you might also save a lot of money in the long term.

Here are the profiles of some of the most popular tree species. I hope this guide can help you choose the right type of wood for you.

BIRCH

Birches are deciduous hardwood trees that are widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly Asia, Europe and North America. They are especially common in boreal and northern temperate climates. There are almost 60 known species of birch in the world, however, some experts claim that the number is lower.

Unlike other equally popular tree species, birch trees are normally small to medium-sized. They grow fast and have a relatively short lifespan compared to other tree species.  One species of birch may look different from another, especially when they are distant, but all birch species share a few characteristics. Birch trees have alternating branching patterns and lenticels on the bark. Lenticels are repeating little horizontal ridges on the bark used by the tree to exchange gas. All birch trees produce catkins, clusters of skinny flowers, as well.

One of the best ways to differentiate one birch species from another is through the bark. The colour of the bark typically matches the name of the species. For instance, white birch has a bright white bark while yellow birch has a yellow-bronze shade to it. You can also use smell to determine the species of a birch tree. Yellow and black birch trees smell like wintergreen, while others do not.

Birch is relatively easy to split but the ease varies among the species. White and grey birch trees are one of the easiest to split, followed by yellow and black. I do not recommend using hand tools, however. The hardier birch species often require the use of a log splitter. If you don't have one, I'm sure there are plenty of log splitters for sale, whether online or from hardware stores.

Birch firewood tends to burn hot and long. Yellow and black birch firewood are above average when it comes to heating value, with white and grey a notch below.

If looking for quality birch firewood, aim for the yellow and black variants. They burn hot and are easy to process. Other birch species, on the other hand, can be mixed with other better firewood types.

PINE

Pine trees are evergreen conifers scattered all throughout the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Practically almost every region in the Northern Hemisphere is home to a native species of the pine. In the Southern Hemisphere, the island of Sumatra in Western Indonesia is home to a species of pine tree. Various species of pine is likewise scattered all throughout North America, particularly Canada and the United States. There are over 120 recognised species of pine, along with 35 other unrecognised ones.

The best way to identify a pine tree from other evergreens is to look at the needles. Compared to other evergreens, most pine species produce needles at least 3 inches long.

Pine trees are not the best trees for firewood, but it can be adequate if used right. Dry pine firewood becomes light, which makes it burn hot but extremely fast. Fast burning wood are not ideal for heating homes. However, pine wood is one of the easiest wood types to split out there. You can even use hand tools with ease.

I recommend against using pine wood for heating a home. There's no point. You'll burn through piles and piles of pine wood and it still won't be enough. Pine wood, however, is perfect for kindling and campfires, since it burns hot and fast.

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