Which is the best firewood type to burn?

Play this so that you can watch and listen to a nice fire while you read on

Since time began, one curious person has asked another this question.  Once you have had a few fires using different species of dead tree, you will notice that different types of wood have different properties when burning.  Some burn fast and hot, others burn slow and less hot, other seem to burn hot and slow while other still burn fast and spit hot sparks everywhere, leading to ruined clothing or unwanted ¨bonus¨ fires.

What is best firewood?

A lady named Cecilia Henrietta Dolores Blount La Touche who later became the much more succinct Cecilia Congreve after marrying Victoria Cross recipient General Walter Norris Congreve of the Rifle Brigade, was also asked this questions often, so much so that she tired of answering it and wrote a poem to liven up this dreary old question.  This was written at some time between 1890 and 1930 when it was published in The Times newspaper.

It as true today as it was back then but I will add a bit of a table underneath to translate her quirky poem into practical terms and explain what she meant where it may not be obvious to a reader in the 21st century.

Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut’s only good they say,
If for logs ’tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold

Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E’en the very flames are cold
But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter’s cold
But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.

Type What Cecilia said Practical meaning
Beach Beechwood fires are bright and clear Seasoned logs. Store and dry for a year before use
If the logs are kept a year
Chestnut Chestnut’s only good they say, A bit rubbish but OK if seaoned
If for logs ’tis laid away
Elder Make a fire of Elder tree, Thought to be bad luck to burn Elder. Elder is associated in many different folklore in different regions,
Death within your house will be Witches, Faeries and even Druids were thought to have used Elder in spiritual matters.
Best avoided altogether unless you want to be dealing with bad luck or faeries in your camp
Ash But ash new or ash old, Top notch, tier 1,best firewood, the good stuff as the name suggests
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold
Birch and Pine Birch and fir logs burn too fast Burns too fast and hot but good for starting the fire off
Blaze up bright and do not last,
Hawthorne it is by the Irish said Good for cooking, particulary baking due to it´s density and high calorific content. It burns steadily for a long time.
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread
Elm Elm wood burns like churchyard mould, Worse than Chestnut, rubbish
E’en the very flames are cold
Green or Brown Ash But ash green or ash brown Tip top, decent firewood, as with regular Ash, hence the name
Is fit for a queen with golden crown
Poplar Poplar gives a bitter smoke, Nasty smoke
Fills your eyes and makes you choke
Apple Apple wood will scent your room Great for smoking food with to preserve it and imparting that smokey apple flavour
Pear Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom Nice smoke
Oak Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter’s cold
If seasoned, burns for a long time and throws out a good amount of heat, great for keeping warm overnight
Ash again But ash wet or ash dry As if Ash needed any more praise, it also burns green
a king shall warm his slippers by

 

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