Dogwood (Cornus) is a genus of trees that derive from the Cornaceae family and bloom various leaves, fruits, and flowers most of the year. But how effective is dogwood when used as firewood?
The heat that dogwood firewood produces is often too overwhelming. It can reach BTUs as high as 31.1 million per cord, with even the poorer performing varieties reaching as high as 27.4. As long as you don’t stack your fireplace full of dogwood, then it’s an effective source of heat on winter nights.
What Are The Varieties Of Dogwood?
Though dogwood may be a genus of roughly 60 species of trees, they all perform pretty evenly across the board as firewood. However, there are a couple of varieties that are worth noting:
Flowering dogwood – aka boxwood or bunchberry is the variety of dogwood native to eastern America. Most dogwood trees are referred to as flowering dogwood trees as they are the most common. But the specific flowering dogwood species can reach a BTU of up to 31.1, making them the hottest burning varieties of dogwood.
Pacific dogwood – this variety is native to the western area of America. Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) is a very important ecological species, providing nutritional value to mice, woodpeckers, and pigeons. It is also the preferred habitat for many other forest birds. It does tend to burn a little cooler than flowering dogwood, with a BTU of 27.4
What Are The Physical Characteristics Of Dogwood?
|Heat per cord (Million BTUs)||27.4 – 31.1|
|Weight dry (lbs per cord)||3978 – 4508|
|Weight green (lbs per cord)||4670- 5440|
|Seasoning time||12 Months|
|Resin/ Sap Content||Low|
|Coal Production||Very Good|
Is it Easy To Split
For a generally small tree, dogwood is surprisingly difficult to split but not as challenging as similarly sized elm logs would be.
It has a close, interlocking grain pattern that refuses to separate when split, creating stringy wood pieces. This can make it hard to properly split with a hand ax, but a hydraulic splitter will make short work of the tangles grain.
How Much Sap Content Does Dogwood Have?
As with many blooming trees, dogwood will have the highest sap content from spring to autumn. But even then, the sap is not unmanageable.
Still, harvest dogwood in the winter when there will not be as much sap.
If you find a dogwood tree that is leaking copious amounts of sap, it is because the tree itself is damaged and is trying to repair itself. It will be best to avoid those trees.
What Does it’s Wood Smell Like?
Dogwood is very temperamental to environmental changes. If there have been chemical changes to its water content or has received a lack / overwhelming amount of nutrients, then it tends to get a little smelly.
Most people don’t report this smell as unpleasant, just strong. However, if you would prefer a wood that smells pleasant and is not overwhelming, you may want to burn walnut wood instead.
Heat Output And Efficiency Of Dogwood
The density of dogwood creates an efficient heat output of 31.1 million BTUs per cord of seasoned firewood. Or as is the case with lighter dogwood species, 27.4. Which is on par with firewoods like gum and beech.
What is worth noting is that such a high heat can be too stifling – especially in the warmer months. You will want to monitor a dogwood fire often to ensure that it does not get too hot and limit the amount of air that the fire gets over its burning period to avoid damaging your fireplace.
Fire Characteristics Of Dogwood
The great thing about dogwood is that it is a very dense and heavy wood. This means that it will burn for a long time without using up lots of firewood.
As is to be expected from the wood of such density, dogwood produces very high-quality coals. That is part of the reason that it can keep a fire burning for so long.
The coals produced by a dogwood fire will remain hot even after the fire has gone out. So, it will be a lot easier to start another fire if it happens to die out.
Dogwood will also produce few sparks, but it helps to reduce the sparks even further if a tree is cut down in the winter.
A dogwood firewood cut in spring or summer will still not produce a dangerous number of sparks, but there will be more due to the higher remaining sap in the wood
Does Dogwood Burn Clean?
Even when it is green wood, dogwood does not have a high moisture level and will not produce a dangerous level of smoke as most greenwoods do.
It is a slow-growing tree that stores most of its moisture in its roots. As a tree, it also prefers well-drained soils, so does not absorb a lot of water. This leaves the wood itself with a low moisture level.
Less moisture and sap within its wood means that dogwood needs less time to season as well as produces a very low amount of smoke if burned green, outdoors for example.
As you know, burning green wood indoors is not recommended.
Is It Okay To Burn Dogwood In A Fireplace?
At first glance, dogwood is the perfect wood to burn in a fireplace. It does not produce many sparks and releases a minimal amount of smoke. Even in terms of smell, it’s not unpleasant, just overwhelming at times.
However, dogwood can burn too hot. Its heat output exceeds that of many oak and ash varieties to a dangerous extent.
You will be able to get a long-lasting fire out of it but only if you monitor the flames to ensure that they do not get too hot.
Most fireplaces allow for airflow adjustments, so if you wish to burn dogwood in your fireplace, make full use of them to control the fire.
How Long To Season Dogwood
Dogwood’s density means that even though its moisture levels are generally low, it will need at least 12 months to season fully.
You may find that if you cut dogwood in spring/summer/autumn then it will require longer to dry out due to its slightly higher sap content.
Use a moisture meter to ensure that your dogwood has reached a moisture level below 20%.
It won’t be as much of an issue to burn green dogwood as compared to other woods, but you will still want to ensure that it is seasoned long enough for an efficient and safe fire.
Pros And Cons Of Using Dogwood As Firewood
- Efficient heat output
- Minimal smoke
- Low moisture
- Little creosote
- Potentially overwhelming smell
- Burns too hot
- Difficult to prepare
How Does Dogwood Compare To Other Firewood?
Dogwood is by far one of the most efficient sources of heat out there, besting most oak and ash varieties.
It also has a much lower sap content than maple firewoods, so will be safer to burn with little smoke of creosote build-up.
Despite its density, dogwood will not take as long to season as other dense hardwoods because of its small diameter. Meaning that you will not have to wait as long to burn dogwood as you would before burning chestnut or oak.
Frequently Asked Questions
When does dogwood have the least sap?
Dogwood blooms flowers, leaves, and berries at various times during the year, but through the winter months, it has the least amount of sap as it does not bloom much of anything.
Why Are Some Woods Stringy When Split?
Some woods have an interlocking, close-knit grain, that is not eager to separate. When you split wood with a complicated grain, those grains will try and remain interlocked, resulting in stringy wood.
How To Control The Heat Of A Fire?
Starving a fire of air will help to temper its heat, but you will need to be careful not to make the fire go out completely. Alternatively, you can also use smaller logs as you build your fire. It will help to control how much heat the fire creates. Using a lot of big logs will make a fire hotter and in some cases bur uncontrollably.
In summary, dogwood is a very effective source of heat but can become overwhelming in a fireplace. It produces a safe fire as long as you monitor the heat of the fire and do not let it burn too hot.
I am the guy behind Theyardable.com. I grew up on a homestead and I am here to share the knowledge I have and things I learn while living in the countryside.