Is Poplar Good Firewood?

The poplar tree (Poplus) is named for being a popular tree planted in Roman public spaces. It is part of the Poplus genus and belongs to the willow family Salicaceae. Poplar is native to the northern hemisphere and tends to grow rapidly, especially in warm conditions. Their preferred growing spots make them fairly soft wood with little water content. 

With more than 30 varieties of poplar all over the world, should it be used regularly as firewood? Read on to find out. 

Poplar is a great fire starter, but nothing more. With an exceptionally low BTU of 13.7, it is quick to burn but doesn’t last longer than an hour or two. Though it is good firewood to have stored next to your fireplace when you want to get a quick flame going. 

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What are the varieties of Poplar Wood? 

Since there are so many types of poplar wood, you could buy firewood with all kinds of poplar mixed into one bag. Though in America 4 main types of poplar trees are cut down and sold as firewood. It is important not to confuse real poplar varieties with tulip poplar also known as yellow poplar firewood.

White poplar is easy to spot. It is the whitest tree in any landscape. On the other hand, black poplar (aka Lombardy poplar) takes on a darker bark once the tree is fully grown. It also tends to be the lightest wood of the bunch and is easier to split. 

Balsam poplar takes the longest to season, but no longer than 12 months. Likewise, Eastern poplar is the only North American poplar that likes to grow in places with moist soil so has a slightly higher water content than white and black poplar. Though its wood remains fragile and easy to split. 

What are the Physical Characteristics of Poplar

Here is a quick breakdown of poplar firewood:

Heat per cord (Million BTUs)Between 13.7 and 14.7
Wight dry (lbs per cord)2080
Weight green (lbs per cord)2850
Seasoning Time10-12 months
Resin / Sap ContentLow
Splitting DifficultyEasy
SmellSlightly bitter
Coal ProductionVery low
Cerocote BuildupVery low

Is Poplar Easy to Split?

The wood from the poplar tree is very soft and light, mostly due to its fast-growing and soft nature. Because of this, the wood becomes very easy to split.

You won’t need a hydraulic splitter to split poplar wood as its wood is so soft. Just an axe and a little bit of hard work will get the job done. 

It is a great wood to practice your chopping skill. As long it is sheltered from wet weather Poplar can be left to season as big chunks of wood and will still take half as long to dry out compared to other firewood like Oak varieties.

What Does Poplar Wood Smell Like?

Whether you will like the aroma of poplar wood could go either way. Some people say that it has a terrible smell and others love it. 

Generally, poplar wood takes on a sweet and nutty smell when first cut. Once it has been seasoned, that smell all but disappears. That sweet smell can turn bitter as the wood starts burning but not overwhelmingly so. 

How Much Sap Content Does Poplar Have?

All trees produce sap as it is responsible for helping the tree spread nutrients throughout itself. Trees that produce a lot of sap or resin can be very messy to work with.

Poplar trees do not produce a lot of sap, so you will run into no sticky problem while chopping it up.

Moisture Levels of Poplar

Even though Eastern and Balsam varieties of poplar trees carry more water than others, their moisture levels are still considerably low. 

As an upside, a lack of moisture makes poplar firewood easier to transport. It is also the low moisture levels that reduced the amount of time that poplar wood needs to season.

Heat Output and Efficiency of Poplar Wood

Poplar wood has a significantly lower BTU than most other woods, producing only 13.7 – 14.7 million BTUs per cord. Poplar provides high heat for a very short amount of time.

Considering that oak burns at a maximum of 25.7 BTUs per cord, you can see how the two kinds of wood differ efficiency-wise. 

A wood that is denser burns slower, thus producing more energy as it releases its heat over a longer time period.

Because of its low density, it doesn’t take long for poplar wood to reach its peak burning point. This means that it is the perfect fire starter as it is quick to light, but it will not burn for long. 

Fire characteristics of poplar

Evaluating the fire characteristic of poplar will make it easier to determine in what situations and in which setting the firewood is the most suitable.

Creosote build-up

If you have a log burner or a fireplace, then you may already be aware of creosote and the dangers it possesses. Creosote is the tar that comes from burning wood that gets stuck to the flutes, insides of chimneys, fireplaces, and stoves.

Firewood with a high moisture content will produce more creosote as it burns slower. The wood is given a longer time to produce more creosote. Likewise, wet wood will carry more sap and will add to the tar build-up. 

Poplar has both low moisture content and sap content if seasoned well, so it produces notably little creosote. Its fast-burning rate also leaves little time for creosote to build up during use. 

Amount of Smoke

Due to its low sap content and short burning time, poplar doesn’t produce a lot of smoke, especially dry. 

Lack of moisture means that the wood will burn cleanly. So, if you use poplar wood as your main fire source, then it will produce a low to moderate amount of smoke.   

Does it Produce Coals? 

The coal of fire is what keeps it burning. Firewood that produces coals is likely to burn better for longer. 

Poplar wood does not produce a lot of coal when burnt. Any coals it does produce are of poor quality and will not help your fire burn. It is a good fire-starting wood as it catches a flame quickly, but poor on the aspect of reigniting a fire using coals.

If you want a fire that will burn long after the poplar wood has burnt out, mix in better quality firewood with the poplar wood, or any other firewood for that matter. Hackberry firewood would be good to mix with. You will get a more stable fire going quicker that lasts longer. 

Is it Okay to Burn Poplar Wood in a Fireplace?

The lack of smoke makes burning poplar wood in a fireplace safe and pleasant. Thought it is recommended to burn it in a closed fireplace as it does throw sparks from time to time.

On the other hand, poplar burns quickly while producing a low amount of heat per cord, thus it is not recommended to use it as the main heat source. Furthermore, since it burns quickly, it needs to be maintained constantly.

Many people store some chopped poplar firewood next to their fireplace. Its quick light makes it the ideal fire starter and will burn long enough to light hardwoods. 

How Long to Season Poplar Wood? 

With one of the shortest required seasoning times of any firewood, poplar only needs to be seasoned between 9 to 12 months. Some use their wood after 6 months others at 10 months, it all depends on the conditions the wood is seasoning in.

If the moisture content has reached less than 20%, then you can use the wood whenever you like.

Poplar wood needs to be stacked off the ground in a dry storage shed or under the tarp. Its soft nature means that it will quickly rot if left on a wet surface for too long. So, make sure to store your firewood properly while it is seasoning.

Is Poplar Firewood Expensive?

Due to poplar wood being a poor choice of firewood for long-term use, few places regularly supply it in large quantities. It is usually sold as a mix with other woods like spruce and pine. According to, a mixed cord of wood containing poplar costs 200USD (250CAD)

It is most often you can see poplar sold at camp sites so that campers can have a small fire during their stay. But this varies from place to place.

Pros and Cons of Using Poplar as Firewood

Poplar wood is spoken about poorly in the firewood community with many calling it a waste of time and effort. But, it has as many pros as it has cons.


  • Easy to process (split and season)
  • Light weight and easy to carry
  • Widely available
  • A quick light
  • Little sap


  • Poor coal production
  • Short lasting
  • Rots quickly

How does poplar compare to other firewood?

Unsurprisingly, the BTU of other woods in the same family (aspen and cottonwood) as poplar wood are roughly the same.  However, poplar wood has half the BTU of red oak varieties which produce about 24 million BTUs per cord.

White pine, with a similar BTU rating as poplar, on the other hand, is a very messy wood, leaking sap as soon as it is cut. It does have a similar BTU, though it sparks more because of the high resin contents.

Overall, when compared to other softwoods with similar heat output, poplar is not as bad as it seems.

Frequently asked questions

What Does BTU stand for?

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a key indicator when picking your firewood. The higher the BTU, the more heat wood is capable of producing.

How Much Wood Is In A Cord?

The measurement of how much wood makes up a cord changes from country to country. In the US, 128 cubic feet make up one cord of wood. Though is goes more on the measurement of a stack of firewood and can vary slightly.

How To Measure Moisture Content In My Firewood?

Having firewood that is seasoned to a less than 20% moisture content is important before using it in an indoor fireplace. There are moister meters available to buy helping you assure the wood has reached the suggested level.


Poplar firewood is not a good wood to use as a heat source for your home nor for long-burning outdoor fires. It has a low BTU and it burns fast, needing constant maintenance while producing almost no coals. That being said, poplar wood is most suitable for kindling to get a fire going quickly.

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