Is Paperbark Good Firewood?

Paperbark (melaleuca quinquenervia) gets its name from its bark which you can peel off in flakes and looks like paper. It is a type of tree native to Australia but now also grows in Florida. Most trees that fall under the paperbark category belong to the myrtle family.

Generally, paperbarks favor coastal regions and wet areas, which is why they are more likely to be found along the coast of Florida than any other area of the US. But if you do have paperbarks growing in your area, are they worth using for firewood?

Paperbark trees have the great feature of having very flammable bark. But the wood itself can burn hot enough to heat your home for a few hours with a dense wood to make the flame last. However, they do tend to smoke a lot.

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What Are The Varieties Of Paperbark

There are more than 200 species of trees that can be categorized as paperbark. Though you may have heard paperbark be more commonly referred to as a tea tree or punktree.

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of Paperbark

Heat per cord (Million BTUs)20 +
Weight dry (lbs per cord) 
Weight green (lbs per cord) 
Seasoning time1 – 2 years
Resin / Sap contentHigh
Splitting DifficultyDifficult
Coal ProductionModerate
Creosote Build-upHigh

Does its Wood Split Easily?

Most often hardwood, paperbarks tend to be very dense and difficult to split. That is why it is better to split a paperbark tree while it is still green. Though even then you will want to use a hydraulic splitter.

They are also prone to knotty and interlocked grain, making paperbarks more difficult to split cleanly.

How Much Sap Does It Have?

Paperbarks produce a moderate amount of sap. This is because their blooms are very high in nectar and act as the main source of nectar for the bees local to its area.

If you are planning on turning a paperbark tree into firewood, you should wait until winter to chop it down. This is when it will have the lowest levels of sap though still quite high.

How Does The Wood Smell?  

Apart from the standard firewood smell of a slight smokiness, paperbarks do not resale any distinct or unique scent. They are mostly neutral, unlike an apple or cherry firewood.

Heat Output And Efficiency Of Paperbark

Paperbark trees do create a moderate heat output. To be more specific, the punk tree’s high density means that it will usually burn hotter than 20 BTUs which is warm enough to heat up your home in a decent way.

Considering the fact that trees like alder, often used as firewood only produces 17.1 million BTUs per cord of wood, the punk trees 20 Million is a decent number.

Fire Characteristics Of Paperbark

Even though paperbarks produce only decent coals, they are dense enough to keep a hot fire burning for hours at a time.

The bark of a paperbark is especially flammable and will catch light as quickly as a softwood. But the wood itself can take a while to reach peak heating temperatures.

Due to the amount of sap that paperbark trees produce, they will smoke more than other trees even once seasoned.

Firewoods that smoke more will create more creosote. When burnt, the sap compounds will follow the smoke up your chimney and stick to the sides of the flues creating a moderate build-up of creosote.

Is It Okay To Burn Paperbark In A Fireplace?

The bark from a paperbark tree is what helps to make it good firewood to have to hand. But is it is only the bark that makes it good fireplace firewood?

The actual wood itself smokes too much to be burnt in an open fireplace.

Overall, it is not the best wood to burn in a fireplace but will work for a campfire or a log burner if it’s available in your area.

How Long To Season Paperbark

Paperbarks do tend to hold their moisture, so you will need to leave it to season for least 1 – 2 years.

You will also want to make sure to de-bark, or split the wood before you start seasoning it to ensure that the dense wood has enough exposure to dry out fully.

Like always, it is best to use a moisture meter to ensure that the woods meets moisture of 20% or less before burning it.

Pros And Cons of Paperbark Wood


  • Moderate heat
  • Long burning time


  • High levels of sap
  • Moderate heat output
  • High creosote build up

How Does Paperbark Compare To Other Firewood?

Compared to other myrtle trees like crepe myrtle as firewood, paperbark trees can burn hotter, but they also create more smoke. It does not crack or smoke as much as pine logs would but more smoke than would be expected from a hardwood.

It is better to use a clean-burning wood like hickory which will burn hotter than paperbark woods and is safer to burn.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are Paperbark Woods Sustainable?

In Florida and some areas of Australia, paperbark trees are considered invasive. So, using them for firewood is more sustainable than using a non-invasive species.

What Type Of Wood Is The Best To Burn?

Hardwood will almost always win out over softwood. This is because hardwood tends to burn hotter, longer, and throw fewer sparks than softwoods.

What Is A Cord Of Wood?

A cord of wood is a 128 cubic foot volume of stacked wood.


Paperbark wood tends to burn at a decent heat but smokes too much to be an overly desirable type of wood. producing around 20 million BTUs per cord, it is best suited for outdoor campfires or to be used in a log burner rather than in an open fireplace.

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