Is Boxelder Good for Firewood?

Boxelder (Acer negundo), often known as boxelder maple, Manitoba maple, or ash-leaved maple, is a species of maple native to North America.

However, it is widely available in many regions of the world, from South America to Australia to New Zealand.

It is considered by many an invasive or weed tree since it can easily spread from seed and crowd out other trees and plants. It grows quickly and has a short life expectancy of 60 years.

boxelder maple

However, the question still remains, is boxelder good firewood?

Boxelder is okay to use firewood although it’s far from being ideal. It has a low heat output, produces moderate amounts of smoke, is difficult to split, and requires more seasoning time than other woods.

It’s not as dense as some of the harder maples like sugar and red maple. That means it won’t coal well and last as long in a fire. It tends to spark a few but not excessively.

The best part about using boxelder as firewood is that it grows quickly is inexpensive, and is rapidly renewable due to its aggressive nature.

Because the tree is regarded as a weed in many areas, using it as firewood can help keep it from crowding out other trees and plants.

What characteristics does Boxelder firewood have?

Boxelder is a fast-growing and somewhat short-lived tree. It can reach a height of 10–25 meters (35–80 feet) together with a trunk diameter of 30–50 centimeters (12–20 inches), seldom reaching 1 meter (3 ft 3 in).

Boxelders often have several stems and can produce impassable thickets. They have an average lifespan of 60 years and can live up to 100 years in ideal conditions.

Since it is a softwood, boxelder is not the best firewood. Because of its low density, it produces less heat and burns quickly. It also tends to spark more than other woods when burned.

CharacteristicsDescription
Tree Height10-25 meters (35-80 feet)
Tree Diameter30-50 centimeters (12-20 inches), seldom reaching 1 meter (3 ft 3 in)
LifespanAverage 60 years, up to 100 years in ideal conditions
Heat OutputLow, produces 18.3 Million BTUs of heat per cord
DensityLow-density wood, 3589 lbs./Cord when green, 2632 lbs./Cord when dry
IgnitionEasy to ignite when properly seasoned
CoalingCoals poorly
Smoke ProductionModerate smoke production
SparkingProduces low levels of sparks
Splitting DifficultyDifficult to split, recommended to use hydraulic or electric log splitter
FragranceLight, unique smell while burning
Pop/CrackleLikely to pop or crackle when burning
StackabilityStraight trunk with few branches, easy to stack when not limited by the required storage space
Resistance to Rot/InsectsSusceptible to rotting and insect infestation
Drying Time (Seasoning)6-12 months to properly season; should be stored in a well-ventilated, shady area
SustainabilityConsidered a sustainable source of firewood; rapid grower and matures quickly
CostLess expensive than other types of wood; ranges from $100-$200 per cord
Characteristics of Boxelder Firewood

Low Heat Output

Boxelder doesn’t put out a lot of heat. In fact, it’s one of the lowest heat-producing maples. It produces 18.3 Million BTUs of heat per cord which is significantly lower than most other firewood.

To give you a better perspective, a seasoned cord of white oak produces around 29.1 million BTUs while a cord of white ash puts out 24.2 million BTUs.

In other words, the boxelder is going to require more wood to produce the same amount of heat as these other two hardwoods.

Low-Density Wood

Boxelder is a relatively light wood, weighing 3589 lbs./Cord when green and 2632 lbs./Cord when dry. This is significantly lighter than white oak, which can weigh up to 4473 lbs per cord when green and 4200 lbs when dry.

Easy to ignite

Properly seasoned boxelder wood should ignite easily. Because the wood is light, it holds air pockets in its structure which makes it easier to catch a spark.

Therefore, the boxelder can be used to start a fire, but it may not be the best choice for long-term burning wood.

Coals Poorly

Coaling is an important property of firewood as it allows you to continue to get heat even after the wood has burned down to embers.

Unfortunately, boxelder coals poorly. This means you will likely have to add more wood to your fire if you want to continue getting heat from it after it has burned down.

Produces moderate smoke

Smoke is one of the main pollutants released when burning wood. Boxelder produces moderate amounts of smoke. So it’s not the best choice if you’re looking to minimize your impact on the environment and keep your indoor air clean.

If you plan to use boxelder as firewood in your home, make sure you have a good ventilation system in place to help carry the smoke out of your home.

Use a cover over your firepit that tightly seals to the edge to help prevent smoke from entering your home. Install a smoke alarm and keep it in working order to monitor the air quality in your home and avoid any potential health hazards.

Produces Low Sparking

When firewood is burned, it produces different levels of sparks which can be dangerous if they come into contact with something flammable.

Boxelder firewood produces low levels of sparks because of its low-density wood that is tightly grained. This makes it a safer choice for indoor fireplaces.

Difficult to split

Boxelder is a difficult wood to split even though it is softwood. The wood is light and gummy, so it tends to bind to the saw and wedge itself in the log splitter. Thus, it is recommended to use a hydraulic or electric log splitter for the boxelder.

Slight Fragrance

All trees give off a certain amount of fragrance when burned, and box elder is no different. You’ll notice a light, unique smell while this wood burns that shouldn’t be too overpowering.

Likely to Pop or Crackle

It is not unexpected to hear pop and crackle sounds when any wood is burning in a fireplace.

However, some woods are more likely to produce these sounds than others. The pop and crackle sounds are caused by water vapor and gases that are released as the wood is heated.

Boxelder is relatively low in density and contains a higher amount of water and air pockets than some other types of wood. For this reason, it is more likely to pop and crackle when burning.

Stackability

Stackability is an important factor to consider when purchasing firewood. If the wood is difficult to stack, it will be more difficult to store and transport.

logs stacked softwood

Boxelder trees typically have a straight trunk with few branches. Although the trees sometimes tend to grow in clumps, they can be easily removed which makes them fine for ease of access when cutting and stacking wood.

That said since the wood isn’t heavy and has a low heat output. Therefore, in order to achieve the same heat output as other woods, you’ll have to use more wood.

This means allocating more storage space for the extra wood or making more trips to the store to purchase more. That is why Boxelder may not be the best choice for those who are limited in space.

Resistance to Rot and Insects

Boxelder is not a dense wood since it has large pores that allow water and air to pass through. This makes the wood more susceptible to rotting and insect infestation.

If you plan to use boxelder wood for firewood, it’s important to store it in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent the wood from rotting. If you live in an area with a lot of rain store the wood off the ground on a rack to allow air to circulate underneath.

Check the wood regularly for signs of insect infestation and treat the wood with an insecticide if necessary.

Please note, that some chemicals used to treat wood are harmful to the environment. So, be sure to research the best options before treating your wood. You should also inspect the wood for rot and mold before using it in your fireplace.

Drying Time (Seasoning)

Seasoning is a must with any firewood, but especially with boxelder. This is because the wood is light and porous, it tends to absorb moisture from the air quickly.

As a result, it can create a lot of steam and smoke when burned if it hasn’t been properly seasoned.

Boxelder should be cut into firewood-sized pieces and left to dry in a well-ventilated, shady area for at least 6-12 months.

You can speed up the drying process by splitting the wood into smaller pieces or by stacking it in a single layer so that air can circulate around it more easily.

Sustainability

Boxelder trees are rapid growers and mature quickly, making them a sustainable source of firewood.

The wood can be harvested as early as 15 years after planting. In addition, boxelder is considered an invasive species in many parts of the world, so using it for firewood can help reduce its population.

Cost

Boxelder firewood is typically less expensive than other types of wood due to the following reasons.

You should expect to pay around $100 -$200 per cord for boxelder firewood.

Conclusion

Boxelder is an acceptable type of firewood that has some good qualities and some bad qualities. The wood is light, easy to stack, and burns with a slight fragrance.

However, it has a low heat output, difficult to split, prone to popping and crackling, and is not as resistant to rot and insects as some other types of wood.

In addition, the wood must be properly seasoned before burning to prevent it from smoking and steaming.

Despite its shortcomings, boxelder is a sustainable, relatively inexpensive type of firewood that can be used in a fireplace. By using boxelder firewood, you can help reduce the population of this invasive species and meet your heating needs.

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