Is Poplar a Good Firewood: A Burning Debate?

Firewood is still valued today as it was in the past. Back then, it was used for almost everything including cooking, heating, and even lighting. People still use firewood today.

But technology has advanced and people are no longer reliant on burning wood for energy.

If you still use wood for heating your home or cooking you should have a quality supply of firewood. While there is numerous type of trees you may be wondering what kind of wood is best to use.

In this post, we will look at the poplar, one of North America’s most well-known trees.

We’ll discuss whether it’s good firewood and should be your primary source of firewood.

poplar grove

Here is what you need to know about Poplar as firewood.

Poplar is a low-density, fast-growing tree that is widely available throughout the world.

The tree requires a lot of water to thrive. Because it retains water well, it is a poor choice for firewood unless it is dried for an extended period of time before use.

Poplar’s low density and high air content make it burn quickly. This is a mixed bag for firewood. It burns quickly, providing heat for your home or kitchen. The bad is that it won’t last as long as oak.

Poplar has low available heat per cord due to its low density and high moisture content.

It does not produce a lot of heat and can even produce a lot of creosote if burned wet.

If you choose to use poplar as firewood, make sure it is properly dried before burning. This will keep the wood from popping and generate more heat per cord.

Because it has a good kindling property, poplar is ideal for starting fires. Poplar is a good candidate for the goal if you plan to burn small amounts of wood throughout the day.

It can also be used as a starter wood before other woods or coal are added to the fire.

What firewood properties does poplar have?

Not all firewood is created equal. Different species of trees have different qualities and they will produce more or less heat per cord when compared to others. While some firewood starts quickly others take a longer time to ignite.

It is also important to know how clean the wood burns. Some woods produce more creosote than others, which can lead to chimney fires if not burned correctly.

Additionally, certain trees need a long time to grow and are needed for very specific uses more profitable than firewood.

Here is a look at poplar’s firewood properties.

Good Kindling

kindling wood

Poplar is an excellent kindling wood. It’s very light and easy to split, even with a small hatchet or dull knife. The thinness of the chips also allows them to ignite easily.

Quick Burn Time

Poplar is a quick-burning wood. This means that it will get your fire going quickly without having to wait long for the wood to catch.

Low Available Heat

Available heat is the heat given out by burning wood and is measured in kilojoules per gram.

Denser hardwoods like oak and hickory have a higher available heat than softwoods like poplar. Also, volatile gases given off by the treated hardwood can increase the available heat.

Poplar has a heat output of 15 million BTUs and weighs 2,100 lb per cord (dry weight). Because of this, and abundant in most of the United States priced at the low end of the scale.

As a result, poplar is an economical choice for the pleasure user (firepit or fireplace/woodstove) or for someone who uses wood to supplement another heating source.

Low Density

The denser the wood, the less space it takes up, or the more a given volume of firewood weighs.

Poplar’s relatively low density (21.9 – 31.2 lb/ft3) makes it a poor choice for firewood. To give you a better idea, American white oak has a density of 48.1 lb/ft³ which is almost twice as much.

The low density of oak makes it a poor choice as firewood to provide heat longer term. However, this particular quality makes it an excellent choice for achieving a quicker burn due to its higher air content.

High Moisture Content

Moisture content is the amount of water contained in a piece of wood. Some wood has more water content than others at the time of harvesting.

Therefore, they may require more time to dry before they can be efficiently used as firewood.

poplar moist logs

According to the researchers, poplar in Germany has 56% moisture content once it is harvested. However, seven months of storage in a dry place reduces the moisture content to 41 – 44% which is still high.

They also found out that storing poplar for another two months under favorable conditions can reduce the moisture content to 35 – 39%. This tells us that poplar needs a long time if it is planned to be used as the primary firewood for heating.

Because poplar has a moisture content of 50% or higher when harvested, it must be stored in interim storage for low-cost natural drying before use.

Depending on the raw material quality and storage conditions, high weight losses may occur during storage. The main causes of these losses are post-harvest residual respiration, microbiological degradation, and thermo-chemical oxidation.

If a longer drying period meets with unfavorable drying conditions, mold can develop. This is why it is important to have a storage place that is dry and has good air circulation.

The mold problem can be solved by kiln-drying the poplar. Kiln drying is a process that dries wood quickly and evenly with heat and air.

During the kiln-drying process, the moisture content of wood can be reduced to a desired 15 – 20% level.

Minimum Chemical Content

Let’s face it, all wood will contain some chemicals unless it’s been grown in a completely organic environment.

During the growing process, trees are exposed to elements like termites, fungi, mites, and other pests. If not addressed properly, these elements could cause the tree to die.

poplar painted against pests

To prevent this from happening, a well-planned forestry operation will use treatments like insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

The amount of chemical residue in the wood is what we call the chemical content. The higher the chemical content, the more different burning characteristics the wood will have compared to its original state.

Chemicals on wood commonly improve its heat availability and ignition properties, which is a good thing.

However, it increases CO, CO2, SOx, and NOx emissions which are harmful to the environment.

Locally Sourced

The last thing you want is to use firewood that’s gathered from far away. This will not only be more expensive due to additional delivery costs but also because the farther the wood has traveled bigger the environmental impact will be.

Local firewood is a more sustainable option as it doesn’t require any additional transportation emissions. It also supports your local economy which means you’re helping out your neighbors by supporting their businesses.

Does poplar burn clean?

Poplar has high moisture content and needs a good amount of drying time before it can be efficiently used as firewood. If burnt wet, it will produce a lot of smoke and creosote.

wood burns with smoke

Creosote is a black, tarry substance that is produced when wood doesn’t burn completely.

Creosote buildup in your chimney can cause a dangerous fire hazard as it increases the risk of a chimney fire.

Generally, poplar doesn’t burn as cleanly as other types of wood. If you’re looking for cleaner-burning firewood, oak or ash would be more suitable for you.

Also, please keep in mind that treated wood will have a lot of chemicals on it and likely burn dirtier.

Also, not all poplar is created equal. Black poplar is not good firewood, as white poplar is. As a result, be sure to know the difference before you make your purchase.

Should you dry poplar as smaller logs or larger chunks?

The drying time of wood is greatly affected by the size of the logs. If smaller logs are used, they will dry faster than if larger chunks are used.

However, small logs will require more storage area and more handling if all of the wood is required to be uniformly dried.

How long does it take poplar planting to get ready for firewood?

The average time to grow a poplar tree for firewood is about 5 to 10 years of being planted.

young poplar trees

However, this time period can greatly vary depending on the species of poplar, climate, and soil type. Sites that are properly fertilized and weed-free will have trees grow faster.

How long should poplar logs be split when harvesting for firewood?

Although there is no set standard, it is generally recommended that logs be split into pieces no more than 18 inches in length. This will help them to dry out and be easier to throw into a burning stove.

When is the best time to cut down poplar trees for firewood?

The best time to harvest poplar tree logs for firewood is during the dormant season, typically in late fall or winter.

Harvesting in the spring or summer is not recommended, as the new growth will not have had a chance to harden off and will not burn well.

harvesting Poplar forest

When harvesting, respect the tree’s natural growth pattern and do not over-harvest.

Only take the limbs that are needed, and leave the rest for future growth. Also, know the regulations for cutting down trees in your area to avoid fines or other penalties.

How long poplar should be seasoned before it can be used for firewood?

One of the benefits of poplar is its quick seasoning time. Your poplar wood could be ready to burn in as little as six months.

When it’s green, poplar can be used as firewood, although it’s rather smoky. The recommended seasoning time for poplar is roughly 10 months.

The moisture content of firewood should not exceed 20% to maximize energy efficiency and minimize impacts (smoke, air pollutants, creosote in chimneys, etc.) from burning it.

Drying the wood for a period of time is necessary to reduce the moisture content and make it ready to burn.

The length of time it takes for wood to dry out depends on the size of the pieces, the humidity level, and the temperature.

Most firewood degrades faster if it is not properly seasoned and stored. Because there is little drying during the winter, it is critical to stack and store the wood properly in a well-ventilated, sheltered area and split in spring for the best drying results.

Once split, poplar logs should be piled in a sunny, wind-exposed well-drained spot. The logs should be stacked off the ground and with spaces between to allow for good air circulation.

Covering the top of the stack will keep the wood dry, but do not cover the sides.

To keep moisture levels low, poplar firewood should be stacked so that the logs are not touching. This will allow the wood to dry faster and also make it easier to light.

Long unsplit poplar logs (3 – 4 feet) used in biomass furnaces require two summers of aging. After the first summer, they should be protected from rain in a dry site until the following winter.

What is the minimum distance that a poplar tree should be planted from other trees?

Poplar trees should be planted a minimum of 2 to 5 meters away from poplars or other existing mature trees.

If the planting site does not have other types of deep-rooted trees but only other poplars, then the required space will be at the lowest end of the range.

poplar trees next to each other

Providing enough space between trees is very important, as it will allow the trees to grow properly and not compete for resources.

Overcrowding will stunt the growth of all the trees by encouraging competition for root development and sunlight exposure.

Should you use a fire-starting agent when burning poplar logs?

Although poplar firewood is easy to light, using a fire-starting agent can help you get it going more quickly.

The best options are dryer lint, paper (newspaper), or lighter fluid created specifically for starting fires.

Do not use other flammable liquids like gasoline to start a fire, as this can quickly go out of control and cause serious consequences.

How to store poplar firewood for winter?

Poplar firewood should be kept in a dry, well-ventilated location. The ideal location has good air circulation and sunlight exposure to allow the wood to naturally cure as it dries out.

wood logs under snow

When storing firewood, keep the logs off the ground and away from each other. This allows them to dry faster and is easier to light.

If you need to store the wood for an extended period of time, consider covering only the top of the stack and leaving the sides exposed. This will keep the wood dry and allow it to cure properly.

Is poplar firewood cheaper than other types of firewood?

Poplar firewood is typically less expensive than most other firewood. Because it is a fast-growing tree that can be found in many parts of the world.

Furthermore, poplar firewood has lower BTUs (British Thermal Units) per cord than many other types of wood, which isn’t a desirable property in firewood.


Poplar firewood is an affordable, easy-to-burn wood that has some drawbacks. It doesn’t produce as much heat as other types of wood and it takes longer to dry out.

However, poplar trees are plentiful and easy to grow, so they can be a good option if you’re looking for an affordable source of firewood.

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