Hackberry firewood Basics
When it comes to firewood trees, the hackberry has often been overlooked. This really is quite sad because if you’re looking for wood that is easy to split and burns well in your fireplace, hackberry firewood is quite solid.
While it’s not as popular as other types of firewood, it’s very much in demand among wildlife. Its delicious fruit is quite a hit with birds and other animals.
Veteran campers and firewood users rate this firewood just below fireplace fuel sourced from ash, hickory, and oak. In terms of BTU output, hackberry is very close to White Birch, Black Walnut, and Red Elm. That’s quite good company.
Is Hackberry good firewood?
Hackberry quality depends wholly on how dry it is. You need to use wood that’s been dried for around six months to a full year to get the quality burn you’re looking for. This wood needs to be allowed to season to bring out its full fuel potential. Fresh or unseasoned hackberry doesn’t perform as well.
Similarly, when properly aged, hackberry logs split quite well making them great candidates for a campfire or a fireplace. It has fairly low moisture content similar to Ash. In raw heat output, it is similar to White Birch.
The most important factor for Splitting hackberry
If you want to split hackberry firewood cleanly and uniformly, make sure the logs you’re working with are dry enough. Green hackberry is very heavy and compact. It takes a whole lot of effort to split and whatever pieces you end up with aren’t all that good due to their stringy texture.
The bottom line? They have to cure long enough or else, you’re going to have a tough time splitting hackberry logs. When green, the resulting pieces are too stringy and are very hard to work with. Dry them for at least six months for easy and even splitting. Aged hackberry also burns better.
Also, keep in mind that when you are splitting hackberry logs, you have to use a full stroke for your ram. This takes a bit more effort than other trees. Even if you use a full stroke to really lay in all force on the wood, depending on how dry it is, you might still have to rip the wood apart. As a rule of thumb, focus on splitting only the driest pieces.
For what it’s worth, if you are faced with a choice between splitting Red Elm or Hackberry, assuming both are dry enough, you’ll have an easier time with the latter.
You have to give yourself quite a bit of lead time to season this type of wood. For example, if you are planning to cut the tree down and buck its parts to the size you want, give yourself a six month lead time. That’s right-wait six months between cutting and splitting your firewood. Otherwise, you might find it too hard to work with. It is, after all, a fairly heavy and compact tree.
Hackberry firewood btu comparison
In terms of raw BTU output, hackberry’s rating of 20.8 is close enough to the thermal energy produced by White Birch, Black Walnut, and Red Elm firewood. But if BTU is your main focus when selecting firewood, your best bet is Osage Orange. At 32.9 BTU, the only Eastern hardwood that could even come close to that tree’s heat production is the Shagbark Hickory which clocks in at a decent 27.7 BTU.
Hackberry tree facts
A member of the hemp family of plants, hackberry trees are deciduous and are often viewed as the unrecognized gems of firewoods. While hackberry isn’t exactly at the top of most veteran firewood aficionados’ minds when it comes to BTU output, ease of splitting, and ease of handling, when properly dried, it compares well with more popular trees like Elm, Walnut, and Birch.
Known for being a ‘straggler’ or loner tree, this tree species tends to be widely spaced apart. You can go for miles in the woods before spotting a hackberry Compare that to the massive groves formed by the Rocky Mountains’ quaking Aspens or the vast Eastern Cottonwood savannahs found on America’s Great Plains.
Some common Hackberry tree problems
When it comes to firewood species, the hackberry is one of the toughest and least prone to disease or pest problems. For example, compared to Ash trees which are often destroyed by the Emerald Ash Borer or Oak Wilt which can devastate massive stands of Oak trees, hackberry trees suffer mostly from two problems.
First, these trees can develop a condition called Witches Brooms. These are produced by a powdery mildew that pushes the tree to sprout many shoots which look like witches’ brooms. These shoots then die during the winter. While these make hackberry trees look unappealing. Witches’ brooms are not fatal unlike the wilt diseases of other firewood tree species. If anything, clearing witches’ brooms give hackberry plants a very nasty appearance-but you can still cut, dry, and burn them for firewood.
To reduce the chances your stand or grove will suffer from Witches Brooms, pick a variety of Hackberry that’s been shown to have some resistance to powdery mildew like the sugar or Jesso variety.
Second, these trees can develop Island Chlorosis. This is thought to be a virus-caused disease which creates lots of yellow spots on the trees’ leaves. Although not fatal, this condition does make the hackberry look quite unappealing and ‘diseased.’
Hackberry wood uses
Generally speaking, hackberry wood isn’t used for any ornamental or paneling purposes. Its wood can’t be made into polo balls or turned into furniture handles like other trees. It’s too heavy and hard to handle when its green. Also, when not dried well, the wood it produces is too stringy for commercial use. It is used primarily for firewood.
The Final Word
If you’re looking for an underappreciated wood for your fireplace, you might want to give the hackberry a shot. Properly seasoned, it splits, handles, and burns well. It could very well be the great firewood value you’ve been looking for if other trees’ cords burn a hole in your pocket.