How to Identify Split Firewood – 5 Assured Methods

May 31, 2023

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Choosing the appropriate kind of firewood is vital to a successful fire and a well-functioning fireplace. When pine or other high-resin woods are burned, creosote is produced.

Considering how volatile it can be, creosote can build up over time and become a serious fire hazard.

Best for burning are hardwoods such as oak and hard maple.

Understanding how to identify split firewood is a useful skill that does take time to master.

Identification of Firewood

The End Grain

How to identify split firewood - using the end grain
Close up photograph of stacked and cut logs of wood

you may identify firewood by looking at the end grain’s properties. Foresters frequently utilize this procedure since it is more accurate than relying on the bark, leaves, etc.

Foresters, on the other hand, frequently use hand lenses to inspect the grain in more detail.

Because most people don’t have access to a hand lens, this technique is only useful for wood species that have unique end-grain characteristics, such as oak and elm. This makes it easier to distinguish from the rest of the wood in a large pile.


Oaktree end-grain surface. The rough organic texture of tree rings with a close up of end grain.

The Bark

My preferred method of recognizing firewood is by its bark. Split firewood often has bark still attached, and the bark patterns on different kinds of firewood can be quite diverse. You can tell a Shagbark hickory from other species of wood because of its flaky bark.


Trunk of a hickory tree

This approach has its drawbacks, including the fact that some of the bark may fall off of the firewood.

It might also become increasingly difficult to recognize the bark when it dries or decomposes. The bark is an excellent way to identify firewood in general, however.

The Color

When it comes to recognizing firewood, color can be both an aid and a hindrance. When working with woods like Cherry or Mulberry, which have a distinct color, using color might be an excellent strategy.

How to identify split firewood - Cherry
Cherry trees – cut and stacked on top of each other. Notice the distinct color.

Even yet, a wide variety of woods have a light brown hue, and the color of wood changes as it dries and comes into contact with sunlight. There are advantages and disadvantages to this method, so it is best to be cautious.

The leaves

The most common method for recognizing wood and trees is to recognize them by their leaves. Leaves can be a challenge to use because you may not have any at a fuel pile.

A wonderful way to tell what kind of wood you’re looking at is by looking at the leaves on it. Maple and Oak are two of the simplest woods to recognize by their leaves.

How to identify split firewood - Maple Leaf
Maple Leaf is very distinctive

Whether or not Weeping Willow Trees are suitable for use as firewood.

Fast-growing trees, and weeping willows like damp conditions but can also thrive in drier soil conditions. It is usual for the trees to live only 30 years. They may split, topple or lose limbs when the trees lose their vitality. You can use a fallen willow as firewood if you want to get rid of it. It is easy to cut down willows into firewood logs because they are softwood trees. Weeping willow, like all softwoods, does not burn well.

Methods of burning firewood

Three things happen when wood burns. The tree loses any leftover water through evaporation at first. Second, the tree undergoes a chemical transformation that results in charcoal, gas, and volatile liquids being produced.

Charcoal burns for a third time, releasing both CO2 and CO2. Wood’s chemical composition alters how this can occur.

Moisture can easily seep into softwoods like willow, making them vulnerable to decay. Oak and ironwood, for example, are extremely hard and contain very little moisture.

Identifying Poplar Firewood

Hard and softwoods, such as oak and maple, are commonly found in “firewood blends” sold by firewood merchants.

Softer woods burn more quickly, provide less heat, and may smoke or emit disagreeable aromas, making them less ideal for cooking. It’s one thing to get free poplar firewood, but if you’re paying for it, be sure you know how much of it is poplar and how much is the other kind of wood.

If most of the firewood is poplar, that fantastic deal might not be that terrific after all.


Poplar firewood is difficult to distinguish from oak just by looking at it.

Remember that poplar is a fast-growing tree, which means that it is commonly cut while still young. Instead of slicing the logs into 2- to 3-foot lengths, the wood might be left whole.

The diameter of the round logs ranges from 5 to 8 inches. Depending on the poplar kind, the bark might be brownish-gray or even white.


Cutting or splitting a poplar might help you identify it. It’s easy to split poplar, which is a light wood that produces little flying wood chips. It doesn’t produce nearly as much resin or sap as pine, and the bark is quite soft and smooth as well.


Determine if the wood is poplar by comparing it to other hardwoods. Poplar is a fast-burning wood that produces little sparks and coals when lit. It may emit a noxious odor or smoke. It doesn’t produce much heat because it burns so quickly.

It Has to Be Seasoned Correctly

All wood used in a fireplace must be properly dried and seasoned before burning. For a minimum of a year, the wood must be split and exposed to the air in this manner. Burning wood that has recently been chopped down will be extremely tough, and keeping it burning will be even more difficult.

Because of this, you will need to clean your chimney more frequently when you use unseasoned new wood. This dark gray tint is the result of well-aged mulberry wood.

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