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Is hackberry good firewood to burn, or are there better choices of wood available?
With the rising costs of fossil fuels, firewood is becoming an increasingly popular way to heat your home.
Once again, as in past years, we have turned to a more natural and simplistic way save money and stay warm!
Hackberry trees are an alternative source of firewood that can be burned in place of the more common trees, like oak or maple.
In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about using hackberry for firewood.
Read on to find out if hackberry is the wood for you!
Hackberry is a member of the hemp or Cannabaceae family and is a common deciduous tree found in many regions of North America.
Hackberry, depending on regional traditions and local lexicon, can also be known as Nettletree, Beaverwood, Northern Hackberry, and American Hackberry.
Commonly heralded as “one tough tree”, hackberry can be found in a wide variety of locations east of the Rockies and anywhere between the northern and southern borders of the US.
Hackberry is a medium to fast-growing tree gaining 13 to over 24 inches per year in height.
It will often reach heights of 30-50 feet or more depending upon location.
Hackberry regenerates as birds and other wildlife eat and disperse the seeds.
The berry is also edible by humans and is valued as a shade tree.
Not so well known in commercial settings, hackberry is valued as a firewood species and often milled into lumber in applications of woodworking.
It is particularly helpful for those big projects that require a strong wood, an it's occasionally used to make moderately priced furniture.
Hackberry is again “one tough tree” in its tolerance of strong winds, drought, and heat.
Identifying a hackberry tree is relatively easy.
Hackberry trees show a smooth bark in the first years of growth, but as it matures it will develop a very distinctive corky and knobby like bark.
Hackberry nipple galls also form on the tree as the larvae of nipple gall psyllids feed on the leaves.
This feature is very common, which gives another solid form of identification.
Hackberry is a fairly large crowned tree that forms a vase-like shape reaching maturity.
Common varieties of hackberry in the US include Green Cascade (a weeping variety), Magnifica (hybrid between Sugarberry and Hackberry trees), Prairie Pride (strong and disease-free variety), and Prairie Sentinel (a variety with a slimmer trunk).
Several other varieties are known as “notable cultivars.''
These would include Hackberry trees that you can find online such as:
Is hackberry good firewood to use immediately, or should you let it dry out before you burn it?
Hackberry is a denser wood with a relatively low moisture content.
Six months is often sufficient seasoning time for a good fire, but a year will give you an even better flame!
Hackberry, depending upon location, can sometimes reach the sweet spot of drying in as little as four months.
Seasoned hackberry is wood that contains 20% moisture content.
Just like other types of firewood, splitting hackberry into small, useable pieces will allow the wood to dry faster.
Also, make sure the wood is elevated off the ground and stacked in a sunny location that can benefit from the summer heat and wind.
All of these features will decrease the amount of time your hackberry firewood takes to dry.
As with many woods, hackberry will have a much darker color when dry, especially viewing the ends of the pieces.
Look at the ends of your chunks.
Dry wood will always show splitting and checking when the firewood is dry.
Dry wood is also lighter in weight.
Pick up a piece and often this will indicate the dryness.
You can also check the bark.
Bark on a dry piece of firewood can be peeled much easier than green, unseasoned wood.
One last test for a seasoned firewood is to simply knock two pieces end to end.
Dry wood will always produce a hollow ringing noise where as green firewood will only have a dull thud.
Hackberry trees have gained a bit of notoriety as being messy trees.
Some feel it is not a wise choice for yard plantings for this reason alone.
In addition to the natural sap that it produces, there are a variety of pests that exacerbate this issue even further.
Sap sucking insects such as aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs excrete what is known as honeydew.
This then falls to whatever is below the tree.
The wooly Hackberry aphid produces large amounts of this honeydew - this is problematic, especially when used as plantings in city settings.
The good news?
Cleaning up hackberry sap is relatively easy with rubbing alcohol.
Just pour some alcohol on a microfiber cloth and hold on the sappy area for about 30 seconds and with a small amount of elbow grease, the sap should rub right off.
It's always a good idea to wash the area after with soapy water and rinse to remove any leftover residue.
Is hackberry good firewood to burn without creating a lot of smoke?
Hackberry, when burned well seasoned, produces very little smoke.
It's a very clean burning firewood choice, making it ideal for wood stoves and fire pits.
Does hackberry firewood produce creosote?
All woods have a tendency to produce some creosote.
Yet when properly dried, hackberry firewood produces a very small amount of creosote, making it a very desirable wood to burn.
Hackberry is a very easy wood to split.
Splitting by hand with maul or splitting axe is very doable.
If you are equipped with a hydraulic wood splitter, hackberry is no issue there either.
Hackberry is considered a medium-quality firewood which produces 21.2 million BTUs of heat when burned.
When properly seasoned, hackberry puts out a good amount of heat.
It is lower than some of the more common hardwoods like oak, which burns around 25 to 26 million BTUs but it is still a valuable firewood choice.
Hackberry when burned is a wonderful firewood producing minimal sparks and smoke.
Hackberry emits a pleasing, almost sweet smelling odor as it burns.
It is very pleasing to those who enjoy the aroma of a wood fire!
Like many other woods, the ashes made while burning hackberry are very beneficial to gardens.
Simply broadcast the cooled ashes over gardens or even lawns to produce a very good fertilizer.
Hackberry ash can also be added to your compost piles.
In adding to compost, the ash mixes with other organic materials to end up with a more balanced fertilizer.
Along with being a valid firewood, hackberry trees were once widely used in medicinal applications.
The bark was boiled down by Native Americans to produce a medicine.
This medicine was used to relieve ailments related to menstrual cycles as well as to cure various other diseases.
Berries from the hackberry are edible.
Not only desired by birds and wildlife, the berry from hackberry is edible by humans.
The berries have a unique flavor that is said to be similar to that of a date.
Hackberry is also useful in woodworking applications.
The lumber milled from hackberry is often found in less expensive furniture or in areas where a lumber needs extra strength.
Occasionally, it can also be found in industrial applications such as pallets and crates.
Hackberry, like all other firewood, is most likely to be found with local firewood vendors.
Hackberry is a great wood!
Commonly found in many areas of the US, hackberry is an easy to handle, easy to dry, and easy to burn firewood choice.
Clearly, hackberry is a firewood species that has it all - from firewood to medicine to edibles to lumber!