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The eastern white pine is one of the largest trees in the eastern United States, so firewood seekers looking for a big haul have been known to wonder.....is white pine good firewood?
For starters, let’s get it straight just what we’re talking about here when we say “white pine.”
There are two main types of pine that go by the name: the eastern white pine, and the western white pine (also known as the silver pine).
While both trees share many similarities, they are technically different species, with the eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) being found mostly in the northeast, and the western white pine (Pinus monticola) being found mostly in the northwest.
Generally, however, it’s the eastern variety that people think
of when they hear the name, so for the purposes of this article, that’s the one
I’ll be talking about.
But, despite some slight differences in the needle structure, the two trees burn about the same, so whether you’re in the east or the west, read on for more info.
The eastern white pine is a big, quick-growing conifer, which means that relatively young trees can often be large enough to offer a ton of firewood from only a single source.
Unfortunately, that same quick-growing nature means that the wood you do get from the white pine is usually lightweight and low-density.
One of the reasons most firewood collectors prefer to burn hardwoods is that hardwood trees (think oak, maple, and hickory) grow slower and with a denser wood structure than softwood conifers like pines, and the resulting firewood is packed with burning potential.
Compared to any hardwood, or even to some slower growing softwoods, white pine
firewood is light and airy, which makes it quick burning, and with a relatively
low BTU output.
As a result, it’s no one’s first choice to burn.
But since it is a relatively common tree, and a single white pine is big enough to provide ample firewood, it’s definitely worth burning if you have access to it.
While it isn’t ideal for heating your home all winter long, white pine firewood can be perfect for outdoor fire pits, making kindling wood, or even burning a small fire in your fireplace or wood stove to keep off the chill during the shoulder season or on a not-too-chilly day.
The easiest way to identify pine trees is usually by looking at the needles.
Unlike firs and hemlocks, pine needles grow in little clusters rather than directly from the branch.
The number of needles in each cluster is always consistent, so counting the needles is a good way to differentiate between pine species.
needles on the eastern white pine are long and pliable, with a beautiful bluish
tint, and they always grow in groupings of five.
It is the only tree in the area that grows its needles in fives, so if you’re in the northeast, and you see a big pine tree with five needles in a pack, it’s almost certainly a white pine.
For most people, availability is the main reason why they’d be interested in looking to use white pine as firewood in the first place.
As one of the fastest growing conifers, it is used extensively in logging units, reforestation projects, Christmas tree farms, and landscaping.
Anytime someone needs a big
tree fast, the beautiful white pine is usually a top choice to plant.
As a result, they’re fairly abundant, and you’re likely to find one in places like a neighbor's yard, or out by the street growing into the radius of a power line.
If that’s the case, and there’s a big pile of firewood waiting to be gathered, grab up as much of that white pine as you can.
Once you’ve harvested your wood, cutting, splitting, and stacking it is a pleasure.
Sometimes called “soft pine,” white pine is remarkably easy to cut.
It is lightweight and straight grained, which makes splitting and stacking an easy task as well.
The one downside to working with white pine is that, as with most pines, it can tend to get a bit sappy, which isn’t always the most fun to deal with.
To help deal with the sap, a good pair of latex dipped gloves work great to protect your hands.
In fact, these gloves are amazing for just about any outdoor chore.
They're thin enough to have great dexterity, but they do a great job protecting your hands in the process.
Finally, once you’ve stacked your white pine firewood, let it season for a full year for best results.
As discussed earlier, the lightweight, low density, sometimes sappy wood of the white pine makes it less than ideal for big, long-burning fires to heat your home.
But for fire pit lovers, this isn’t the main goal of your firewood anyway.
If you’re just looking to have a nice warm fire to burn outside and enjoy a lovely evening, you’ll be glad to have stocked up on all that white pine firewood when you had the chance.
The fire, while a bit smoky, is remarkably easy to start.
It burns quickly, letting you just keep feeding in more logs for as long as you want to keep enjoying your fire pit, and not have to wait around too long for it to go out once you’re done.
Best of all, having a stash of white pine on hand lets you enjoy fire pit nights more freely, without feeling like you’re cutting into your precious supply of hardwood that is going to get you through the winter.
On colder nights when you need a longer lasting fire, I love to use a little bit of white pine to get the fire going before putting on a big log of a longer lasting hardwood like red oak firewood.
White pine is a relatively accessible, easy to work with wood.
Best of all, it’s one of the more common trees that just might happen to fall across your path.
It’s a low investment to stock up on it if you get the chance, and while it’s not ideal for using as your main source of heat through the winter, white pine is a great wood for quick outdoor fires, kindling, or shoulder season warmups.