Issue: November 2, 2002

Burning willow wood

Question:

Can wood from a willow tree be put in our fireplace to burn?

Answer:

Willow wood may be burned in a fireplace if it is adequately cured (dried). It produces less heat than many other woods, but it may be burned unless the tree was recently treated with pesticides. If it has been treated, it may still be possible to use the firewood, depending on what was used to treat the tree. Many pesticides will break down during the curing period and not be a concern when burning the wood. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent for information about specific pesticides.

George Duda, Urban Forester with the New Mexico Division of Forestry, provided the following information: Different woods yield different amounts of heat. Here are some heat values of dry wood, per cord (in 1,000's of British Thermal Units):

  • One seed juniper.....21958
  • Gamble oak...........21163
  • Utah juniper.........20149
  • Pinyon pine..........18737
  • Alligator juniper....17288
  • Douglas fir..........15330
  • White fir............14212
  • Ponderosa pine.......14085
  • Aspen................12576
  • Englemann spruce.....10880

Your willow is related to aspen and will have a BTU production similar to aspen.

You may have noticed the absence of cedar from his list. He explains that there are no native cedars in New Mexico. Juniper is often called „cedarš. In New Mexico, when you buy "cedar," you are buying juniper.

George also points out that chimney fires are dangerous. Hire a professional to inspect and clean your wood burning equipment. Burn only dry wood to minimize creosote and maximize the efficiency of your equipment. Poorly seasoned (damp or wet) wood will yield about 18% less heat because water must be driven off (water vapor combines with smoke to make creosote) before the wood can burn. Creosote is a major factor in chimney fires.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.

Links:

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!