The crepe myrtle is native to eastern Asia but now grows in many parts of the world. In the United States, some lovingly refer to it as the “lilac of the south”.
While crepe myrtles are often small shrubs, some varieties can grow to 45 feet. So if you’ve got an old tree in the yard, you may wonder if crepe myrtle makes good firewood. This guide looks at its strengths and weaknesses so that you can decide whether it’s worth splitting.
Is crepe myrtle firewood any good?
Crepe myrtle is safe to burn and won’t give off harmful fumes. It makes reasonable firewood that provides moderate heat output. However, this soft hardwood burns fast and is known to smoke. While shrubs are easy to chop and stack, bigger trunks can be challenging to split.
- Moderate heat output.
- Minimal popping and sparking.
- Poor coaling properties.
- Bigger trees are hard to split.
Crepe myrtle firewood burn qualities
1. Heat output
Crepe myrtle offers moderate heat efficiency producing 23.8 million BTUs per cord. That’s comparable to lilac, red oak, and white ash but lower than hardwoods like black locust and hickory.
Firewood from the crepe myrtle tree is handy for heating homes in the shoulder season. It is also great for getting fires started, combined with denser varieties like oak that are trickier to light.
Check out the following table comparing the heat output of crepe myrtle to various other common types of firewood.
|Wood variety||Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)|
Crepe myrtle tends to smoke in the fire, so it’s best to use outdoors or in a wood stove. As with any wood, seasoning it first will reduce the smoke levels.
3. Ease of splitting
Although crepe myrtles grow fast, they often don’t grow bigger than a shrub. Their small trunks and branches are easy to chop into manageable pieces.
Splitting is more challenging if you have a crepe myrtle that has developed into a larger tree. The wood is tough, especially the crotch, where branches and trunk twist together as the tree grows. Use a quality splitting axe or maul to take care of the job.
Split the logs while still green to reduce the seasoning time significantly.
Want to learn how to split wood the right way? Check out our top tips for firewood splitting to notch up your game.
Thoroughly seasoned crepe myrtle gives off very few sparks as it burns. It won’t pop as it burns like pine and some other softwoods. Crepe myrtle firewood provides a pleasant experience for those that can’t relax when firewood is constantly popping.
If you burn crepe myrtle, it’s unlikely you’ll end up with a smoldering ember landing on the carpet or starting a bushfire.
Crepe myrtle often drips with sap, which usually signals a tree that will spark in the fire. However, this substance is honeydew residue secreted from feeding aphids and bark scale insects. It is not a reason to avoid burning the wood.
Firewood from crepe myrtle gives off a subtle scent as it burns, and most find it pleasant. It has a slightly sweet and spicy fragrance that’s perfect for campfires or indoor use.
If you enjoy cooking with wood, check out our cooking with wood guide to discover what works best.
Crepe myrtle is a soft hardwood that produces poor coals as it burns. Instead, the wood burns hot and fast. You’ll need to constantly feed the fire to keep a cold house warm through the night.
There are much better options like maple or oak if you want longer-burning firewood. Crepe myrtle performs similarly to pine on coaling.
Try combining crepe myrtle with other slower-burning firewood. You won’t have to keep topping up the fire as much.
7. Creosote buildup
Creosote is a black substance deposited inside the chimney as the fire burns. Some wood gives off a lot, meaning the chimney needs regular cleaning.
Well-seasoned crepe myrtle doesn’t contain much resin or sap, so it leaves low levels of creosote in the chimney. Regardless of the wood, we recommend cleaning chimneys regularly to avoid blockages and potential fires.
Related reading: Is sourwood good firewood? We provide a full review to help you out.
Commonly asked questions
Can I cook with crepe myrtle wood?
Well-dried crepe myrtle branches and logs are non-toxic and safe for cooking food. However, the wood burns quickly, so mixing it with other wood types like oak is recommended. Use the wood in barbecues, smokers, and spit roasters to add subtle flavor to food.
Can I burn the whole crepe myrtle tree?
While the seasoned branches and trunk are fine to burn, avoid adding crepe myrtle leaves, as the smoke can cause health problems.
How do I identify a crepe myrtle tree?
To identify a crepe myrtle, look for oval, dark green leaves and smooth bark that is dusty gray or light brown. In winter, the bark’s top layer peels off to reveal pinkish-orange or cream wood underneath. The blooms have a ruffled look and come in various colors.
Tips for seasoning crepe myrtle
Allow 8-12 months for crepe myrtle firewood to season, although a few extra months is recommended in cold, rainy climates. Reduce the seasoning time by following these tips. You can also learn more about firewood storage here.
- Make gaps between stacks: build wood stacks with a small gap between each to encourage air circulation.
- Avoid the ground: Use planks or pallets as a base to encourage airflow and keep the split rounds away from moisture and insects in the soil.
- Criss-cross the wood: stack each row in opposite directions to add stability and help the stack dry faster.
- Position well: Face the cut ends towards the sun and wind while avoiding shady, damp areas.
- Cover the stack: use a tarp or woodshed to protect the firewood but keep one side exposed to the wind.
- Split while green: Split the rounds before stacking to increase the surface area exposed to wind and sunshine.
7 fast facts about crepe myrtle
- Crepe myrtle is also known as crape myrtle, crepemyrtle, and crepeflower.
- The scientific name for the common crepe myrtle is Lagerstroemia indica from the family Lythraceae.
- The tree or shrub can be evergreen or deciduous.
- There are large numbers in the southeastern United States.
- Flowers from a crepe myrtle look like crepe paper, which is where the name comes from.
- Around 50 species of crepe myrtle have flowers ranging from pink, white, red, and purple.
- Crepe myrtles thrive in many parts of the world, including the Indian subcontinent, Australia, the United Kingdom, Southeast Asia, Korea, Japan, China, and North America.
Crepe myrtle is a common shrub or tree that provides 23.8 million BTUs per cord. Popular types of firewood like hickory or maple are better options, but don’t waste it if you can get some wood for free.
Combining crepe myrtle with slow-burning wood is a good idea. It is quick to light, making it easier to start a fire with dense firewood. Begin with the myrtle, then once it’s roaring, toss in your favorite dense firewood.