The hackberry is a hardy deciduous tree that is native to North America. It is commonly used to make boxes, furniture, and other indoor items like toys.

Hackberry isn’t rot resistance which makes it unsuitable for many outdoor uses. But how does it perform in the fire? We’ve created this handy hackberry firewood guide to see how it compares with other popular varieties.

Does hackberry make good firewood?

Hackberry is a great all-round firewood that offers moderate heat output and decent coaling properties. While it won’t compete with firewood like cherry or Osage orange, the firewood is still well worth the effort to split. 

It is important to stack hackberry off the ground on pallets. If you leave the split wood or rounds on the ground, they’ll be rotten within a year.

  • Provides average heat as it burns
  • Easy to split by hand
  • Burns clean with low sparks and smoke
  • Creates good coals
Infographic of hackberry firewood statistics

Hackberry firewood burn qualities

1. Heat output

Heat output is an important consideration when deciding what firewood to use, especially if you live in a freezing climate. Whether you’re enjoying the great outdoors or are relaxing indoors, you’ll want to stay warm.

Hackberry offers a moderate level of heat output. At 21.2 million BTUs per cord, it’s similar to cherry and larch, but much lower than black locust or oak firewood.

Firewood with a lower BTU can still be suitable for burning. It’s useful for burning in the shoulder season when mild temperatures prevail. The firewood is also great combined with other firewood types or used as kindling.

Check out the following table that compares the heat output of hackberry to various other common types of firewood.

Wood varietyHeat per Cord (Million BTUs)
White fir14.6
Black locust27.9
White oak29.1
Osage orange32.9

 2. Smoke

Well-seasoned hackberry burns clean and produces very little smoke. It’s ideal for campfires, open fireplaces, or wood stoves.

Remember to properly season the wood before it’s added to the fire. If it contains too much water, then you’ll have to deal with a lot of unnecessary smoke. Burning unseasoned wood is also less efficient as it uses most of its energy to evaporate water instead of keeping the room warm.

3. Ease of splitting

Splitting hackberry is easy as it has a straight grain with few knots. Most splitting axes will make quick work of chopping up this wood.

Some rounds may take more force to split, especially if they’re from the tree’s crotch. This is an area where branches and the trunk knit together forming an extremely hard section. If you get landed with the crotch then a heavy-duty maul or hydraulic splitter may be needed.

Try to split hackberry when it’s still green to accelerate the seasoning process.

4. Sparks

Unlike mulberry and pine, hackberry firewood produces very few sparks as it burns. That means there is less chance of embers landing on the carpet and causing burns. Those camping outdoors are less likely to cause a major forest fire as the result of popping and sparking.

If you’ve got an open fireplace, it is still important to keep the fireguard in place. You never know when that wood will surprise you.

5. Aroma

The fragrance that is given off by hackberry as it burns is very mild. Even those with sensitive smell shouldn’t find the aroma from a hackberry fire offensive.

If you’re looking to smoke meat, fish, or other food then hackberry will work well. Its coals make it useful for meat smokers, pits, or barbecues.

Keep in mind, you won’t get much punch flavor from burning hackberry. You may want to try hickory or mesquite for this. Be sure to check out our review of mesquite firewood to learn more.

6. Coaling

Hackberry produces fairly decent coals that gives off heat through most of the night. That means you don’t have to keep adding extra wood to the fire to keep it going.

Hackberry isn’t as good as beech or oak for its coaling properties. You’ll still need to restart the fire from scratch the next day, although for many this won’t be a big issue. You may like to toss in a log of oak with the hackberry if you want better coals.

7. Creosote build-up

Creosote is an unpleasant sooty substance that gets deposited on the chimney’s inside as the fire burns. The higher the amount that’s given off, the more often you’ll need to clean out the chimney.

Hackberry that has been well seasoned gives off low levels of creosote.

Tips for seasoning hackberry

To speed up the seasoning of hackberry follow these quick and easy tips.

  • Always split first: chopping rounds into small pieces of wood will expose more surface area to the wind.
  • Cover the wood: a cover will help keep the snow and rain off the stack.
  • Separate the rows: build piles of wood with a 3-5” gap between rows to encourage air circulation.
  • Position correctly: Keep the wood stack away from shady spots and face the exposed wood towards the wind
  • Lift the wood: Generate airflow under the wood and reduce rotting by stacking it on pallets.
A mature hackberry tree on white background
The hackberry tree will grow in most types of soil.

Commonly asked questions

How long does hackberry need for seasoning?

In warm and dry climates, hackberry should season in 12 months while cooler areas prone to rain should allow 2 years drying time. Split hackberry will dry out faster than if they’re left as logs.

Old hackberry trees that have been dead for a while won’t need as much seasoning. Much of the wood’s water content will have already dried up.

When is the best time to chop hackberry for firewood?

Try to chop down hackberries for firewood between winter and early spring. The wood will season quicker as there is less sap and moisture in the wood at this time of year.

How can I identify a hackberry tree?

You can identify a hackberry tree by looking for smooth gray bark that has knobby protrusions growing from it. Pointed, serrated leaves are arranged alternately along twigs. A hackberry will usually grow from 50-70 feet tall and have a rounded crown.     

A hand holding a hackberry leaf in the air
The hackberry leaf is easy to identify.

Hackberry tree facts

  • The common hackberry tree has the botanical name Celtis occidentalis and is a part of the family Cannabaceae.
  • Other types include the Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) and the Dwarf hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia).
  • It produces purple fruits that are popular with a wide range of fauna including birds, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, and foxes.
  • The tree grows best in well-drained, moist soil but will tolerate dry or wet conditions.

Summing up

Hackberry won’t be at the top of most people’s list of best firewood types. However, it is a useful firewood that doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses.

If you’re offered hackberry logs, then we recommend snapping them up. The wood is easy to split and gives off decent heat at 21.2 million BTUs per cord. Hackberry may not produce the heat that other popular hardwoods can provide, but it’s a handy fuel source for the shoulder season.       

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