The hawthorn tree provides hard, tough wood that’s excellent for tool handles, cabinets, and carving. But how does it perform as firewood, and is it worth the effort to split? This guide will review hawthorn firewood and compare it to other popular varieties.

Is hawthorn good for firewood?

Hawthorn is an excellent choice of firewood, providing high heat output and good coaling properties. This dense hardwood will burn clean and provide heat through the night. The hawthorn is typically a small tree, so its biggest complaint is not getting enough wood from them.

  • Provides high heat output.
  • Burns clean with a mild smell.
  • Very little sparking and popping.
  • Often difficult to split and has thorns.
Infographic showing hawthorn firewood statistics

Hawthorn firewood burn qualities

1. Heat output

Hawthorn is an excellent choice for heat as it produces 27.5 million BTUs per cord. It is perfect for areas that experience freezing winters. As a comparison, hawthorn is similar to beech, apple, and honey locust for heat.

Check out the following table comparing the heat output of hawthorn to various other common types of firewood. 

Wood varietyHeat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Hemlock19.3
American elm20.0
Black walnut22.2
White ash24.2
Apple27.0
Hawthorn27.5
Beech27.5
Honey locust27.7
White oak29.1
Osage orange32.9

2. Smoke

Hawthorn firewood that’s well-seasoned doesn’t give off much smoke. It is clean burning, making it ideal for campfires and open fireplaces. You don’t have to worry about sore, red eyes from smoke.

Most hardwoods like ash, holly, oak, and hawthorn produce minimal smoke once seasoned. Burning any green wood will create a lot of smoke.

3. Ease of splitting

Hawthorn is often difficult to split as the wood is twisted and gnarly. A heavy-duty maul or splitting axe is your best option if you’re processing the wood by hand.

The hawthorn tree doesn’t usually grow much bigger than a shrub, so you won’t get a lot of wood from one tree. It also has menacing thorns that can do some severe damage. For these reasons, some think hawthorn is more trouble than worth. 

4. Sparks

Burning hawthorn gives off very few sparks and is a better option than softwoods like pine or juniper. Relax, knowing that embers are unlikely to fly out and burn the carpet or your skin. For campfires, hawthorn is also a great choice as random sparks are unlikely to start an unwanted fire.

5. Aroma

Although some types of firewood produce aromas as they burn, hawthorn has a neutral smell. Some people, especially those with allergies, will appreciate this lack of fragrance.

Hawthorn won’t be your best choice for cooking. It doesn’t add any delicious extra flavor as hickory or mesquite do.

6. Coaling

Firewood that produces good coals is sought after. It means the fire will keep burning for longer, unlike many softwoods that burn like balsa wood. Hawthorn is an extremely dense hardwood that will burn slowly in a wood stove or open fire.

7. Creosote buildup

The downside to fires is creosote, a black substance deposited inside the chimney as the fire burns. Too much of this gunk, and you’ll have to get the chimney swept regularly.

While all types of firewood give off creosote, some are worse than others. Thankfully, well-seasoned hawthorn burns clean and doesn’t create much buildup. No matter what firewood you burn, cleaning chimneys yearly is a good practice.

A mature hawthorn tree growing in a field with blue sky in the background
Hawthorn trees don’t provide a lot of firewood.

The pros and cons of burning hawthorn

Pros

  • High heat and low smoke output.
  • Good coaling for extended heating.
  • Low popping and sparking.

Cons

  • Thorns can cause a nasty injury.
  • May be very difficult to split.
  • Low wood yield from one tree.

Tips for seasoning hawthorn

Seasoning hawthorn takes around 12 months, but you can reduce the waiting time by following these tips.

Position correctly: speed up drying time by avoiding shady areas and try to face the exposed wood stack towards the wind.

Keep the stack off the ground: lay the firewood on pallets to create airflow.

Split the firewood: increase the surface area exposed to wind and sunlight by splitting logs first.

Criss-cross the wood: stacking the wood in opposing directions to help dry it faster.

Use a cover: use a waterproof cover or woodshed to protect the stacks from the elements, but keep one side exposed to the wind.

Space out the rows: create stacks with a 3-5” gap between each to encourage air circulation.

Hawthorn berries growing on a tree
Hawthorn berries have a variety of culinary uses.

Commonly asked questions

How long does hawthorn take to season?

Full seasoned hawthorn takes around 12 months to season but could take longer if you live in a cool, damp climate. Unseasoned firewood will smoke and give off less heat, so give firewood the time it needs.

How many species of hawthorn are there?

There are around 280 species of hawthorn which are mostly shrubs. Source. They are native to North America, Asia, and Europe.

How do I identify the hawthorn tree?

A hawthorn tree has greyish-brown wood with lots of tiny scales. It produces crimson berries and has white flowers that look similar to wild cherry blooms. The alternate leaves have 3-7 lobes and look like paws or mittens. In winter, look for spines emerging from the location as the buds.

How do I identify hawthorn wood?

The hawthorn’s sapwood is a cream color, while its heartwood will range from dark reddish brown to creamy yellow. Its grain is fine with a uniform texture.

6 facts about the hawthorn tree

  1. Its scientific name is Crataegus from the family Rosaceae.
  2. Other names include May tree, quickthorn, whitethorn, hawberry, mayflower, or thornapple.
  3. The tree is a deciduous shrub or small tree that can grow to 30 feet.
  4. The blooms are often the first sign of spring and are popular with birds and insects.
  5. Flower buds and young leaves are edible, while the haws can be used in winemaking and jellies.
  6. The tree is popular for hedging, turnery, boxes, engraving, tool handles, and boat parts.

Summing up

Hawthorn is generally excellent for burning and provides 27.5 million BTUs per cord. It produces exceptional coals and burns clean without popping and sparking.

Splitting the wood and avoiding the thorns isn’t always easy, but the effort will be well rewarded. You’ll get some of the best firewood to keep your home warm through the coldest winter.

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