Plum trees are easy to grow in most parts of the United States. Their wood is excellent for musical instruments, beams, furniture, and turned objects.

If you’re wondering whether plum wood is worth burning, keep reading. This article looks at its pros, cons, and whether it’s as good as other popular types of firewood.

Listen to a quick summary of plum firewood here.

Is plum good for firewood?

Wood from a plum tree makes excellent firewood that generates heat and produces great coals. It also gives off a lovely, sweet fragrance ideal for meat smokers and other cooking methods.

  • Minimal smoke and sparks as it burns.
  • Good heat output and slow burning.
  • Excellent fragrance that most people enjoy.
  • Splitting the wood is often tough work.
Infographic of plum firewood statistics
Plum firewood dashboard stats.

Plum firewood burn qualities

1. Heat output

Plum is an excellent choice for firewood based on heat output. It produces 25.2 million BTUs of heat per cord. You’ll stay warm, whether next to the fireplace at home or sitting around a campfire.

A higher value BTU is desirable as the firewood provides better heat efficiency. In comparison, plum rates lower than beech at 27.5 and Gambel Oak at 30.7. But it outperforms other common hardwoods like ash, birch, and elm.

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

Wood varietyHeat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Green ash20.0
American elm20.0
Black walnut22.2
White ash24.2
Gambel oak30.7
Osage orange32.9

2. Smoke

Plum firewood burns clean and produces low levels of smoke. You can comfortably burn it without fear of getting smoked out.

Like any firewood, season plum before burning. Green wood will give off a lot of unpleasant smoke. It also uses all its energy evaporating water instead of giving off heat. The bottom line: always give this wood time to dry out.

3. Ease of splitting

Factors like species and who grew the tree will impact how easy the logs are to split. In most cases, plum is one of the most problematic types of firewood, so be warned!

Some varieties have thorns which are extremely sharp and often worse than those from honeylocust. Always wear heavy boots, as the spikes can penetrate the soles of regular shoes. Gloves are also essential for this job.

Farm plum trees are backbreaking work to split, so you may need a hydraulic splitter. Farmers prune the branches to develop crotches that a maul or axe will barely dent. Straight wood is rare; instead, you’ll find the trunk twisted and riddled with knots.

Rows of plum trees in a fruit orchard
Farmed plum trees are often hard to split.

The wood is bendy and doesn’t break apart easily. Axe and maul blades get stuck in the wood, adding frustration. If you don’t have a splitter, you may need to use a chainsaw to make notches as a starting point. Then use a heavy-duty maul to pound out a wedge and split the round that way.

When farms offer free or cheap unsplit wood, we recommend taking a few test pieces. Check how well it breaks apart before committing to a whole trailer.

Smaller branches may fit in the fire whole. But unsplit wood takes longer to season, even small pieces.

4. Sparks

Wood that pops and sparks can cause burns to the carpet or, in extreme cases, an unwanted fire. Excessive popping can also be unsettling for some people.

Plum firewood burns clean without a lot of popping and sparking. However, it needs to be thoroughly dried for best results. Well-seasoned plum is trouble-free wood that won’t let you down. 

5. Aroma

Plum gives off a light smoke with a mildly sweet and fruity fragrance. Like most fruit trees, it is suitable for smokers, barbecues, and roasters.

The wood from a plum tree rates alongside other mild options like peach, lilac, and apple but lacks the intensity of hickory or mesquite. Home chefs use it to flavor pork, poultry, lamb, vegetables, and mild seafood.

You may also like to read our recommended wood for cooking.

A hand holding a saw that is pruning off a tree branch.
Pruned plum branches are excellent for smoking.

6. Coaling

Plum is a dense, heavy wood that produces good coals. It outperforms varieties like white fir, spruce, and willow. However, the wood doesn’t compare to oak, maple, or black locust for coaling.

Wood with good coals allows the fire to burn longer without adding more wood. If you don’t mind regularly tossing more wood in the fire, coaling properties won’t be a concern.

7. Creosote build-up

Plum is a hardwood that is low in resin and sap content. It burns clean and produces low levels of creosote, a black tar substance. Many softwoods create a lot of this soot, which gets deposited on the chimney. 

Creosote production isn’t a huge factor when choosing firewood, but it’s still good to know you won’t have to clean the chimney every six months. 

Tip: Other fruit trees that make good firewood include avocado and cherry.

A young plum tree isolated on a white background
A developing Prunus americana.

How long does it take to season plum firewood?

Seasoning plum firewood is a slow process that often takes longer than oak. It is high in lignin, so allow at least two years before using this wood. You’ll get even better results leaving the firewood for three years.

Tips for seasoning plum

Seasoned wood is thoroughly dried, so its moisture content is less than 20%. Living in a hot, dry climate will help the curing process, but you can also follow these tips to speed up seasoning plum firewood.

  • Stack in the right place: speed up the drying time by avoiding damp, shady areas and facing the exposed wood towards the sunlight and wind.
  • Split the logs: splitting will increase the surface area exposed to wind and sunshine.
  • Raise the stack: lay the wood on pallets to create airflow underneath.
  • Protect the firewood: use a tarp or stack in a wood shed to protect from the elements while keeping one side exposed to the wind.
  • Space out the rows: create a series of stacks with a 3-5″ gap between each to assist with air circulation.
Cross section of a plum tree trunk on white background.
Cross section of a mature plum tree’s trunk.

Fast facts about plum trees

The scientific name for the plum tree is Prunus americana, from the family Rosaceae.

  • Common plum trees include the Black Ruby, Simca, Elephant Heart, Black Beauty, Damson, Mirabelle, Santa Rosa, and Greengage.
  • Plum trees have a lifespan of 10-25 years and can reach a height of 18-20 feet.
  • Some species are susceptible to fungal pathogens meaning they need felling to stop the spread.

Summing up

The firewood from a plum tree is well worth burning. It gives off plenty of heat, produces excellent coals, and has a pleasant, mild fragrance. Meat and poultry are delicious when smoked with plum wood chips.

The biggest problem with plum trees is the job of splitting. The wood is super-stubborn if sourced from an orchard, loaded with knots and crotches. But splitting won’t be such a chore if it’s a lone tree on your property.

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