Magnolias are iconic shrubs or trees, much loved for their flowers. Although many species are small shrubs used for ornamental purposes, some can reach a height of 70 feet or more.

These towering shade trees can produce a lot of firewood, but is it any good? In this guide, we’ll look at whether magnolia makes good firewood and how it compares to other popular types of wood.

Is magnolia good for firewood?

Magnolia is decent firewood that is easy to split and burns clean. It won’t compete with popular firewood like oak for heat efficiency but still makes excellent kindling and shoulder season wood. Combine Magnolia with denser hardwoods like maple or hickory for a better fire.

  • Low-moderate heat output
  • Minimal sparking and popping
  • Easy to split with an axe
  • Burns clean with a mild fragrance
An infographic showing magnolia firewood data
Dashboard stats for magnolia firewood.

Magnolia firewood burn qualities

1. Heat output

Like many tree types, Magnolia’s heat output varies depending on the species. The average efficiency rating is around 19.9 million BTU per cord. This is lower than most popular firewood types like oak or black locust. However, it’s higher than buckeye, cottonwood, and most softwoods like spruce and pine.

Magnolia may not have a high BTU, but it’s a fuel source worth splitting. A low-density wood like this is easy to light, making it an excellent fire starter. Use it to get the fire roaring, then add bigger, denser logs that don’t light as easily.

If you rely heavily on firewood to heat the house, we suggest combining magnolia with another wood. You can also burn this firewood in the shoulder seasons.

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

Wood VarietyHeat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Cucumber magnolia18.6
Alligator magnolia19.6
Southern magnolia21.6
White ash24.2
Gambel oak30.7
Osage orange32.9

2. Smoke

Whether cooking around the campfire or relaxing at home, you don’t want a smoky fire. It’s unpleasant and can cause sore, red eyes, which no one wants.

Magnolia burns clean and doesn’t give off much smoke. However, it needs seasoning first, or the wood will emit a lot of stinky smoke. Unseasoned magnolia is also less efficient for burning. The fire uses its energy to evaporate water instead of giving out heat.

3. Ease of splitting

Magnolia is easy to split with a hatchet, splitting axe, or maul. The wood fibers are extremely soft for a hardwood, so splitting is quick work.  

We recommend splitting magnolia while it’s still green and full of moisture. The wood hardens as it dries and becomes harder to chop. Another benefit of splitting the wood early is that it speeds up the seasoning process.

The crotch of magnolia is tougher to split. In this section, the limbs join with the trunk to create much harder, twisted wood. For the extra-tough rounds, try splitting them on a freezing morning. Logs tend to break apart easier when it’s cold.

Extra reading: Check out our firewood splitting tips to make your life easier.

4. Sparks

Magnolia won’t usually pop and spark a lot once it’s ablaze in the fire. You’ll get a relaxing fire without the mini explosions. There’s also less chance of embers landing on the floor and causing carpet burns.

If you’ve got an open fireplace, use a guard and take care when burning outdoors. Any wood has the potential to spark, resulting in an unwanted fire.

5. Aroma

The fragrance given off by magnolia is mild as it burns. It doesn’t have the strong smell you get from other varieties like cedar.

Magnolia isn’t ideal for grilling, roasting, and meat smoking. It burns too fast and doesn’t add much flavor to food. We suggest using other popular choices like mesquite, maple, hickory, lilac firewood.

6. Coaling

Another feature to look for in firewood is its coals. Wood like maple produces excellent coals that allow the fire to burn longer.

Magnolia produces average coals that are better than softwoods like pine. However, there are much better options, like honey locust or ash.

Magnolia is best used with other hardwoods that produce better coals. You won’t have to add wood to the fire as frequently.

7. Creosote buildup

Creosote is a black gunk deposited on a chimney as the fire burns. It can block a chimney and easily catch alight if allowed to buildup.

Magnolia doesn’t have a lot of sap and resin, so it produces creosote at low levels. Make sure the firewood is well seasoned for best results.

An illustration of a mature magnolia on a white background
A mature magnolia tree.

How long does it take to season magnolia firewood?

Allow 12 months to season magnolia in a hot, dry climate. Those living in cooler areas prone to rain should wait 18 months to dry the firewood properly.

Tips for seasoning magnolia

To speed up magnolia firewood seasoning, follow these quick and easy tips.

  • Space out rows: build stacks with a small gap between each one to help promote airflow.
  • Cover the wood: use a tarp or wood shed to protect the stacks from the elements but keep one side exposed to the wind.
  • Position well: speed up drying time by stacking the wood in a sunny location.
  • Split the wood: chop the rounds before drying to increase the surface area exposed to wind and sunshine.
  • Raise the wood: stack the wood on planks or pallets to create airflow beneath the wood.

Want to know more? Find out how to stack firewood. This resource includes some tried and tested wood storage methods that help the seasoning process.

Pros of magnolia

  • Great kindling material
  • Burns clean with no smoke
  • Gives off a mild fragrance
  • Easy to split

Cons of magnolia

  • Below-average heat rating
  • Moderately okay coaling
  • Shrubs are usually too small for firewood

When is the best time to fell a magnolia for firewood?

Try to fell magnolia trees and split them between winter and early spring. It is cold at this time of year, so the wood has less sap and moisture. This means the wood seasons quicker.

Pink and white blooms on a magnolia tree
A flowering magnolia tree.

Common types of magnolia trees used for firewood

1. Mountain Magnolia

The mountain magnolia (Magnolia fraseri) typically reaches 50 feet in height and has fragrant, white flowers. It only grows in the Central and Southern Appalachian Mountains.

2. Southern Magnolia

The Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is an evergreen that produces large white blooms. It matures into a large tree that reaches up to 80 feet. It is a good choice for firewood, providing one of the highest BTU heat ratings for a magnolia.

3. Cucumber Magnolia

A cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) is another large species that can reach a height of 80 feet. It has greenish-yellow flowers that grow towards the upper section of the tree.

4. Umbrella magnolia

The umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala) is a deciduous tree that typically grows to 30 feet and has enormous leaves. It is native to the eastern United States in the Ozarks, Ouachita Mountains, and the Appalachian Mountains.

5 fast facts about magnolias

  1. The botanical name for the magnolia tree is Magnolia from the family Magnoliaceae.
  2. The Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana) is the most commonly grown variety in the United States.
  3. A magnolia will live for 80-120 years in the right conditions.
  4. The flowers are used in essential oils and have a wide range of traditional medicinal uses.
  5. The strong fragrance of a magnolia tree ranges widely; they may smell of jasmine, citrus, roses, lemon, candy, and verbena.

Summing up

Magnolia doesn’t compare to the best firewood varieties on heat output and coaling. Options like black locust, Osage orange, and oak are better for heat efficiency and long-burning fires.

Magnolia is ideal for shoulder season heating. The wood also lights easily, so combining it with denser hardwoods is a great idea. It is certainly worth the effort to split and stack for winter.

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