The mountain mahogany tree grows in America’s western states. It is a contorted, shrubby species that thrives in mountainous regions with lots of sunlight and little water.
This guide looks at whether mountain mahogany is suitable for firewood. We’ll help you decide if it’s worth the effort to split.
Does mountain mahogany make good firewood?
Mountain mahogany is a highly dense hardwood that makes excellent firewood. It produces slow-burning coals and gives off intense heat that’s hotter than most varieties. Wood stove owners may prefer to burn mahogany with other wood to avoid damage to their fireplaces.
- Burns clean with minimal creosote.
- Intense heat output.
- Must be split when green.
- Doesn’t spark and pop.
Mountain mahogany firewood burn qualities
1. Heat output
Mountain mahogany gives off very high heat levels, providing 39.8 million BTUs per cord. That’s higher than other hot-burning wood like manzanita, hickory, and Osage orange.
This wood is an excellent choice if your home gets cold in winter. However, wood stoves may not tolerate the amount of heat. It would help if you mixed it with other lower-BTU types of firewood to avoid damage.
Check out the following table comparing the heat output of mountain mahogany to various other common types of firewood.
|Wood variety||Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)|
Fully seasoned mountain mahogany gives off very little smoke. It produces less than alternatives like pine, birch, or elm. Burn this wood inside or in a campfire without worrying about sore, red eyes.
Top hardwoods like oak and ash produce minimal smoke once dried. Keep in mind that burning any green wood will create excess smoke.
3. Ease of splitting
Splitting mountain mahogany can range from moderate to difficult. While some trees grow straight, many become twisted and contorted as they grow. This gnarly wood can be a challenge to split. Many trees won’t develop big trunks, so their logs are fiddly to position and chop.
Splitting mountain mahogany while green is essential. Once dry, the wood is so dense that it will sink in water. Hand splitting with an axe or maul is back-breaking work.
Splitting mahogany while green will also speed up seasoning time as more surface area is exposed to sunlight and wind.
We suggest reading our tips for splitting firewood to make the job easier.
Popping and sparking wood can start unwanted fires or burn someone. Mountain mahogany will usually burn clean, but take care when stoking the coals. Like manzanita, the logs tend to fire out glowing hot cinders once stirred up.
Living mountain mahoganies gives off a pleasant sweet licorice aroma when it rains. As firewood, it has a mild, slightly sweet smell that most will enjoy.
If you barbecue or smoke meat, the aroma of wood can play a big part in flavoring the food. Mountain mahogany gives food a mellow smokey flavor without any unwanted harsh aftertaste. It is good for cooking seafood, poultry, pork, beef, and vegetables.
If you enjoy cooking with firewood, our best wood for cooking resource will get you on the right track.
The coals produced by firewood affect how well a fire burns and its duration. Wood with good coaling properties will keep a home warm most of the night.
Mountain mahogany is one of the densest hardwoods, producing excellent coals. It is a much better choice than softwood.
Mahogany also leaves minimal ash, which means less cleanup the following day.
7. Creosote build-up
A burning fire will deposit creosote on the chimney. This black soot can cause blockages if left to build up. Some softwood varieties, like pine, create a lot of creosote build-up, especially if burned green.
Seasoned mountain mahogany gives off low levels of creosote. It doesn’t contain excessive sap and resin.
We recommend cleaning a chimney once a year, no matter what fuel is burned in the fire.
Use caution in burning mountain mahogany as it provides intense heat. Never overload a woodstove, as it may not handle the temperature. Metal spark arresters are recommended for the top of the flue when burning mountain mahogany.
The pros and cons of burning mountain mahogany
- Clean burning wood.
- Provides a lot of heat.
- Great coals and minimal ash.
- May produce too much heat for some fireplaces.
- Small trees may provide little wood.
- Difficult to split once seasoned.
How long does it take to season mahogany?
Mountain mahogany will need 18-24 months to season in warm, dry climates. Those living in cold and damp areas will require an additional six months for the moisture content to reduce sufficiently.
Burning the wood too early will produce less heat output with more sparking and smoke.
Tips for seasoning mountain mahogany
Thoroughly seasoned wood will smoke less and produce more heat. Learn how to speed up the seasoning of mountain mahogany by following these tips.
- Make gaps: build stacks with small spacings between each to help air circulate.
- Raise the wood: place the firewood on pallets to allow airflow under the wood and help protect it from insects and moisture.
- Split the firewood: chop the logs into small pieces to increase the surface area exposed to the elements.
- Consider the elements: position the face of the stack towards the wind and avoid shade.
- Use a criss-cross pattern: place each row of wood in opposite directions while stacking.
- Cover the wood: use a tarp or store it in a wood shed to protect it from rain and snow.
Check out our firewood stacking guide to get some handy storage advice and tips.
Commonly asked questions
What does mountain mahogany firewood look like?
Mountain mahogany has a very fine grain and an even texture. The wood is distinguished by its reddish-brown heartwood and pink or pale-yellow sapwood. As these trees mature, the wood darkens.
How do I identify a mountain mahogany tree?
Mountain mahogany is a shrub or tree that can grow to 40 feet in height. It has simple, alternate leaves that often curl at the edges.
This species has red or gray-brown bark and bears small fruits with feathery tails.
7 facts about the mountain mahogany tree
- The botanical name for the mountain mahogany is Cercocarpus ledifolius, from the family Rosaceae (rose family).
- It is commonly known as curl-leaf mountain mahogany.
- The tree is related to the manzanita tree, another firewood that burns hot.
- The plant will typically have 1-4 trunks.
- Mountain Mahogany is not a true mahogany from the Meliaceae family.
- The tree produces small whitish-yellow flowers in spring.
- Wood from a mountain mahogany tree isn’t suitable for lumber as it is generally short and twisted.
The mountain mahogany is ideal if you need firewood that produces a lot of heat. Offering 39.8 million BTUs per cord, you’ll want to use caution not to overheat a woodstove. Burning it with other wood varieties is an excellent idea to keep the heat at a more manageable level.
The mountain mahogany will often become contorted as it grows. This feature makes splitting the wood challenging, and a hydraulic splitter may be required.