There are so many types of firewood on offer, that it’s confusing to decide which is best. The bad ones produce more smoke and sparks than they do heat; others burn all night, clean and hot.

So how does Osage orange firewood perform? Is it worth the money or your time to chop down? We’re about to take a close look at whether you should toss Osage orange in the fire.

Does Osage orange make good firewood?

Osage orange makes excellent firewood that offers intense heat output and slow-burning coals. This extremely dense wood is slow to season properly, but you’ll get fuel that burns clean and provides a pleasant fragrance.

  • Gives off intense heat, perfect for cold winter nights.
  • Stores well and is not susceptible to rot.
  • Slow to ignite but provides long-term heat like coal.
  • Can give off a lot of sparks without seasoning.
Infographic of Osage orange firewood statistics

Osage orange firewood burn qualities

1. Heat output

The main purpose of firewood is to create heat, so it’s an important consideration if your home gets cold in winter. Osage orange gives off an impressive 32.9 million BTUs per cord which is one of the hottest hardwoods you can burn. Other hot-burning firewood varieties include Gambel oak which is rated 30.7 and black locust with at 27.9.

Osage orange is ideal for extremely cold weather. If you only have a limited supply of this wood then save it for the depths of winter. For shoulder season you may want to use maple, birch, or another variety that doesn’t burn so fiercely. You may also like to combine Osage with another wood variety that doesn’t burn so hot.

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

Wood varietyHeat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Spruce15.5
Silver maple19.0
Tamarack21.8
Maple25.5
Mulberry25.8
Apple27.0
Beech27.5
Black locust27.9
Gambel oak30.7
Osage orange32.9

2. Smoke

Properly seasoned Osage orange will give off very little smoke. For indoor fires, it makes decent firewood and you don’t have to worry about sore, red eyes from smoke.

The top hardwoods like ash, hickory, and Osage orange all produce minimal smoke once dried. Keep in mind that burning any moisture-laden wood will produce loads of smoke.

Osage orange produces less smoke than alternatives like Douglas fir, pine, birch, and elm.

3. Ease of splitting

Osage orange that is still green is usually okay to split by hand. It is essential not to allow the firewood to dry out before splitting. Once seasoned, it becomes extremely hard to chop into pieces. Large rounds will probably require a chainsaw or hydraulic splitter if they’ve dried out.

Most of the time, people find Osage orange easier to split than elm, gum, or beech. However, you may get unlucky and get the crotch of the tree which is notoriously hard to split. This twisted wood will put up a stubborn defense when you try to chop it. If you get tough wood, try splitting it on a freezing day as the wood comes apart easier.

4. Sparks

Wood that sparks and pops could start an unwanted fire or burn someone. Osage orange is loaded with sap and is well-known for providing a fireworks display once it’s burning in the fire. Seasoning helps reduce the sparks, but even dried wood contains a sticky white substance that contains latex.

Due to excessive sparking, Osage orange isn’t recommended for outdoor campfires or open fires at home.

Most common varieties of firewood, like maple and hickory, produce a lot fewer sparks. If you want to avoid sparking, check out our analysis of hickory firewood. It’s a great option if you want clean-burning wood without any surprises.

5. Aroma

Some types of firewood produce a fragrance that gives your house an enticing homely feel. If you regularly smoke meat, then you’ll also want to pay attention to the aroma wood gives off.

Osage orange has a distinctive smell that is mild and slightly citrusy. Most people enjoy its aroma but few use it in their smokers and grills. It burns so hotly that there are better options on offer for cooking.

6. Coaling

The coals produced by firewood impact how well a fire burns and how long it will last. Wood that has good coaling properties will keep a campfire or home warm all night. It may also allow a fire to be re-lit the next morning, simply by tossing in a few small logs.

Osage orange is a dense hardwood that produces excellent coals. One large log will easily burn all night in a wood stove. Compared to pine, basswood, aspen, and fir, you’ll find Osage orange is much better for coaling.

7. Creosote build-up

Creosote is a type of black tar that gets deposited on the inside of chimneys as the fire burns. Some varieties like pine create a lot of creosote build-up in chimneys. This makes ventilation less effective and requires more frequent cleaning.

You’ll find that properly-seasoned Osage orange doesn’t create a lot of creosote build-up. Regardless of the wood you choose, it’s a good idea to clean your chimney once a year.

The fruit of an Osage orange are inedible.

Safety precautions when burning Osage orange firewood

Osage is a useful type of firewood that provides excellent heat. But it should be used with some caution.

  • If you decide to use this wood, never leave it burning unattended in an open fireplace. It can spark aggressively causing unwanted fires.
  • Don’t overload a wood stove with too much Osage orange as the heat can get too high.
  • Metal spark arresters are recommended for the top of the flue when burning this type of wood. 

The Pros and Cons of Burning Osage orange

Pros

  • Very high heat and low smoke output.
  • Excellent coals for longer heating.
  • Usually easy to split logs by hand.

Cons

  • Excessive sparking can be a fire hazard.
  • Can produce too much heat for some fireplaces.
Closeup of the Osage orange’s bark.

Tips for seasoning Osage orange

It’s important to thoroughly season wood or it’ll smoke and won’t produce much heat. That’s because all the heat from the fire is being used to convert the moisture in the wood to steam.

To speed up the seasoning of Osage orange, follow these tips.

  • Split the firewood: by chopping the logs into smaller pieces, you increase the surface area that gets exposed to sunshine and wind.
  • Position wisely: drying time will be reduced by positioning the face of the stack towards the wind and avoiding shady areas.
  • Create space: build a series of stacks with a 3-5” gap between each one to assist with air circulation.
  • Raise the wood: lay the wood on some planks or pallets to allow airflow under the wood.
  • Use a criss-cross pattern: face the wood in opposing directions as you stack it to help dry the wood faster.
  • Cover the wood: use a tarpaulin to protect the top of the wood from rain and snow but keep one side exposed to the wind.

Commonly asked questions

Is Osage orange wood toxic?

No, Osage orange is suitable for burning in fires. The fruits got a bad reputation for being poisonous; however, that was because livestock were choking on them due to their size. 

How long does Osage orange take to season?

In warm, dry climates Osage orange will take 8-12 months to season. Those living in cold and damp areas will need to allow 18-24 months for the moisture content to reduce below 20%. You can burn it earlier, but the heat output will be less and you’ll experience more sparking and smoke.

How do I identify an Osage orange tree?

An Osage orange tree can be identified by its stout trunk and orange-brown bark that’s coarse. The trunk also has thorns which you need to watch out for if you’re felling or bucking one. The 3-6” long leaves are shiny, dark green, and form an alternate simple pattern. 

The trunk of an Osage orange tree, ready for felling.

Fast facts about the Osage orange tree

  • The botanical name for the Osage orange is Maclura pomifera, from the family Moraceae.
  • It is a deciduous tree also known as the bodark, hedge apple, thorny tree, bois d’arc (bow-wood), or horse apple.
  • Osage oranges mostly grow to a height of 30-50 feet.
  • The wood is extremely dense making it useful for archery bows, tool handles, instruments, and boats.
  • The tree is native to Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Summing up

Osage orange is an excellent choice if you need hot-burning firewood. It has one of the highest heat outputs and it burns clean with impressive coaling. Unlike some firewood, Osage orange isn’t susceptible to rot or bug infestations.

These trees aren’t widely available across the United States so you may struggle to find this firewood in your area.

If you’ve got an old tree on your property then it will definitely be worth your time to split and season. A good quality splitting axe should be all you need to get the job done.

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