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How can you tell pine from decidouos trees, when they are dead?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by jgparmele, Jan 29, 2006.

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  1. jgparmele

    jgparmele New Member

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    I am a "novice", "newbie", "rookie", or whatever you wish to call someone who has been using a wood stove for three weeks. I was also born/raised in manhattan (NYC), so I have precious little experience with different types of wood. I am good on safety regarding the stove (1977 V.C. Vigilant), and chainsaw use, as I have unlimited help from friends who are experts at operating stoves and saws.
    However, the one thing that none of them agree upon is how to tell pine from burnable wood. I have countless dead and fallen trees on the property that have not yet rot, but I cannot tell which ones were pine. My "experts", seem to be stumped as well, since I cannot get any straight answers from them. Therefore, I turn to you, the real experts, for some help.
    Gratefully,
    J. Parmele
    Monson, MA

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  2. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    That's one of those things that people who grew up around trees and forests just "know" without thinking about it.

    Here's a few tips:

    Softwood trees (pines, spruce, fir, hemlock) tend to have branches that grow in concentric rings around the trunk. A pine tree, for example, will have rings of branches every foot or two going up the trunk of the tree, and they tend to stick straight out (more or less) rather than reaching skyward. Hardwood trees have branches that pop out of the trunk wherever they feel like it. They tend to point "up" the stem.

    Softwood trees (with the exception of cedar) have needles rather than leaves.

    Softwood is lighter in general than hardwood, weight-wise.

    Softwoods have pine-smelling pitch that's sticky when you get it on your skin. Hardwoods don't. Hardwood tends to have a different smell when cut--ranging from a sharp acidic smell (oak and cherry) to no smell at all.

    Softwood tends to be lighter in color, whereas hardwood has more pronounced grain and tends to be darker, with clearly defined heartwood and sapwood.

    Both hardwoods and softwoods decompose once they've been on the ground for awhile, making it difficult to differentiate between the two.

    When dry, hardwood is much heavier (and harder) than softwood.

    Why not cut some wood, dry it out and see how it burns? All that matters is that you are happy with the way the wood burns, not the type of tree or species it came from. You'll have better luck burning hardwoods (length of burn & heat produced), but if the wood work, I say burn it.

    You might consider getting a tree-identification book or looking for a tree reference online and then try to hook the standing, live trees up with the fallen stuff and making your ID that way.

    Good luck!
  3. Corie

    Corie Minister of Fire

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    I have the audobon tree ID book as I said earlier and it shows bark for all of the tree's it describes. It would probably be of use in a situation like yours. I consider it some of the best 20 bills I ever spent.
  4. jgparmele

    jgparmele New Member

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    Thank you both for your help. I will purchase the book, but I will also follow the tips.
    Gratefully,
    J. Parmele
  5. Willhound

    Willhound Feeling the Heat

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    If it's available, and it burns, burn it. Nothing wrong with a bit of pine mixed in. I'm burning some right now and loving the heat. Some hardwood snobs turn their noses up at it, but I think most of the folks that have been burning for a while would agree that whatever wood you have access to, is good wood.
    Just be careful because pine will burn a little faster and hotter than harder stuff. Not saying it has more BTU's, but that it can get away on you if you're not careful.
  6. jgparmele

    jgparmele New Member

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    Thank you, Willhound! That was going to be my next question: Is pine really bad for the chimney? I have noticed on several threads of posts on this site that people do burn pine without any problems. I will try it out tomorrow and see how it burns (and I WILL be careful!)
    Gratefully,
    Jack
  7. jgparmele

    jgparmele New Member

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    Thanks Dylan,
    I had wondered about that! My stove came with the house, and the lady said that she had just bought it new (this was six years ago).
    Thanks,
    Jack
  8. Willhound

    Willhound Feeling the Heat

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    "Pine" is loosely used to describe several different species of softwood conifer trees. Some, like balsam, have a lot of sap that can create some problems with build-up in chimneys. Others, like the jackpine that I burn are relatively dry with little sap. As with any wood, the species is likely not as important as how well seasoned the wood is. Green wood, is green wood, doesn't matter if soft or hard, it will definately contribute more to creosote build-up.

    Most complaints I've heard about pine are that it burns fast, so you need to load more often. The only time I've seen pine really damage a chimney is if it was already badly in need of a cleaning, and the hot, fast burn of the pine sparks it off. This is obviously bad......
  9. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Pine is the one wood we burn in logs instead of splits. I let them season for a couple of years and then burn the logs. That helps control the go like hell burn you get when you burn pine splits.

    The yellow pines that litter my place, mostly on the ground since the tornado, are best recognized by the flacky bark. But like Eric said, recognizing them is one of those things that after a while you will feel you were just born knowing.

    When they blew down one of them missed my well casing by inches.

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