What to look for/ what to avoid in southeastern PA

DaveInPhilly Posted By DaveInPhilly, Mar 20, 2017 at 9:57 AM

  1. DaveInPhilly

    DaveInPhilly
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    Jun 29, 2015
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    I know practically nothing about different trees. I have always bought mixed hardwood cords or cut trees that fell in the yard. For the first time, I am heading out into the woods to cut firewood. The sum of my knowledge is: seek out hardwoods avoid pine. Other than that I don't know that I could tell a maple from an oak from an ash. Does it matter? Short of learning to ID all the various trees that might be in my area, is there anything I can do to make sure I bring out decent wood.

    For what its worth, I'm going into Ft. Washington State park. For a $15 permit they'll let you haul out as much wood as you want, you just can't take down standing trees.
     
  2. johneh

    johneh
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    Dec 19, 2009
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    You have posed a difficult question
    I would suggest that you take someone
    with you who can show you what you need to
    Know . Even if it is only the basics of tell hard
    wood from soft wood . There is no magic bullet
    to tell one tree from another unless you are schooled
    in knowing leaf and bark . Downed trees are particularly
    difficult Good Luck Just bring home good dry wood to burn
     
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  3. SeanBB

    SeanBB
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    Aug 15, 2016
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    The simplest way is to look at the leaves. If all the leaves are gone then look at the bark and try to find another similar one nearby, still growing, that has leaves. If it has needles instead of leaves it is almost certainly a softwood. Ash and oak leaves are easy to identify, Google is your friend.
     
  4. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck
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    Feb 26, 2009
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    I'd avoid only a few trees - Aspen is one that you don't want to gather too much of because it is light and burns up fast. Also avoid willow, but you probably won't find much willow except adjacent to water. Both Aspen and willow get rotten quickly when they fall, so I don't think you'll collect much of those anyway. You also don't want Tree of Heaven or Paulownia, but those are unlikely to occur in the woods. Both are very lightweight. They'll burn just fine, but require almost as much effort as better wood for fewer BTUs.

    Aside from that, I'd take what is available and easy to get, including pine. Pay attention for wood that is dead, elevated off the ground, solid, and seems dry. I'd create stacks that are the most dry and which you'll use first.

    To learn trees I'd buy a good field guide (try David Sibley's Tree Guide) and learn one at a time. Start with a tree in your yard or nearby woods. Take the time to be sure you have the ID right. Then find more of the same tree in the area, and you'll get good at identifying that tree. Then learn another. It seems like it will take forever, but it doesn't and you might actually enjoy it.
     
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  5. Woody5506

    Woody5506
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    Feb 14, 2017
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    I'm still new at it too but the more you gather and split the easier it becomes, and not to mention the plethora of info right on this message board. Post up some wood you want an ID for, I always like looking at those on here.

    I would say to avoid box elder if possible. It will burn, but if you get to have your pick at anything that's down then I'd skip right over box elder.
     
  6. gzecc

    gzecc
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    Unfortunately there is no magic bullet. It takes years of experience to become somewhat good at hardwoods in a forest. Leaves are your best friend.
    Get a book on leaf ID in the northeast. One benefit of doing what your doing is, like trees tend to grow together because of natural propagation.
    You could scout the area and send us some pics prior to cutting.
     
  7. jackatc1

    jackatc1
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    Pay attention to the sawdust, if it's dust forget it, look for solid chips.
    If there is no resistance and no chips move on.
     
  8. D8Chumley

    D8Chumley
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    Jun 25, 2013
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    If it's dust, sharpen your chain :)
    Seriously, these guys gave good advice. Take a pic and post it here, or start reading through the Wood ID posts so you have some idea what to look for. I've learned a few over the years, still a long way to go. I always read the wood ID posts and see if I guess right before I scroll down. Lots of knowledgeable guys here and someone will be able to ID that tree for ya. Good luck and be careful
     
  9. NateB

    NateB
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    Mar 5, 2013
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    One thing to note as you embark on your learning process, is the smell of the wood you are cutting. Many trees have their own unique smell.
     
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  10. HisTreeNut

    HisTreeNut
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    Don't buy into the Eastern Pineaphobia...pine is a great fire-starter & shoulder season wood. Just like any other wood, it needs to be properly seasoned before you burn it [under 20% moisture content]. Depending on your location & humidity, about 12 to 18 months usually.
    +1 om getting a field guide or looking at the leaves on the trees, and looking at the wood ID's in the forums.
    Good luck!
     
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  11. TreePointer

    TreePointer
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    Guides are just that--they guide you along the way; however, the best way to learn is to just get outside and ID them. There are a lot of arboretums in the Philly area.

    As mentioned, it's usually easiest to ID with leaves. When you look at leaves, always note the bark and twig characteristics and associate them with the leaves. That way, when the leaves are gone, you'll surprise yourself at how many species you can ID.

    Without leaves, look at bark, buds, and branch arrangement (opposite vs. alternate). When the bark isn't obvious, the buds often make it easy.

    No leaves? No problem. Get this helpful little guide: Winter Tree Finder
     
  12. DaveInPhilly

    DaveInPhilly
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    Jun 29, 2015
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    Thanks guys, I appreciate the insight. The permit is only good through the end of the month, so looking at leaves isn't going to help. I'll just look for a park I recognize and hope for the best.
     
  13. gzecc

    gzecc
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    Actually you can look at the leaves on the ground. There are usually some around.
     
  14. TheAardvark

    TheAardvark
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    Oct 26, 2015
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    When Im in SE PA the only thing Im looking for is the westbound lanes of the turnpike. :)
     
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  15. milothecat

    milothecat
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    Mar 21, 2017
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    I'm a longtime lurker here, this is my first post. Don't worry about hardwood or softwood. As long as it's dry and not punky or rotten, wood burns. I get a kick out of all you southerners worrying about cutting hardwood. In Canada where I am it is rare to see a hardwood tree . We see temps. that make your winters look tropical and still heat with softwood. I have a new 3600sq. ft. home and a 1200sq. ft. shop and it is all kept toasty warm with softwood in -35c temps. You may need a little more of it, and you may carry out a few more ashes. But as I said, wood burns. no matter what species. Burn what is at hand.
     
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  16. TreePointer

    TreePointer
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    Sep 22, 2010
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    If pine and lower BTU hardwoods (poplars, boxelder, etc.) are all that's easy to get in your area, there's nothing wrong with that.

    However, vast areas of Pennsylvania are blessed with an abundance of good hardwoods, so pine and lesser hardwoods usually are left to rot where they fall--well, at least around here they do.
     
  17. NateB

    NateB
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    Mar 5, 2013
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    Here in Pennsylvania I tell people I will burn pine, and many old guys say you can't burn pine. You will burn your house down. I asked how do people stay warm in areas without hard wood? They look at me like I am a crazy snot nose punk.
     

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