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Can You Burn Poplar Wood?

Samantha Volz

When preparing a fire for cooking, heating your home or simply enjoying on a cool night, remember that not all wood is built the same. Some woods generate more heat and burn longer than others. You can burn nearly any type of wood, but poplar is not popular; it's not chosen often for burning.

Poplar Characteristics

Poplars are easy to split but don't burn well.

Poplar is the most common wood used for matchsticks thanks to its burning characteristics. Poplar catches easily and burns very quickly. It also does not put off as much heat as other types of wood, so a fire composed solely of poplar wood will burn out in a matter of minutes and will not have the ability to heat any area at all. An old wives tale jokes that burning poplar to heat a home often led to pregnancy, indicating that those in the home had to find other ways to stay warm.

Poplar Advantages

While you don't want to burn poplar alone in your fireplace, it offers some distinct advantages. Poplar is an extremely soft wood, which is one of the reasons it burns so quickly. However, this means that it is easy to split, so if you need to harvest your own firewood, this is one of the easiest to collect and cut. Remember, however, that the sheer amount of poplar wood you need to produce the same type of fire as those of a stronger lumber may outweigh the ease with which you can collect it. You need a lot more poplar to feed a fire for an hour than you do the harder wood choices.

Burning Poplar

Poplar isn't completely useless when it comes to a fireplace or campfire. Use poplar as kindling to get things started as an added boost to your starting capability. Most people start their fires using paper or lint. Stack a few pieces of poplar over these starting materials so that the wood catches quickly. Even though it will burn out relatively fast, the poplar will hold the flame longer than the lint or paper, and give you time to stack healthier wood on top to build up the flames and the heat.

Other Firewood Choices

Hardwoods make the ideal choice for firewood. Ash, elm, oak and maple are some of the strongest woods for burning, with long-lasting burns that give off a lot of heat. For an added bonus, fruit tree firewood, such as cherry, apple and pear, give off the distinctive sweet smell of their fruits while they burn, and all of those burn slowly and put off a lot of heat. Pine is one of the most common trees and it burns well, but don't use pine if you intend to sit near or lean over the fire, as the sap makes it crackle and spit a lot.