Is Ash a good firewood to burn on your woodburner?
You might burn a fair few logs in your wood burner or stove, but how much do you know about the trees they come from? In this post (which will hopefully turn into a short series), we aim to get you better acquainted with the humble ash tree.
The common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is found across Europe, from Turkey to the Arctic Circle. The third most common tree in the British Isles, ash trees can live to 400 years old - even older if coppiced - and reach a height of 35m.
How to identify an ash
The ash is a graceful tree, forming a domed canopy of pale green leaves that look similar to those of the rowan or the elder. The leaves can move in the direction of sunlight, and sometimes the whole canopy will lean towards the sun. Interestingly, ash leaves fall when they're still green.
The ash has small purple flowers that appear before the leaves in the spring, and fruit shaped into distinctive winged keys that fall in the winter and spring. In winter, the ash develops distinctive black buds. The bark is a beige grey colour and is often covered in moss or lichens.
Ash in mythology
The ash tree holds a great place in legend as well as nature. In Norse mythology, the mighty ash tree is the place of the Gods, and in Germanic legend, the first man is formed from an ash tree. Ash produces a sweet sap which the Greeks call 'meli' or honey, and it has a long-established reputation as a healing tree.
Qualities of ash wood
Ash is a pale blonde wood with a defined straight grain, making it aesthetically pleasing for furniture. In Ireland, it's used for making hurley sticks, and it's also good for hockey sticks, and oars, thanks to its shock absorbing qualities. It's extremely strong and durable, with a good strength to weight ratio.
Ash dieback - a fungal infestation - is a constant threat in many European countries. As Ash allows more light though its canopy than other species, the threat has further repercussions for floor-level forest fauna. So, like many things that are part of an ecological system, the threat of Ash dieback goes well beyond the Ash tree.
How good is Ash as firewood?
Ash is up there with the best of woods for your fire or wood burner as it's one of the densest of the hardwood logs. Ash even burns even when green (undried) as it has a naturally low moisture content. There is even an old English proverb that goes something along the lines of: "Seer or green, Ash is fit for a queen".
Probably one of the best woods for burning, it produces a steady flame and a good heat output - one kiln dried log can burn for around an hour, producing 4KW of heat. Ash is very dense, with its fibres packed close together, which means it burns for much longer periods than softwood; and indeed most other hardwoods. Ash has a very good energy density, providing 2926KWh per cubic metre when burned (at 20% moisture). Though it can be burned green, like all logs it produces the best heat output when kiln dried.