Wilting firewood is a term used by many people to describe the process of cutting down a live tree containing foliage and allowing the tree to lay on the ground for weeks or even months before removing the limbs and processing the wood.
So what's the purpose behind leaving the limbs and leaves in tact and not cutting them off immediately?
In theory, the leaves will continue to draw moisture from the tree after it has been cut, drying the wood faster than other conventional methods.
Once the leaves turn brown, you remove the limbs and cut up the rest of the tree.
Does it actually work?
In order to fully understand the process let's look at how a tree transports water and whether or not this is a viable option or just a myth.
Think of a tree as a bunch of tiny tubes wrapped in a layer of bark. These tiny tubes are made of wood fibers and their job is to transport water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves.
There are two types of water found within a tree. The water that flows throughout the tubes is called free water while the water contained inside the fibrous tubes themselves is known as bound water.
Free water evaporates much easier than bound water because free water is not held chemically within the fibers, unlike bound water that's held by hydrogen bonding.
The theory behind wilting firewood is that the leaves will draw out a majority of the free water from the tree after it has been cut down.
Since the bound water is much harder to remove it will still remain in the tree, however, the absence of free water will reduce the overall moisture content in the wood......thus making the wilting process a success.
There are many different opinions and schools of thought regarding this process. Although just about everyone (including myself) agrees that wilting does work to some extent, the question is how much moisture is actually removed from the inner heartwood of the trunk as opposed to just the sapwood or the branches?
Unfortunately there are no studies (that I'm aware of) that show exactly how well the process works. Plus, with multiple variables it would be hard to come up with a conclusive answer.
There is one thing that we do know for sure. There is no substitute for time, wind and the sun when it comes to drying firewood, especially when it's accompanied with proper storage.
Planning ahead and allowing sufficient time is always the best way. However, if you find yourself running short on time or you're "behind the eight ball" with your firewood processing, I belive wilting firewood does help to some extent.
I've done it several times and I think it does make a difference. However, just don't expect the wood to be stove ready after it's been lying on the ground for a month or two.