Madrone Firewood

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Madrone firewood, also known as Pacific Madrone or Madrona along the West Coast of the United States, or simply referred to as Arbutus in British Columbia, is an excellent firewood choice.

The dense wood with its unique smooth bark makes madrone one of the best firewood types available.

The only real downfall to the wood is its limited range of growth.

Unless you live along the California or Oregon Coast Range, Puget Sound, or Vancouver Island, you've probably never been lucky enough to experience its great firewood qualities.

To lean more, let's take a closer look at the tree and its ability to produce such great firewood.

The Madrone Tree

The Pacific madrona, or the madrone tree, is a broad-leaved evergreen tree that grows to a height of around 35-80 feet tall and can live for up to 200 years.

The tree flowers in the spring and produces strawberry red berries in the autumn which has helped nickname the tree the "strawberry tree."  

These berries were once consumed by Native Americans and are a valuable food source for birds and larger animals such as deer, raccoons and even bears.

Madrone Tree

The madrone has thick green waxy leaves and a very unique bark.  

As the tree matures, the orange and reddish colored bark begins to peel away in paper thin sheets leaving behind a smooth, green and silver appearance.

This unique, smooth wood that's now exposed often feels cool to the touch.

Like many kinds of hardwoods, madrone will sprout back quickly from its stump after it has been cut.

Because of this, madrone trees are seen as some of the most renewable species around - this makes them incredibly valuable as firewood.

Although the tree can produce beautiful wood for flooring and veneers, the durable wood warps easily during the drying process.  

This unpredictable warping makes large pieces of madrone difficult to work with.

The burls of this tree are often desired, as they are beautiful and prized for their use in decorations.

However, when it comes to firewood, you won’t find a better species than madrone.

If you're lucky enough to live in Oregon, California, Washington, or British Columbia, you should absolutely give madrone a try.

It has an excellent aroma and flavor, making it perfect not only as a firewood but also for grilling, cooking, and smoking food.

Cutting, Splitting, and Seasoning Madrone Firewood

Cutting and splitting madrone is easiest when the wood is still green and wet. 

As the wood dries it becomes much harder resulting in dulled chainsaw chains and a lot more work with a maul or splitting axe. 

To make splitting the wood easier, split it within the first couple of weeks while the wood is still wet.

Although it may be heavier to work with, it will ultimately be easier work.

After the wood has been split, stack the wood on an elevated surface such as 2x4 runners or pallets for about a year. 

Madrone dries pretty quick and 1 year of seasoning time is usually enough to effectively season the firewood depending on the climate.

Some people argue that madrone is not the easiest to cut and split, since it can be knotty.

If you’re planning on purchasing madrone from someone else to use for firewood, it’s also important to note that this type of firewood can be a bit costly.

However, it’s worth it when you consider how excellent it is to burn - something we will address in the next section.

Whatever you do, make sure you take the time to fully split and season your firewood.

Many people report that madrone is difficult to dry if it has not been split - it is more difficult for air to get into all of its nooks and crannies.

Let the wood dry (preferably under cover, as in some parts of the United States beetles will tunnel through if left exposed).

Burning Madrone Firewood

Madrone firewood is a dense hardwood that burns hot, creates a great coal bed for overnight burns, and has a user friendly bark that won't make a mess on your living room floor.

Madrone is typically the most desired firewood in the area where it grows making it more popular than other hardwoods such as oak or maple.

It doesn’t crackle, spit, or pop nearly as much as other kinds of firewood, either, meaning you can use it both for indoor and outdoor burning.

It has a lovely aroma that you'll enjoy as your fire burns all night long.

One of our visitors had this to say about burning Madrone.....

Once it has turned "silver" there is no better firewood than Oregon Madrone. It is very hard and dense and it burns very hot when properly dried.

I can load 3 pieces of aged Madrone into my wood store and it will hold the fire overnight. It keeps me warm all winter!

- Judy from Oregon

The wood produces very little ash when compared to oak firewood and with a BTU rating of around 30 million BTUs per cord, it ranks higher than a lot of other hardwoods.

It can be tough to get madrone firewood started, since it is so hard and dense (it’s the hardest kind of firewood species on the West Coast, in fact!).

However, once you get it burning, you’re going to find that it burns just like coal and will last for an incredibly long time

For best results, consider starting your fire with a soft wood and then adding madrone.

It will last all night long if your woodstove is well-stocked!

This reason - along with the many others mentioned above - is why madrone firewood should be at the top of your list when you’re looking for firewood.


About the Author

Nick Greenway

Obsessed with firewood, Nick is behind over 350+ of Firewood For Life's articles, as well as countless reviews, guides and YouTube videos to help readers like you reduce heating costs and create the perfect fire.