What species of tree is the best for firewood?
"... Ashwood wet and Ashwood dry A King may warm his slippers by." is the last line from The Firewood Poem by Celia Congreve. It describes the fact that Ash firewood while better when seasoned, still performs well when not cured as long. Ash is known for steady brilliant dancing flames, picturesque and according to Celia Congreve, fit for a King.
But what about other species of trees?
Generally, hardwoods make better firewood. Species like Black Locust, Osage Orange, Red Oak, and Shagbark Hickory put off lots of heat. These woods are dense and logs last relatively long in the fire. Sycamore, Cottonwood, and Poplar are less desirable as they do not put off as much heat and create more ash and soot. Softwoods like pine and spruce can burn hotter, but don't last like hardwood and tend to put off more sparks. And what about Ash? While the flames are brilliant, its heating value is average.
But what is the best firewood?
To answer that, we have to consider the effects. Locust may be prized for its heating capability, but often the best firewood is that which has the least effect on the surrounding environment. Consider using dead or damaged trees, rather than healthy live trees, even if the healthy tree is a species with more desirable characteristics. Storm damaged trees are often good targets for firewood.
When harvesting and collecting firewood, leaving piles of smaller limbs can provide habitat for small game animals. Stumps and partially decayed logs can provide encourage wild insect and bee populations.