When looking for firewood, it’s important to consider different factors such as burn time, how easy it is to split and season, and the heat output of the wood.
Sycamore is a wood widely available throughout the U.S., which is a strong reason to consider using it as a firewood. But whether or not it’s any good, is another matter.
So, is sycamore good firewood? In this guide, we’ll consider:
- What sycamore is
- The burn qualities of sycamore
- The pros and cons of sycamore
- Whether or not sycamore is good to use as a firewood
Let’s get started!
Sycamore Firewood Facts
BTU: 19.1 Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Weight: 5096lbs./ Cord (Green)
Seasoning Time: 12-24 months
Resin / Sap Content: Low
Splitting Difficulty: Difficult
Overall Quality: Fair
What is Sycamore?
Sycamore is a common hardwood that can be found throughout the United States.
Identifiable by its tall height, flakey gray bark, large leaves, pale wood, and distinctive wavy grain pattern, the tree is easy to find.
Sycamore is often used for building furniture or music instruments. It also happens to be an affordable firewood.
Although it is a hardwood, sycamore has a low density and a high water content. Their large size means that just by chopping one down, you’ll have a lot of wood that could be used for campfires!
The common types and species of sycamore trees used for firewood are:
- American sycamore tree (platanus occidentalis)
- Mexican sycamore tree (platanus mexicana)
- California sycamore tree (platanus racemosa)
Where To Find Sycamore Firewood
Sycamore trees are incredibly common all over North America. They live in a diverse range of places, from Southern Ontario to Florida and Mexico.
American sycamore trees can particularly be found in the lower midwest and southeast of the United States, while Mexican and California sycamores can be found in warmer climates.
Sycamores particularly like rich soils, and often are found by lakes, rivers, and in fields.
The Burn Qualities of Sycamore Firewood
While woods like cherry or cedar are known and often chosen for their distinctive pleasant aromas, sycamore smells like a standard campfire when burnt — earthy, smokey, and slightly nutty.
It’s certainly not unpleasant, but at the same time it’s nothing to write home about.
Sap and Creosote
Like most hardwood species, sycamores don’t produce a lot of sap.
This is a great characteristic for firewood, as less sap means less creosote is produced when burnt.
Creosote is a carcinogenic black tar that collects when fire is burnt in fireplaces. In small amounts, creosote is not a big concern, but it’s important to keep creosote build up at a minimum.
Using firewood that produces less creosote means that you won’t have to clean your chimney as often than if you used a sappier wood.
Cut and Split Difficulty
Due to its high water content and interlocking grain, sycamore can be tough, stringy, and full of twisted and knotty fibers– making it hard to cut and split with an ax.
Most people use hydraulic splitters or chainsaws to split sycamore wood.
Its water content also means that the unseasoned wood can be very heavy, which is important to consider if you’re transporting the wood.
How long to season sycamore firewood? Compared to other types of firewood, sycamore takes longer to season due to its high water content.
Seasoning wood is important, as it removes moisture and thus allows for cleaner fires and easy lighting.
When it comes to using sycamore for firewood, it’s important that you season it for at least 12-24 months.
People are known to burn sycamore after just 6-12 months of seasoning, but less is by no means more when it comes to wood seasoning.
To get the best burn, the longer you season the wood, the better.
After a solid two years of seasoning, your sycamore firewood will be in perfect shape for burning.
Due to it being a low density wood, sycamore is easy to light and burns quickly, meaning that you will need more wood if you plan to have a longer fire.
Sycamore is therefore a great option if you’re trying to start a fire quickly. However, if you’re looking to make it burn a bit longer, it may be a good idea to try another wood in combination with the sycamore.
You could begin your campfire with sycamore tinder and kindling to get it going. Once you have your campfire lit and roaring, to may be best to use alternative firewood such as hickory or oak to fuel the fire for hours to come.
Heat Output and Efficiency
Sycamore has a low heat output of 19.1 million British thermal units (BTUs) per cord of seasoned wood.
Its heat output makes it not particularly ideal for cold areas, but if your winters are on the milder side it could be a good option.
Sycamore produces a moderate amount of smoke.
While it is not particularly smokey, if you have asthma or sensitivity to smoke you should try other woods such as ash or oaks instead which will produce significantly less.
Pops and sparks in campfires should be kept to a minimum, as they can be fire hazards.
Because of the low amounts of sap in sycamore, the wood has minimal sparking, making it a good firewood in this regard.
Pros and Cons of Using Sycamore as Firewood
- Easy and fast to light
- Minimal sparks
- Doesn’t produce much sap or creosote
- Difficult to split
- Takes relatively longer to season
- Low heat output
- Burns quickly
Tips for Seasoning Sycamore Firewood
- Leave the wood in a sunny space in order for it to dry faster
- When seasoning, stack your wood in neat rows and leave gaps between the wood to ensure that it has plenty of airflow in order for it to dry properly
- Elevating your wood on some pellets or planks will also help to increase airflow
- Cover the top of the sycamore to protect it from rain, but leave the sides exposed to encourage airflow and prevent mold growth. I recommend using some tarp for this
- The wood should have a moisture content of below 20% before burning. This can be checked using a moisture meter.
The Verdict: Is Sycamore Good Firewood?
If you have easy access to sycamore, there’s nothing wrong with using it for firewood– especially if you’re looking for a short burn.
However, while sycamore works fine as a firewood, it isn’t ideal for burning for heat when compared to other woods such as hickory or oak.
If you want to keep your camp as warm as possible, sycamore might not be for you!
Because it’s difficult to split by hand and takes so long to properly season, I wouldn’t recommend using sycamore as a firewood if you have access to other, more efficient types of firewood like cherry, maple, black locust, or hickory.
Another option is to burn sycamore with these other types of firewood. This would allow you to take advantage of the wood’s easy burning qualities, while also improving the burn qualities of sycamore alone.
Scyamore Wood FAQ’s
Is sycamore wood toxic?
Sycamore wood is generally considered non-toxic. Sycamore wood is not known to contain any toxic substances, and is considered safe for use in contact with food or other sensitive materials. However, as with any type of wood, it is important to take appropriate safety precautions when working with sycamore, such as wearing a dust mask to avoid inhaling sawdust.
Is sycamore wood food safe?
Sycamore wood is generally considered safe for use in contact with food. It is a hardwood that is commonly used in cutting boards, utensils, and other food-related items. Sycamore wood is not known to contain any toxic substances, and is therefore considered to be food safe. However, it is important to note that proper care and maintenance of sycamore wood products is necessary to ensure their continued safety for food use. This may include regular cleaning and oiling to prevent bacterial growth and maintain the integrity of the wood.
How long does sycamore firewood typically last in a fire?
The length of time that sycamore firewood will last in a fire can vary depending on several factors, including the moisture content of the wood, the size and density of the pieces, and the conditions of the fire. Generally, well-seasoned sycamore firewood can burn for a moderate amount of time and produce a good amount of heat, making it a suitable choice for firewood. However, the exact duration of the burn time will depend on the specific circumstances of the fire, and it may be shorter or longer than other types of firewood depending on these factors.
Firewood Facts – Your Guide To Campfire Fuel
There are many types of firewood you could use for your campfire. All of them offer different characteristics which make for better or worse campfires – depending on what you’re looking for.
Discover, below, the key differences between some popular firewood’s to help you determine which wood would be best for your next campfire.