The Bradford pear tree is a bizarre invader from overseas. It is a pear tree that bears no pears. It has Bradford in the name but does not actually originate from Bradford. What other secrets does the tree hide?
In all seriousness though, in this article, I’m going to tell you everything I know about the Bradford pear tree, and mainly what is it good for. Can you use it as firewood? Can you use it for cooking or smoking meat? Read on to find out.
Bradford Pear tree firewood
Let’s get right to it and answer the question in the title of this article. Is Bradford pear good firewood? Yes. But it is not the best.
When assessing the quality of different firewood, it is important to consider several factors.
- What is the heat output?
- How clear does the wood burn?
- How easy it is to process the wood (split and season)?
I’m going to answer all of these questions and then give you the final conclusion about how good the Bradford pear wood actually is.
Bradford pear firewood heat output
In terms of heat output, Bradford pear trees perform reasonably well.
Heat output is measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs. This figure shows how much energy you’re going to get after burning a certain amount of fuel.
For firewood, energy content is measured in BTUs per cord of wood.
A cord of Bradford pear firewood produces around 26.5 million BTUs. That’s pretty high. For comparison, white oak, which is considered by most to be the best kind of firewood, gives off about 27.9 million BTUs per cord.
So as you can see, Bradford pear is not that far below in this respect. However, the properties of flame are also important. The Bradford pear burns hot and fast, which is actually not ideal.
It means that the wood will be burning out pretty fast, and you’ll have to make extra trips to replenish your firewood supplies. Besides, you better not leave the burning Bradford pear unattended, because with high temperatures things might get out of control pretty fast.
So it’s better to pick some other hardwoods like oak or hickory, which burn long and steadily.
Splitting and seasoning
It is essential to split and season the wood well before you put it in your fireplace or wood stove. Seasoning reduces the moisture content in the wood and as you might have guessed dry firewood burns better.
Burning green wood does not give off much heat since pretty much all energy is wasted on boiling in the water inside the wood. So what you’re going to get in the end is a lot of vapor and hardly any flames.
So you have to make sure that your Bradford pear wood is dry before you use it. However, you cannot just the tree down and leave it be. Logs can lay in the open air for years without ever really drying up. Actually, a whole log is more likely to rot than to season properly. That’s why you always have to split your firewood and put it into neat stacks for seasoning.
Splitting Bradford pear
Unfortunately, Bradford pear is quite a difficult wood to split.
First, it’s a deciduous tree and like most deciduous trees it’s got a pretty dense wood. It is not as dense as other hardwoods, like oak, for example, but it’ll still make you sweat a little.
Second, Bradford pear trees have very unusual trunk structures. Basically, all the branches shoot out of the same spot.
It means that the trunks can get very thick in that place and the grain is always very knotted there.
So splitting Bradford pear by hand will take quite a lot of time.
The good news is that the seasoning of Bradford pears does not require nearly as much effort. If you don’t have much experience seasoning firewood, I can still give you a couple of tips to get you started.
Pick a dry and windy spot. A humid environment is great for various fungi and bacteria, which can cause your firewood to rot.
Leave some gaps between the rows of firewood. This will generate additional airflow and help the wood to dry faster. The gaps should be about 2-3 inches wide.
Cover the stacks with something, or build them under some shed in the first place. While you want your firewood to be exposed, too much exposure is also a bad thing. A tarpauline or shed roof will protect the wood from rain and snow.
The seasoning time varies greatly depending on the local climate and the wood condition.
For example, if you decide to cut down and split a living Bradford pear tree, it will take up to 18 months for it to season properly.
If, on the other hand, you harvested a dead pear tree, it will be ready to go after just a couple of months of seasoning, since its moisture content is very low to begin with.
How does it burn?
If your Bradford pear firewood has been seasoned correctly, you can use it for pretty much anything.
As I said, the Bradford pear firewood burns hot, it burns clean, and it burns relatively fast. After the pear firewood burns out, you are left with a considerable amount of coals. You can later use them for barbecuing or smoking meats.
Keep in mind, though, that the coaling properties of the Bradford pear are not ideal. There are wood types (hackberry trees, for example) that produce a lot more high-quality coals, which will stay hot for longer.
Some people claim that using Bradford pear for cooking will give your food a bitter taste. That is not true. This rumor, probably, originates from the fact that Bradford pear flowers have a very rank smell, similar to the smell of urine or rotten fish. The pear firewood itself however does not have any smell at all.
Finally, Bradford pear firewood is a good indoor firewood. It does not pop or spark, and, what is even more important, it has a comparatively low creosote content.
Creosote is a toxic oily compound that is released into the air when you burn firewood. Most of the stuff rises with the smoke and leaves your house for good. However, some amount of creosote condenses on the walls of your chimney. That’s one of the reasons you have to clean your chimney on a regular basis.
General information about the Bradford pear
Using Bradford pear as firewood is actually a very good idea but not because it is better than other firewood types. The thing is that it is not native to North America and is considered an invasive species.
Bradford pear is a cultivation of the Callery pear tree. They both originate from China and Vietnam and were brought to America for ornamental purposes.
Bradford pear trees cause all sorts of troubles for both the ecosystem, as well as humans.
The Bradford pears tend to grow very big very fast. They quickly overwhelm the local flora and become the dominant species in an area. It offsets the natural balance in an ecosystem and reduces the biodiversity.
It means that Bradford pears can conquer your entire town within a couple of decades. And believe me, you don’t want that to happen.
As I mentioned, Bradford pear flowers have a very distinct and terrible smell. Some people say it smells like urine, others claim that it reminds them of rotting fish.
Surprisingly, that’s not the worst part of having a Bradford pear in the neighborhood.
All Bradford pear trees have a self-destruction feature installed. The thing is that all the branches forming its great canopy grow out of the same spot. Because of that, large branches often split off of the main trunk and end up on the street.
Just like many other hardwoods, Bradford pear trees are very good for firewood. Bradford pear firewood produces a lot of heat per cord and burns very cleanly. You can also use it for cooking since it does not have a smell of its own.
All in all, I advise you to do your neighborhood a favor and cut down that tree. The fact that it’s good firewood is just a nice bonus.
What is pear tree wood good for?
Once the pear tree is cut down, it is good for a lot of things. It makes good firewood that burns very hot and very clean. It does not spark, pop, or clog your chimney. It also seasons very well.
In contrast to its flowerage, the Bradford pear firewood has no fragrance, so it can be used for smoking meat and cooking.
Is Bradford pear good for smoking?
Yes. Contrary to popular misconception, using Bradford pear firewood for smoking will not make the meat bitter or smelly. Combine it with other firewood for the best result. Fruit trees like cherry are usually the optimal choice.
Why are Bradford pear trees a menace?
Bradford pear is a dangerous invasive species that overwhelms American flora, stinks up our neighborhoods, and blocks our roads. It is basically only good for firewood.
Is pear tree wood good to cook with?
Yes. You can use Bradford pear firewood for cooking. The tree is not toxic and its smoke does not smell like anything.