Ponderosa Pine: Your Vanilla-Scented Fuel

Ponderosa Pine

Don’t you just love the sweet smell of a freshly-baked vanilla cake in your home? What if we told you that there’s firewood that will make your home smell like vanilla as it burns?

Ponderosa pine wood can definitely fill your home with a rich, vanilla scent. In this article, we’ll learn more about ponderosa pine firewood, its fire-burning properties and how you can maximize its use in your homes. 

Is ponderosa pine a good firewood?

Is ponderosa pine a good firewood
Image: Montana Public Radio

Ponderosa pine makes excellent firewood for fireplaces and campfires. It gives off long-lasting heat of 17.1 million BTUs per cord while filling the room with its distinct sweet vanilla-butterscotch scent.

Ponderosa pine is a great wood for a fireplace, especially when you want to heat the room quickly. Thanks to its high sap content, this wood catches fire very fast. 

This heat-resistant firewood produces good-quality coals and will not burn out as quickly as poplar or fir wood. 

Add hardwoods on top of ponderosa pine to extend its burn time to enjoy a long, hot flame overnight.

Ponderosa pine is also a great choice for sustainable and environmentally friendly firewood. Besides burning clean with little smoke emission, this firewood is renewable since it grows quickly and does not contribute to deforestation. 

Below is a summary of ponderosa pine firewood’s physical and fire characteristics.

Tree NamePonderosa Pine
Scientific NamePinus ponderosa
Common Names• Western Yellow Pine
• Yellow Pine
• Bull Pine
• Blackjack Pine
• Filipinus Pine
FamilyPinaceae
Height 60 to 200 feet
Life Span150 to 500 years
Type of WoodSoftwood
Dry Weight (lbs per cord)2,475
Green Weight (lbs per cord)3,825
Densitykg/m³
Seasoning Time6 to 12 months
Heat Content (million BTUs per cord)17.1
Sap ContentHigh
Splitting DifficultyEasy to Split
SmokeModerate
SmellVanilla or Butterscotch
Coal ProductionGood Quality
Creosote Build-upHigh

Fire Characteristics of Ponderosa Pine Wood

Fire Characteristics of Ponderosa Pine Wood
Image: Wikipedia

Ponderosa pine firewood is easy to split, burns moderately hot, and produces good-quality coals with a pleasant vanilla scent. However, it has high sap and moderate moisture content, causing high creosote and moderate smoke output. 

Let’s see how these characteristics affect burning ponderosa pine wood.

1. Easy to Split

Easy to Split
Image: Firewood for Life

Ponderosa pine is an easy-to-split firewood, but it’s best to split after being seasoned when it has less sap content. We recommend wearing protective gear to shield you from sap from the messy splitting. 

This type of wood also tends to develop several knots, so you can use a hydraulic splitter to process the ponderosa pine wood quickly.

2. High Sap Content

High Sap Content
Image: Oregon Live

Like most pine trees, the ponderosa pine produces a lot of sap and is one of the most resinous pine firewoods. Fortunately, its high sap and resin content makes ponderosa pine firewood burn more aggressively than others.

3. Vanilla Scent

Vanilla Scent
Image: NPR

When burned, Ponderosa pine firewood emits a vanilla or butterscotch-like scent, which is by far its best fire characteristic. With ponderosa pine, you’ll enjoy the sweet smell as if freshly-baked goods in your oven. 

4. Moderate Moisture Level

Moderate Moisture Level
Image: Wikipedia

Ponderosa pine wood has a moderately high moisture content than other pine varieties. Still, its moisture content is not as high as white pine wood. 

This means that ponderosa pine wood will not take too long to season. In fact, it only needs 6 to 12 months of seasoning time despite having a moderate moisture level.

5. Moderate Heat Output 

Moderate Heat Output 
Image: Woodsy Acres

Ponderosa pine firewood provides a decent heat of 17.1 million BTUs per cord. This is a relatively high heat output for a pine tree and softwood.

6. High Creosote Build-Up

High Creosote Build-Up
Image: Woodsy Acres

Because of its high sap and resin content, ponderosa pine firewood produce many creosote, a typical fire characteristic for pine firewoods. 

A workaround is to burn ponderosa pine as a shouldering wood during warm weather. This way, there will be less time for the wood to burn, leading to less creosote to produce over the short burning time. 

7. Moderate Amount of Smoke

Moderate Amount of Smoke
Image: The Survivalist Blog

Ponderosa pine produces moderate smoke output. On the brighter side, compared to other pine or poplar woods, it will not produce as much smoke as them. 

To make sure to get the least amount of smoke, make sure to complete the 12-month seasoning time of the ponderosa pine firewood.

8. Good Quality Coal Production

Good Quality Coal Production
Image: Energypedia

One of ponderosa pine’s great fire properties is its ability to produce good-quality coals. 

Although it burns out quicker than hardwoods, ponderosa pine produces the best resinous coals from pine varieties. As a result, these ponderosa pine coals help build a slow-burning fire. 

Strengths and Weaknesses of Ponderosa Pine Firewood

Strengths and Weaknesses of Ponderosa Pine Firewood
Image: The Sacramento Tree Foundation
StrengthsWeaknesses
Moderate heat outputModerate smoke
Heat resistantHigh sap and resin content
Vanilla scentProduces cracks and sparks
Good quality coals

Ponderosa pine firewood burns moderately hot with a 17.1 heat output and produces good quality coals for a long-lasting flame. It will fill your home with its distinct pleasant vanilla scent as it burns.

This type of wood is heat resistant, so it will not burn out as fast as other pine varieties. It’s also rot-resistant, so that’s one less maintenance problem during its seasoning time. 

Unfortunately, its high sap content causes moderate smoke and high creosote output. 

It also tends to pop and crack a lot when burned. So, then burning this wood inside your home, it’s safer if the fireplace is covered with a screen or door to prevent unwanted fires.

How does ponderosa pine compare with other firewood?

How does ponderosa pine compare with other firewood
Image: Gardenia

Ponderosa pine firewood performs very well compared to other pine varieties because it produces a moderate heat output and a distinct vanilla scent.

This firewood also produces good quality coals that help extend its burning time – a fire-burning characteristic that most softwoods like cedar struggle to do.

However, ponderosa pine is still a softwood, so it’s still not a preferred overnight heating choice compared to hardwoods. 

In terms of heat output, check out the table below to see how ponderosa pine compares with other types of wood.

FirewoodHeat Output (million BTUs per cord)
Gambel Oak30.7
Beech27.5
Honeylocust26.7
Maple25.5
White Ash24.2
Lodgepole Pine 21.1
Ponderosa Pine17.1
White Pine15.9
Basswood13.8
Eastern Red Cedar13.0

How long should you season ponderosa pine wood?

How long should you season ponderosa pine wood
Image: Wikipedia

You should season your ponderosa pine wood for 6 to 12 months. This is a relatively fast seasoning time despite ponderosa pine having moderate moisture levels and high sap and resin content. 

Ponderosa pine wood is also rot-resistant, unlike lodgepole or white pine, which means you can leave it outside your storage space for longer.

FAQs on Ponderosa Pine Firewood

What makes better firewood, ponderosa pine or douglas firewood?


Douglas fir firewood makes better firewood than ponderosa pine because of its medium heat output and low ash and creosote output.

Where does ponderosa pine grow?


Ponderosa pine is widely distributed in North America’s western, mountainous regions.

How do you make ponderosa pine wood burn longer?


You can place hardwood on top of ponderosa pine wood to keep the fire burning longer.

Where is the largest ponderosa pine forest?


The largest ponderosa pine forest is located in the Coconino National Forest in Arizona.

What does ponderosa pine wood look like?


Ponderosa pine wood ranges from cream and yellow to pale reddish brown, with straight grains and a non-porous fine texture.

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