UNITED STATES—Fireplaces and wood stoves are not completely obsolete. They are merely less common than they were years ago. Modern building codes prohibit them within new construction. For some that incur damage from earthquakes, removal is more practical than repair. Not many people use fireplaces and wood stoves nowadays anyway. Nonetheless, a few do.

Sources of firewood have also changed. Displacement of orchards and forests by urban developments had been reliable sources. Such orchards are now gone. Forests are now farther away, and protected from harvest. Instead, most wood fuel is now obtainable from the tree service industry. Scrap from tree maintenance and removal converts to firewood.

Unlike uniform firewood from former orchards, scrap wood is variable. Orchards produce only one type of firewood from their unvaried trees. Firewood from forests involves only a few species that may remain separate for sale. Scrap wood can include any species that a particular tree service encounters. Except for larger volumes, separation is impractical.

Firewood evolves with society

The tree service industry provides less firewood than displaced orchards and forests did. However, nowadays, less firewood is necessary. There are many more homes here than years ago, but very few consume wood for heat. Residents who choose to burn firewood are now generally less selective. Yet, some might separate mixed firewoods accordingly.

Tree services prefer to leave firewood where it lands. They charge for removal of excess firewood. They typically cut logs to firewood lengths, but do not split them. Neighbors are therefore sometimes pleased to share wood from removed trees. Tree services sell wood that they must remove, after splitting and seasoning it. They typically charge for delivery.

Firewood for this winter must have seasoned by now. Most types should have sufficiently seasoned if cut and split before last spring. Fresh firewood can not season so late during increasingly cool and damp weather. Scrap from winter pruning can become firewood for next winter. Palms and other monocots do not produce actual wood that burns efficiently.

Highlight: Big Leaf Maple

Maple sugar production has not always been exclusive to northeastern North America. In fact, it is not exclusive to sugar maple. Big leaf maple, Acer macrophyllum, also provides maple sugar in British Columbia. It is native from the southern extremity of Alaska to San Diego County. Most of its range is generally coastal but also includes the Sierra Nevada.

Bigleaf maple is one of merely two native maples here. It is more common within riparian ecosystems and at higher elevations. However, it is rare among home gardens because it is so vigorous and grand. Its aggressive roots eventually buttress, and are likely to ruin lawns and pavement. Autumn defoliation of big trees releases big volumes of big leaves.

Bigleaf maple can grow almost fifty feet tall and wide within sunny suburban landscapes. It can grow a hundred feet taller where it competes for sunshine within coastal forests! Its palmately lobed leaves are typically wider than six inches. They can be twice as wide on vigorous stems. Foliage turns yellow for autumn. Seedlings might be annoyingly prolific. Local climate is unfortunately not conducive to practical sugar collection and refinement.

Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.