Many different types of wood species are utilized as firewood. Some species produce a hot, long-lasting fire while others may burn hot and fast. Some species just don't burn well at all. Knowing the difference between types of wood and choosing those that produce the best heat will have a significant economic impact if you plan to heat your home with wood.
Know your local trees. Black maple and sugar maple are the best of the maples used for firewood. Other tree species used for firewood include pine, ash, hickory, birch, box elder and cedar.
Smell the scent of the wood. Many trees are readily identified by their scent. Yellow and black birch present a distinct "wintergreen" odor. Apple and cherry both evidence the respective scent of the fruit they bear. Pine wood also has a marked odor and makes excellent firewood as it burns clean, with little ash.
Consider the difficulty of processing various different species of firewood. Ash is considered by many to be the easiest wood to cut and split. Maple and pine are fairly straight grained and split easily. Elm, hickory and oak sometimes are "stringy" and very difficult to split.
Examine the bark of trees. Many types of trees used for firewood are easily identified by the color and texture of the tree's bark. Beech bark is unique from many trees as the bark resembles the skin of an elephant: gray-colored, tough and smooth. Ash is also easy to recognize as the bark is deeply furrowed and forms distinctive diamond shapes on the trunk.