Buckthorn is an invasive species in North America. It was introduced in the early 1800s as a hedge plant and ornamental shrub and has become widespread across the Northeast and from Michigan to Minnesota.
Buckthorn is now a common plant of many Midwest states, and along the East Coast, with small numbers found in California.
This small deciduous tree is commonly found in moist areas that provide partial shade and disturbed soil. This includes stream banks, riverbanks, forest edges, and roadsides. As intriguing as this tree is, how about the wood?
Is buckthorn wood good for anything?
Buckthorn wood is common in carpentry, furniture making, and even bow making. People used tannin from the wood to tan leather. Additionally, others used the wood to make fence posts and canes for walking.
It is popular among woodworkers since it stains well, has a fine texture, and is considered stable. These are some of the features that make it stand out. How about I tell you some more fascinating facts about buckthorn wood?
Is Buckthorn Softwood or Hardwood?
Buckthorn belongs to the hardwood category. Buckthorn is a shrub that grows in the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9.
Based on the texture of its wood, people group buckthorn as softwood. In reality, the more accurate classification for buckthorn wood is hardwood.
Buckthorn wood density is about 700 kilograms per cubic meter. Compared to other hardwoods, buckthorn wood is among the higher-density woods.
What Grain and Color is Buckthorn Wood?
Buckthorn wood tends to be yellowish-brown to medium brown. It has beautiful dark streaks and red highlights.
This wood has a tight grain that expresses how strong it is. However, it displays a fine, even texture and smooth finish.
The heartwood of buckthorn is pinkish-red to reddish-brown, while the sapwood is whitish. Buckthorn wood has a medium natural luster.
Overall, buckthorn wood displays a fine even texture with a smooth finish. The bark tends to be grayish-brown. There are prominent pores that are dark and eye-shaped. These pores become rough as the tree ages.
How Does Buckthorn Wood Dry?
Buckthorn wood is a complicated wood to dry. I would not recommend it for beginners. More so if you are in a hurry to use it.
Your buckthorn wood must be dry before using it in any project. You can accomplish this by using two different methods.
You can kiln dry the wood or air dry the wood. Kiln drying will ensure that the wood is completely dry, but this method can be costly if you don’t own a kiln.
Air drying can take up to two years to complete, but it requires minimal effort on your part. To begin air drying your wood, cut the buckthorn wood into pieces about three feet long. Make sure there are no knots in the wood before you start cutting.
After cutting the pieces of buckthorn wood, place them where they will receive plenty of indirect sunlight. This location should also have good ventilation so that moisture is not left in the wood during the drying process.
Can You Burn Buckthorn Wood?
You can burn buckthorn wood. Although it has a low BTU value, it makes okay firewood. Pieces cut into six inches, however, make excellent firewood.
I’d not recommend that you burn buckthorn in a traditional coal-burning stove. Buckthorn will give off a lot of smoke when burned and will leave a sooty residue on your chimney walls. This soot is difficult to clean up.
If you have an old coal stove, you’ll be better off burning another kind of wood to minimize the soot on your chimney walls.
Can You Smoke with Buckthorn Wood?
The wood does make excellent charcoal for grilling meats or smoking fish. It burns hot and slow with little smoke or ash residue.
The wood has a cherry flavor. Buckthorn’s low cost and ease of use make it a favorite among many grill masters.
How Workable is Buckthorn Wood?
Buckthorn wood is a popular material for woodworkers because it stains well. It has a fine texture and is strong, stable, and durable. The wood is also easy to work with, taking polish well and requiring little or no finishing.
Buckthorn is good for making quaint pieces of furniture, posts, and wood carvings. The wood is also popular with craftsmen who create walking sticks, wooden bowls, and musical instruments such as guitars and lutes.
Because it has an interlocking grain pattern that resists splitting, woodworkers commonly use this wood for carving wooden spoons and other utensils. Carvings made from buckthorn can be polished or stained to enhance their natural beauty.
The wood can be stained or painted to achieve different effects, but it is not naturally resistant to decay. Buckthorn wood is suitable for residential and commercial uses.
How Dense is Buckthorn Wood?
Buckthorn wood density is about 700 kilograms per cubic meter. The density changes with the age of the plant and its growing conditions.
Wood from older buckthorn trees is typically a little denser than younger trees.
Is Buckthorn Wood Allergenic or Toxic?
Buckthorn berries are toxic to humans, causing stomach upset and diarrhea when ingested. The bark and leaves of the buckthorn tree may also cause irritation if touched.
Like poison ivy, buckthorn sap is an allergen that can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.
Is Buckthorn Wood Sustainable?
Buckthorn wood is not on the CITES appendices or IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. That means that this tree isn’t an endangered species.
However, Buckthorn causes significant environmental problems. For example, buckthorn forms dense thickets that out-compete native vegetation for light, water, and soil nutrients.
The tree makes vegetation unsuitable for most wildlife. Buckthorn thickets also act as fire fuel, increasing the risk of wildfires.
Does Buckthorn Wood Have a Smell?
Buckthorn wood is one of those woods that has a very faint scent when you work it. I can’t say exactly what the smell is like. It’s not like any other smell I’ve encountered.
I thought it was musty at first, but that’s not quite right, and it’s too strong a word anyway. It’s sort of like the smell of an old, damp basement or a trunk in an attic that hasn’t been opened in years.
Many people find the smell unpleasant, and some can’t get used to it no matter how long they work with the wood. Other people don’t notice it at all.
Every piece of buckthorn has a smell. The smell fades over time if the wood is allowed to dry out correctly or is kept in a cool place.