Firewood from Red Bushwillows is excellent
In Southern Africa, there are fourteen species of Bushwillows, which belong to the Combretum family. Other trees of the same Combretum family are Clusterleaf species, but also Leadwood and some others. Interesting enough, not all Combretum species are suitable for firewood, but some of them are excellent for that use.
Wood hardness of Combretum family members
Although belonging to the same plant family of Combretum, Leadwood is the second hardest wood in Southern Africa. It is highly sought after for firewood, and it is not allowed to cut it down without a special permit. All Bushwillow species got very hard and suitable wood for fires. On the other hand, all Clusterleafs are soft wood species, which every self-respected bush-cook will not even give a second look to use for cooking.
Difference between Red- and Russet Bushwillows
Many Bushwillow species have got overlapping distribution ranges and two of them are most common within these ranges. These are the Red Bushwillow (Combretum apiculatum) and the Russet Bushwillow (Combretum hereroense). General appearance and fruits of both species are similar. Red Bushwillow is characterized by leaves, which got a pointed apex and are curved backwards. and its wood got reddish colored core wood. Russet Bushwillow leaves got a rounded apex and are flat stretched. Here you can find some more information about Red Bushwillows.
Best firewood is ‘Dead, Dry and Fallen’
Firewood in Boreal forest biomes should be ‘Dead, Dry and Standing’. But savanna biomes have got their own arithmetic. Because when a tree dies, he will in most cases not long be dry and standing. Firstly, termites will ‘sheet’ the outside of their food (wood). Secondly, very soon this dead, dry and standing tree will be fallen to the ground. Which is very good for turning him into firewood. Because, when laying on the ground, this tree becomes food for a variety of organisms. Furthermore, humidity will speed up decay. In addition, fungi, woodborer beetles and still more termite colonies will eat up all soft and digestible parts of the wood
From an e.g.: Silver Clusterleaf (Terminalia sericea) at the end of this decaying process, basically nothing will be left. From a Red Bushwillow on the other hand, there will be large portions left. They were too hard for fungi, woodborers, and termites to make a dent – and this is superb firewood.
How to collect firewood
Just walk the Bushveld and collect these remaining, not eaten up, parts of wood. And shake out sand and remaining termite sheeting. Please be very careful not to touch arachnidan (scorpions or spiders) underneath. It is most important to give every piece of hardwood on the ground a good kick with the foot before touching. And when handling this wood, every piece should be visually inspected immediately. Just to make sure there are no harmful critters hiding in the nooks and crannies.
Personal experience when collecting firewood
Once, a friend of mine collected firewood next to me and was very exited that a small snake was hiding inside one of his firewood pieces. It was difficult to get this small snake out of there and we took a stick and squeezed her out somehow. And both we didn’t know which species it was and took a photo. Then later, when we were back at camp, our mentor was a bit shocked, as it was a highly poisonous species.
Quality of Red Bushwillow as firewood
It also has to be recorded, that Red Bushwillow firewood starts burning very well. It does not generate sparks, burns slow and very hot, and turns into coals with nearly no ashes. A log about 1 m x 20 cm will burn the whole night and in the morning the coal in the ashes can still be used for starting a new fire.
Lessons learned about Red Bushwillow as firewood
- Not all Combretum species are suitable for firewood
- Red Bushwillow is an excellent one
- Firewood should be collected on the ground
- It should have been eaten up by termites, only hardwood remaining
- When collecting firewood special care has to be taken against critters