Is a Standing Dead Tree Seasoned?

Picture this – you’ve been slacking on your firewood prep this season, and it turns out that the fall has come.

You figure out that it could be possible to down some dead trees and start burning them right away. If a tree is standing dead, it should be good to burn, right?


A tree that has been dead for years, though still standing, will not be seasoned fully. Some parts, such as the upper, may actually be more dry than the trunk area, but in general, it usually won’t be dry enough to start burning right away.

The outcome here does depend a lot on the tree itself – if it’s something like a pine, chances are that the dead kind can be pretty dry enough, and you may or may not be able to use it in your wood stove right away.

If it’s something like an oak, forget it. In this case, being dead might only speed up the future seasoning process by a bit. Don’t expect to buck it all up and see only dry stuff – you will end up needing to dry it all up in the split form regardless for at least another year.

Another factors which can determine whether that sort of wood is dry is the climate it has grown in, the current weather, the forest it’s in. Physical characteristics such as missing bark can also indicate that the wood is more on the “seasoned” side.

You should really take whatever i just said with a grain of salt. You won’t be able to know just how much “seasoned” is that tree is until you down it, cut up and split. You’ll also have to take some readings with a moisture meter to know exactly what you’re dealing with.


Be extremely careful when felling trees of this kind. You never know if there’s any rot in the inside, which can make a tree spin and fall in the direction you didn’t guide to initially.

More about seasoning firewood

I think the word “seasoning” is a bit too hard for what we’re talking about here. In my opinion, wood seasons only when it’s cut, split and stacked in an appropriate location.

To think that a tree that is still attached to the stump somehow seasons is a bit absurd, in my mind. At most, it might get more dry, but that’s it.

Even if the log is downed (such as a dead tree that fell down on its own). That being said, a tree which fell down on its own will probably be even less dry, as the moisture from the ground has more area to come in contact with the wood.

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  1. You are right on the money with this and I found it out the hard way. I have dead ash trees (Emerald Ash Borer) and I assumed I could cut, split, and start using one last year within a couple of months. Even though the tree was standing dead for 8+ years, it still took a year for moisture content to be in the right range for my stove.

    Question: do you notice pieces with knots take longer to season than straight pieces? I’ve been having some pieces not burn properly, smolder etc. and I think the common denominator is they are the pieces that are knotty.

    1. Hey Jim,

      When it comes to more gnarly and twisted pieces, personally i haven’t really noticed them drying slower, or being less dry in general than other more straight stuff.

      But i guess this is more because i don’t have that much knotty wood to begin with…

      I mean, it makes all the sense why a knottier piece would season worse. Those spots are more dense, therefore i would assume they would hold water longer.

  2. I have had some fallen dead trees in my woods that have been there for a couple years after a storm. Some are rotten all the way through and some are hard very hardened and are tuff to cut with a chainsaw. What’s the deal with the hard ones and can I burn them?

    1. Ya whats the deal? I have a fallen red oak from 1-2 years ago and cut it up and its still green. I split it and hard to burn, does not produce any heat. AHHHHH!

  3. I once snagged a 3-foot-long piece of olive wood, about 5″ diameter, from a trim pile at a rest stop along I-5 in California. I stashed it in my garage, where it remained, forgotten. Nine years later, I found it and sliced it lengthwise. That wood was still WET! A paper towel would probably have soaked up some of the moisture.

    One fall I bought some “seasoned” madrone firewood that had supposedly been down for 2 years and cut and split in the spring. That stuff was very heavy and thudded when it hit the driveway.
    Another time I bought some seasoned madrone that had been stacked for many years and was covered in layers of dust. That wood rang like music when it hit the driveway, and was about half the weight of the other stuff.

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