Part of Paul Kirkleys online bushcraft course is tree identification. A segment of that course is making a list of trees and their properties in order to start learning the differences and identifying them.

Also to form lists into which trees are used for which purposes, such as a general list of the trees in alphabetical order and all their uses but also a list of plants that are best for weaving, fire by friction, firewood, cordage, food, medicinal uses. etc.

So Ive started compiling a list of Northern Hemisphere trees to start with before moving onto Australian trees at the end of the list.

Researching them, writing about them and the best way to learn and to remember is to teach someone else. This helps me to recall and learn as a study guide..

(Warning this post is 20 pages long)




Native to Great Britain

Burning Properties

Burns reasonably when dry but leave alone when green


Bark as a:




Hearth or drill for friction fire lighting

Can withstand rot underwater almost undefinitely, however will decay quickly when not saturated, fence posts for example

Bark and young shoots produce a yellow dye

Makes high quality charcoal

A peeled and chewed twig makes a passable toothbrush



A white coloured wood with straight grain.

Hard to carve

Common ash (Fraxinus Excelsior) native to Great Britain

Very springy, bends without breaking or splintering

Burning Properties

Can be burnt when green due to lower moisture content

Provides a good heat and flame with very little smoke



Canoe frames

Tool handles



A hard wood, suitable for carving in detail

Burning Properties

Similar to Ash although not as good

Can be burnt green if necessary


Nuts (also known as Masts) can be eaten raw or cooked

Young leaves can be eaten fresh

Leaves as insulation

Roots as withies

Dry beech leaves are a good tinder

Older trees can be tapped for sap



Birch decays easily

Silver and downy birch native to Great Britain

Burning Properties

Provides a resonable heat but burns quickly

Cooking over a birch fire leaves a sticky residue on your pots



Excellent tinder that burns with a good hot flame, will even burn when wet

Tinder Tube



Hearth and drill for friction fire lighting

Can be tapped for sap just before buds open



Native to Great Britain

Flowers and fruit high in vitamin C

Burning Properties

Produces a lot of thick smoke

Burns quickly with little heat


Flowers can be collected for tea (Flowers May – June)

Berries for wines, jams etc, comes into fruitition around late August-September

A pithy elder stalk can be used as a candle wick

Hand drill or hearth although it must be bone dry

Sticks are hollow when pithy centre is removed



Very hard to split

Doesn’t rot very easily

Wych, English, and smooth leaved Elm native to Great Britain

Burning Properties

Can smoke violently due to high moisture content

Will keep the fire alight for the morning


Wych elm is important wood for making bows



A pliable, wood which remains pliable even when dry

Easy to split

Native to Great Britain

Burning Properties

A good fuel even though it burns quickly


Suitable drill and hearth for friction fire lighting

Basketry – use the appropriate sized withies

An ideal wood for charcoal


Hazelnuts are edible, can also be a flour substitute. Harvest in autumn

A forked branch is strong enough as an improvised nutcracker

Chew the end of a hazel twig until it frays for a toothbrush

Straight walking sticks can be obtained from hazel



Commonly known as Conker tree

Burning Properties

Provides a good flame and heat output but spits a lot


Leaves crushed up with a little water for a mildly atiseptic soap

Finely chopped seeds (conkers) infused in hot water also produces a similar soap to the leaves – due to the presence of saponins



A very soft wood, considered the best for carving. Ideal for beginners

Small and large leaved lime native to Great Britain

Burning Properties

Not one of the best woods for burning


Lime bark can be used to make the strongest natural cordage from a native British tree.


Young leaves can be eaten

Collect flowers to make a tea that is good for colds

Inner bark can be made into tea which, under MEDICAL SUPERVISION is good for kidney stones, gout and coronary heart disease



Bark and acorns contain tannin

Lives for hundreds of years growing to huge sizes

Sessile and Pedunculate oak native to Great Britain

Burning Properties

Older seasoned oak burns steadily, producing little ash

Gerenates a decent hot coal


Roasted acorns (harvested in September to October) as a coffee substitute

Tannin water (made by boiling the acorns in water) can be applied to slow healing wounds



Native to Great Britain

Burning Properties

Due to the high sap content it burns well with a strong flame


The pulpy Inner back can be scraped off, ground down, and used to make a type of unleavened bread such as bannock. However the debarking kills the tree

The pine needles can make a good tea with a very high Vitamin C content (allegedly the best natural European hangover cure)

Collect Sap as a firestarter that burns readily

Pine pitch (sap) mixed with a little charcoal forms a glue



Burning Properties

Needs to be properly seasoned similar to Oak

Spits a lot


Inner bark cordage makes superb fishing lines and nets

Nuts are edible, can be roasted, remove shells prior to roasting. However can be better to leave the shells on and just cut a small ‘X’ in them. This keeps them cleaner, and they peel so much easier. They also cook more evenly so the outside has less chance of being charred



Sycamore doesn`t taint food so is often used for making utensils involved in food preparation

Soft and easy to carve

Burning Properties

Burns quite well when dry but leave alone when green


Anything in contact with food e.g. spoons and utensils

Hearth or drill for friction fire lighting



Willow is a tree that consumes a lot of water

It also has a strong root system which is why it is often found in riverbanks to hold the bank together

Large mature trees are uncommon as the trunks tend to rot

Native to Great Britain

Burning Properties

Doesen’t burn very welll due to its high water content


Wood is good for carving

Inner bark makes excellent fishing nets and cordage

White willow bark can be chewed as a pain killer – Salicylic acid is the active ingredient

Very flexible when young (withies) basketry etc. Best harvested in Winter

Suitable for hearth or drill

White pine survival uses:

Resin can be used a fire extender when mixed with tinder material

Resin can be heated and mixed with crushed charcoal to make a natural epoxy

Resin-rich joints and stump pieces make incredible fire kindling

Make pine-needle tea from the green pine needles – very rich in Vitamin C

Inner bark layers are edible

Harvest pine nuts from the pine cones

Pine needles make excellent fire tinder

Pine needles make excellent natural insulation material for debris huts and survival shelters

Green pine boughs are perfect for lean-to shelter roofs

Green pine boughs are great for making a ‘pine bough bed’ to protect from the cold ground or snow

The lower, dry, dead branches of the pine tree (squaw wood) is often some of the driest fire kindling available. It is exposed to the wind and also protected from the elements by the year-round needle canopy above, I’ve also used these branches for making bow drill fire friction sets.

Very effective candles and lamps can be made from pine resin

Pine resin can be used to waterproof seams in clothing or crude containers

The very pliable surface layer roots make excellent (and strong) natural cordage. Use as a whole or split into smaller pieces.

White oak survival uses:

Acorns (after leaching out the tannic acid) can be ground and used as flour to make acorn bread

Tannic acid (which can be extracted by boiling or leaching acorns and/or inner oak bark and twigs) is anti-bacterial. I’ve used it as an antiseptic wash before and have heard of it being used to quell diarrhea.

Acorns can be used a trap bait for squirrel and other small game animals

Can tan leather using the tannic acid found in bark, acorns and wood

Oak is a very hard wood that is good for ax handles, digging sticks and shelter frameworks

When dried, the white oak flowers make suitable tinder bundles and can be found in great abundance certain times of the year

Willow survival uses:

Willow bark contains a chemical called salicin, which is similar to aspirin. I can personally attest to its effectiveness in relieving headaches and inflammation. Just chew on a few small green twigs and swallow the juices.

In spring and summer, willow bark will peel away from the wood and makes excellent cordage that can be used for a huge variety of tasks.

Young willow branches and saplings are very flexible and can be used to weave a variety of different baskets and funnel traps.

I’ve used dried willow wood on many occasions for friction fire sets – both hand drill and bow drill

Willow saplings make excellent frog and fish gigs. Just split the base into 4 equal sections, press a rock to the bottom of the splits and sharpen the tines.

Pine wood as fuel

For anyone who has spent much time in pine wood, the advantages and disadvantages of this wood are quite obvious.

In areas where pine trees are abundant, so is fuel. Unlike hardwoods such as oak and hickory, pine trees are not shy

about shedding their limbs, and in mass quantity. A major advantage in a bushcraft/survival situation is that due to the

abundance of standing dead wood and fallen branches, fuel collection is mostly effortless. Though pine wood burns quickly,

pops and shoots off embers like 4th of July, its large amount of availability makes it invaluable.

Getting a fire going is also just as easy. Dry pine needles, even green ones saturated in flammable resin, litter

the forest floor. Pine cones are also quite abundant, and fires can fueled with these alone. Lastly, I must mention fatwood,

or what we call “fatlighter” down south. This prized substance is the resin-impregnated heartwood of the pine tree that

is an invaluable firestarter. Being saturated in sap, which contains turpentine, is is very flammable and burns for a long

time, unlike ordinary pine wood.


On this topic, much can be said, but for now I will keep things simple.

Pine sap, boiled and mixed with things such as dried dung and ash, produces an excellent adhesive which has endless uses

in the bush. I’ve used if for things such as making fishhooks, arrows, attaching broken stick-tang knives into new handles, making fishing

lures, weights, and floats (I’ll post something on this later).

Pine sap, when boiled, can be painted onto wood, canvas, clothing, ect. to make them waterproof. I’ve used it for temporary

repairs in canvas and clothing by gluing pieces together.

Pine as Food

Pine cones contain edible seeds, which are found in pine cones. These seeds are highly nutritious; full of fats, vitamins and minerals.

The very young cones themselves can also be eaten, available only in spring. Boil or bake the young cones until softened and enjoy.

The twigs and young shoots of the tree are also edible. Peel away the bark and chew on the twigs to extract the juices, which are rich in sugary carbohydrates and vitamins.

Now, I must mention my favorite part, pine needle tea. The green needles are rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.

If the early colonists only new of this when scurvy was running rampant through the colonies!

The tea is actually quite enjoyable, very delicious and comforting, good for restoring morale. Nothing like a hot cup of pine needle tea in winter.

To make the tea, simply break up a generous handful of fresh green needles into a pot of water and boil for about 10 minutes, or until

the liquid gains a light green tint.

Pine sap lamp:

This Idea I got from Trapperjacksurvival on Youtube, and it works great.

The basic idea is, you take a bowl such as a clam shell, turtle shell, or one made of wood, and in it place melted pine sap.

In the sap you place a wick made of whatever you have available, tree fungus, a piece of cloth, cattail, ect.

This lamp acts similar to an oil lamp, using sap instead as a fuel. Fire:

The sap of the pine tree has many uses, and can make life in the woods much easier.

The first I will mention is its flammability, which is valuable when starting fires, especially in wet weather.

There are several ways to start fires in wet weather, but I will mention the way I like to do it:

First, I gather my kindling and larger wood, breaking away dead lower branches from the pines and shaking away as

much moisture as possible. Second, I assemble the smallest kindling into a cone, then build upon it with larger branches.

You could also just stack the wood in different formations, or whatever way your used to.

Then, I place pine needles on top, and on top of this I place chunks of pine resin, a decent amount.

After the resin is lit, it will begin to bubble and burn, and will drip through the pile onto the kindling below.

Even thought the wood will be moist, this sticky, hot burning lava will catch the wood in not time at all, and soon you will have a

fire. There is much that can be elaborated on this, but for now this is just a simple guide.


Alder: Does not burn very hot and yet burns quite quickly

Apple: A great wood to burn once seasoned, it burns steadily and slowly, there is usually little flame but good solid heat. It also disperses a very pleasant scent and is one I used on our woodburner last year at Christmas.

Ash: A good all rounder, will burn (if yet poorly) when green, when seasoned it has both flame and heat.

Beech: A good hot burn with flame when seasoned but not as good as Ash when green, however please note that it can spit out embers from the fire a good distance, not great for a Marshmallow camp fire then.

Birch (Silver and Downy being Native): The fire group of trees! It will burn very quickly but the heat is great, fantastic for a quick brew.

Cherry (Wild and Bird being Native): A nice long slow burn associated with a lot of the hard woods, again smells lovely but seems a waste to burn it as the grain can be put to much better purposes.

Chestnut: Forget it, it’ll shoot our embers everywhere and give you little heat… hunt around for something else if there is.

Douglas Fir: Again a poor burner with little heat or flame for light.

Elder: Common and so easy to gather but it will burn very smoky, very quickly, and with little heat. People say you should not cook with this wood but why would you bother anyway? You’d be stoking the fire every few minutes.

Elm: This tree needs to be seasoned for at least a couple of years before it will burn well, but it is a very smoky fuel and so not the top choice for a windy day.

Hazel: Surprisingly good and obviously a good source of sustainable timber if coppiced well. Good for charcoal also.

Holly: Like Ash the Holly will burn green but it is best to season it for a worthy fuel.

Hornbeam: Once again a tree that will burn green but not very well, but once seasoned has a long burn.

Laburnum: Avoid this, a posionous species and you wouldn’t want to be inhaling the fumes (not that any smoke is good for you!)

Larch: This is a good wood which will create lots of sound for that halloween fire, not great for cooking on but will do the job, burns with a nice odour.

Laurel: Burns very bright and nice and hot.

Lime: Despite being great for friction fire lighting once used as a fuel it burns with a very low light flame

Oak (Sessile and Penduculate being Native): A very efficient burn when seasoned and will provide some great long lasting heat.

Pine: Will spit but does burn with a brilliant flame.

Poplar: another poor tree for burning, low heat and low light.

Sycamore: Will burn with a moderate heat but is readily available, will not burn well green though.



Honeysuckle (Both large pieces and small runners. The bark is great for cordage. The larger vines are great for handles and are usually very funky shapes. Be careful – honeysuckle is very, very brittle – even when it’s green.) Click here to read my blog on How to Weave a Basket with Honeysuckle Vines.

Wisteria (Mostly small runners. When you boil wisteria, the bark will want to come off… you can weave with it on, but just be careful. However, if it does come off the undervine is a beautiful white/cream color and the bark is great for cordage.) Click here to read my blog on How to Weave a Basket with Wisteria.

Grapevine (Both large vines and the small runners – especially the decorative tendrils. I usually take the bark off revealing the purple or green underbark. It’s much cleaner looking unless you’re going for a more natural decorative effect.)

Bittersweet (Mostly large vines but some of the small runners are nice as well. It can be very brittle and if you bend it too sharply even when green the bark will crack.)

Forsythia & Eleagnus (The long 1 year shoots that sometimes grow on the bush up to 6’-8’ in length).

Willow (You can harvest wild osier willows by creeks, rivers or other boggy areas during the winter. The long shoots and shorter branches are great for weaving. You can let them dry or use them ‘green’. A variety of beautiful and functional cultivated willow is available on the market as well that is much less branchy – growing 5-8′ in one year with very few to no branches. The color variety is incredible.

Poplar Bark (I use the bark from saplings or poplar trees who’s bark is still smooth. Usually I prefer to work with trees whose trunk is between 2″ and 8″ wide and no branches from the base to upwards of 6′-8′ up. All bark must be harvested in the spring and summer months when the sap is up. To harvest the bark, fell the tree and then take a razor blade and cut all the way through the bark to the wood. Then cut a circle around the tree at the top and bottom of your cut line. That will allow you to work a large knife under the bark and begin gently but firmly separating the bark from the tree. Also check out these great instructions from Ken Peek on”How to make a Folded Bark Basket”. You can also use a leather strap cutter and cut your bark in strips for weaving in traditional twill or plaiting work. Once you harvest the bark, use it immediately OR roll it up inside out and tie with a string until you’re ready to use it. You can soak or boil to prepare it for weaving. This same process can be used for a variety of sapling bark. However, once you take the bark off a tree, the tree will die. Be sure to harvest sustainably and use the wood for firewood, mulch or some other purpose.


Cedar (inner bark)



Tulip Poplar (inner bark)

Willow (inner bark)



Dogbane (Indian Hemp. STRONG rope)

Stinging Nettle

Velvet Leaf

Whole leaves with shoots and fronds:

cattail leaves (strip down so it is thinner)

Blue Flag Iris


Saw Palmetto


Grape Vines

Virginia Creeper (is a weaker material)

Australian trees for Firewood

The answer depends to a large extent on what wood is available. For example in Western Australia, Jarrah and Wandoo are considered the best. In Tasmania, Brown Peppermint is considered best. In South Australia, Victoria and southern NSW it is generally River Red Gum. In Queensland, Ironbark and Box are preferred. It also depends on what you are using the wood for. Red Gum is excellent in a slow combustion heater but does not burn with a lot of flame, so other species are usually preferred for open fires. Some species are known to not burn well at all, Turpentine and White Stringybark being two of these. Each species has its own characteristics of burning rate, flame, coal and ash generation, which mainly relate to wood density and the chemical composition of tannins etc. Perhaps the best thing to do is to try a range of the available species and pick the most suitable, which may be a mix of quicker and slower burning species.

Trees  for Firewood


Botanical NameCommon Name
Acacia binervataTwo Veined Hickory
Acacia dealbataSilver Wattle
Acacia decurrensEarly Black Wattle
Acacia elataCedar Wattle
Acacia mearnsiiBlack Wattle
Acacia melanoxylonBlackwood
Acacia parramattensisParramatta Wattle
Allocasuarina littoralisBlack She-Oak
Allocasuarina torulosaForest She-Oak
Allocasuarina verticillataDrooping She-Oak
Casuarina cunninghamianaRiver She-Oak
Eucalyptus cypellocarpaMountain Grey Gum
Eucalyptus fastigataBrown Barrel
Eucalyptus globoideaWhite Stringybark
Eucalyptus globulus maideniiMaiden’s Gum
Eucalyptus macarthuriiPaddy’s River Box
Eucalyptus obliquaMessmate
Eucalyptus punctataGrey Gum
Eucalyptus quadrangulataWhite Topped Box
Eucalyptus salignaSydney Blue Gum
Eucalyptus sclerophyllaScribbly Gum
Eucalyptus viminalisRibbon Gum
Melaleuca armillarisBracelet Honey Myrtle
Melaleuca linariifoliaFlax Leaf Paperbark
Melaleuca styphelioidesPrickly Paperbark

Trees  for  Timber


Botanical NameCommon Name
Acacia implexaLightwood
Acacia melanoxylonBlackwood
Allocasuarina torulosaForest She-Oak
Allocasuarina verticillataDrooping She-Oak
Angophora costataGum Myrtle
Angophora floribundaRough Barked Gum Myrtle
Corymbia citriodoraLemon ScentedGum
Corymbia gummiferaRed Bloodwood
Corymbia maculataSpotted Gum
Eucalyptus agglomerataBlue Leaved Stringybark
Eucalyptsu cypellocarpaMountain Grey Gum
Eucalyptus eugenoidesThin-leaved Stringybark
Eucalyptus fastigataBrown Barrel
Eucalyptus globoideaWhite Stringybark
Eucalyptus melliodoraYellow Box
Eucalyptus obliquaMessmate
Eucalyptus oreadesBlue Mountains Ash
Eucalyptus punctataGrey Gum
Eucalyptus quadrangulataWhite Topped Box
Eucalyptus salignaSydney Blue Gum
Eucalyptus sideroxylonRed Ironbark
Eucalyptus sieberiSilvertop Ash
Eucalyptus tereticornisForest Red Gum
Eucalyptus viminalisRibbon Gum
Syncarpia glomuliferaTurpentine
Toona australisRed cedar

Sources of information