The Great Outdoors Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who love outdoor activities, excursions, and outdoorsmanship. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

So the title says it all. If I am scavenging wood in the wilderness, does some of it burn toxic? If so what kinds. This question is derived from this answer.

share|improve this question
This is going to be highly region specific... There are some tropical tree species that can be fatal (or at least really really nasty) if you inhale the smoke. – Lost Sep 23 '12 at 6:14
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Yes, some sources create toxic smoke/fumes, notably:

  • Oleander
  • Rhododendron
  • Poison Ivy (smoke can cause lung damage in some cases)

I'm not sure of a comprehensive list, but be wary of any poisonous wood / shrub, it's probably more likely to burn toxic. As pointed out in the comment, unless you can identify vines well then it may be a good idea to stay away from all of them - dead ones are hard to identify.

In addition, be aware that any wood containing sap (pine for instance) will tend to spit, so don't cook directly on such a fire, otherwise your food may get coated! These are generally OK to use if your food is well above the fire though.

I also wouldn't use any processed wood that may contain glue, varnish etc. - highly likely it could burn toxic. I know this is for a survival situation, but sometimes you can come across "easy" treated wood that's been dumped off someone (old furniture for instance.) I wouldn't just immediately grab it, especially if you're using it for cooking.

share|improve this answer
I think I would generalize Ivy to all vines. Some are safe to burn, but dead vines are just too hard to identify. (+1 all the same) – Russell Steen Sep 21 '12 at 12:46
@RussellSteen Very good point - updated! – berry120 Sep 21 '12 at 12:52
Do you have a citation for toxic smoke or fumes from Rhododendron wood? – Oreotrephes Nov 11 '14 at 18:26

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.