Our Interview with Professor Pricklethorn
Professor Pricklethorn talks about cycling for trees and what’s most important when planting trees.
Q. What is it like riding in the Stihl Tour des Tree?
A. It’s a week full of cycling, trees, personal accomplishment and camaraderie with some of the best people you’ll ever meet.
Q. Describe a typical day on the tour.
A. Riders are fully supported, so we don’t need to carry luggage. Sponsors (like SavATree) generously provide refreshments, spiffy jerseys, accommodations, meals and a support van, just in case it’s needed. My alarm goes off at 5:30, we eat an early breakfast, then hit the road, covering 70 to 100 miles per day – rain, wind or shine. We are usually done cycling by 4 pm.
Q. What is your favorite part of the day?
A. For me, the highlight of each day is planting a tree and giving it the Tour des Trees Blessing. The guiding principle is right tree, right place – which I’ll talk about later in more detail. It’s also worth noting that we eat wonderful food and sleep very well every night thanks to our sponsors!
Q. What is one of your best memories from participating in the Tour des Trees?
A. A few years ago, the ride took us through northwestern US, and I met a little guy named Andy at the Portland Children’s Hospital. Andy and I became friends and we still keep in touch.
Q. What do you do when you aren’t cycling to raise money for tree research and education?
A. I oversee a research lab on Toronto Island. The small island is all sand, so the trees are very important, since their root systems keep the island bound together! I also travel to classrooms to teach about all the good things trees give us – both the visible and the invisible benefits. One thing to remember is every time you cut down a tree, or it reaches the end of its life, it’s important to plant a new tree.
Q. What’s the best time to plant a tree?
A. Spring and fall are best, since trees are generally dormant, the temperature is favorable and the soil is moist.
Q. How do you decide which tree to plant?
A. The most important thing is to do the right thing for the tree, which means choosing a tree that will grow strong and healthy. I compare it to getting a pet, since I have two Mexican Chihuahuas at home. Would it make any sense to put them on a dog sled team in Alaska? No! I’m from Toronto Canada, so would it make any sense for me to go to Florida and bring back a palm tree to plant in front of my house? No! You want to make sure the tree will be happy and will succeed. We call this Right Tree, Right Place.
Q. Besides climate, what factors would you take into account for Right Tree, Right Place?
A. Height can be a consideration – especially if you’re planting a tree under power lines. If you are planting a tree next to your swimming pool, you might be unhappy with a Crabapple tree that drops fruit! Silver maples have a large root zone, so you wouldn’t want to plant them near sidewalks. You need to be sure the tree and its canopy has enough room to grow. If chosen wisely, it would require minimal care. One hint is to look around your neighborhood and see which trees are doing well. You want to understand the habit and growth attributes of the tree. Ultimately, you may want to check with a knowledgeable arborist, like the ones at SavATree. “The right tree in the right place” has been my guiding principle every time I plant a tree.
Internationally certified arborist and self-proclaimed “arborfessor,” Professor Pricklethorn is also an avid cyclist: he has participated 12 times in the Stihl Tour des Trees, raising more than $60,000 for research and education programs to benefit urban trees. The Professor is a recipient of the TREE Fund’s Ken Ottman Volunteer of the Year Award in 2014, and International Society of Arboriculture Ontario chapter’s “Maple Leaf Award” in 2013 for providing exceptional energy, leadership and commitment to promoting and improving arboriculture and urban forestry.