Day 4 2017 STdT: Connecting the dots on the importance of trees, an interview with Professor Elwood Pricklethorn

Professor Pricklethorn working with a child from the audience at his presentation at Potomac Library on Day 4 of the 2017 STIHL Tour des Trees.

Professor Elwood Pricklethorn is a man on a mission, his mission just so happens to match up perfectly with TREE Fund and the STIHL Tour des Trees. As part of the tour, the professor shares his knowledge and passion of trees with children and community groups at stops all along the 500+ mile route.

A veteran tour rider, riding in his fifteenth tour, the professor puts on his interactive program focusing on how trees grow, how to plant a tree to live a long life and what children – big and small – can do to care for them. He gives the presentation on the tour and year-round to school children in Canada.

We, at STIHL Tour des Trees (STdT), decided to sit down with the professor (PEP) and pick his brain a bit about trees, riding the tour and how tree science affects us all. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

STdT: Professor Pricklethorn, how do you prepare for the tour? Both cycling and putting on your program must be challenging.

PEP: Yes, it’s kind of like a triangle, and I find myself working to balance three main points: fundraising, training and the logistics of getting away for the week of the tour. Ultimately, it’s like Christmas in July!

STdT: So, that’s what it takes for Professor Pricklethorn “the rider” to get ready. But what about Professor Pricklethorn “the presenter”?

PEP: I get my energy from my passion, so once I’m out on the road and in the presence of the other riders and then the children and community members we meet along the way, it blossoms just like a tulip tree in the spring.

STdT: You’ve been doing this for 15 consecutive years, what keeps you coming back?

PEP: It is truly a combination of the camaraderie of the people on the tour, the trees, the cycling and the cause. In my other life, I am a park supervisor on Toronto Island in Toronto, Canada — an island that is all about cycling, trees and people. No vehicles are allowed there. We have amazing trees and a very vibrant community. Being on the Tour is an extension of my lifestyle. It fits like a cycling glove.

STdT: For those who don’t understand or grasp the impact of trees on our everyday lives, what can you say to get them interested in trees and tree science?

PEP: Trees are the lungs of the planet. That’s what I tell children. For adults, I liken trees to the canary in the coal mine. They are accurate indicators of air quality and life quality, and they should not be ignored. Not only can you read trees like you read a book, but you can also benefit from their mere presence. Ultimately, healthy trees contribute to our health and well-being. That’s why raising money for tree research through events like this is so very crucial. It brings science and best practices to the arborists that tend to the trees in our communities.

STdT: Where are the greatest concerns when it comes to trees?

PEP: There are many, but one big point I like to make is this — if you think about it, trees in a forest don’t need a single ounce of our help, but trees in urban areas need lots of help, and that’s where tree research and professional arborists and even you can make a difference. One way to do that is to start out by planting the right tree in the right place. There are always professionals you can consult to make that determination.

STdT: You spend a lot of time educating and engaging with children of all ages do you find that they get it? Do they care about trees?

PEP: Absolutely, I see the light bulb switch on every time I engage with a group. Sometimes they just want to know “what’s in it for me?” — That’s human nature. In reality, people know the importance of trees, I just help them to connect the dots with a look at the benefits trees deliver, sometimes those benefits are things we all take for granted or don’t realize like:

• Trees remove carbon dioxide and other gases from the environment, helping us to breathe easier
• Trees are used in medications, even those that treat cancer
• Trees prevent erosion
• Trees help increase property value
• Trees decrease respiratory illnesses
• Some studies show they reduce the incidents of type II diabetes and even obesity
• Trees keep us cool by providing shade

STdT: So basically, trees are life!?!?

PEP: Indeed, they are. They enhance our lives on many levels, and by supporting TREE Fund and STIHL Tour des Trees, you can’t go wrong – it’s a win-win, by helping trees, you help yourself.

You can learn more about Professor Pricklethorn and his program at

Children engage with Professor Pricklethorn at Potomac Library.

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