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Florida’s “Trees Are Cool” specialty license plate.

Eric Hoyer

Eric Hoyer


I’m sure many of you have seen the colorful “Trees Are Cool” license plates on some vehicles in Citrus County and elsewhere. This is one of 122 specialty plates approved by the Florida legislature thus far. But what is the origin of this plate and what does it support?

Dr. Ed Gilman was a professor in the Environmental Horticulture Department at the University of Florida for 30 years. During his tenure, Dr. Gilman developed a national and international reputation for research on various topics regarding growing and maintaining urban trees. His pioneering research led to better tree pruning techniques, the effects of pruning for hurricane resistance, how tree roots grow, better growing techniques for nursery grown trees, improved tree planting techniques and a myriad of other research topics.

When a university professor retires, the university is under no obligation to hire a replacement to teach and do research in that same subject area. The Florida Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), exhibiting great foresight, knew that when Dr. Gilman retired, another professor may be hired to teach and research in a different area such as citrus or turfgrass. In the mid- 2000s, the ISA Chapter hired a lobbyist to sway the Florida legislature to allow a specialty license plate in the support of urban forestry research. Thus, the “Trees Are Cool” license plate was approved and made its first appearance in 2008.

The purpose of the plate is to raise $2 million to endow a chairmanship at the University of Florida to ensure continuation of Dr. Gilman’s research after his retirement (he did retire in 2016). The specialty plates, like other specialty plates in Florida, cost an additional $25, $23 of which goes directly to the Florida chapter.

To date (2008-2020), the plates have generated over $962,000 in revenue and a total of 41,825 plates have been sold. August sales thus far total 339 plates, with 5,165 registrations (this number includes plates previously sold and renewed). This compares to 4,857 registrations in August 2019 and 4,581 in August 2018, clearly an upward trend. There are 33 “Trees Are Cool” plates registered in Citrus County. Currently, the plate ranks 74 out of 122 specialty plates available.

To date, the ISA Chapter has donated $735,000 to the University of Florida toward the endowment. The chapter retains some of the money to market the license plates. Because the chapter has been making regular donations since the inception of the license plate, on good faith, the University of Florida has hired Dr. Ryan Klein as Associate Professor of Arboriculture. This will ensure the continuation of arboricultural and urban forestry related research, continuing Dr. Gilman’s legacy.

You can assist with this support by purchasing your “Trees Are Cool” plate when your registration is due for renewal. Your plate purchase will help to ensure continuation of much need arboricultural research to allow urban foresters and arborists to grow and maintain urban trees which are healthy and safe, thus contributing to a healthier and greener environment for everyone. Trees are considered a part of our urban infrastructure and need to be maintained properly so they can provide the various environmental, aesthetic and energy-saving benefits attributed to them. As an example, Dr. Gilman’s research regarding proper tree pruning has changed the way arborists and other tree managers approach tree pruning, resulting in trees which are more structurally sound and, hence, safer.

Help the ISA Chapter by considering the purchase of a “Trees Are Cool” plate. Besides, they are very colorful and look good on your car!

Eric H. Hoyer is a certified arborist, a certified forester, a registered consulting arborist and a qualified tree risk assessor with Natural Resource Planning Services Inc. He can be contacted at erich@nrpsforesters.com.

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