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Big Dogwood Tree Turns Out to Be the Big Dog of All Dogwoods

April 26, 1996

CLINTON, N.C. (AP) _ A.J. Bullard recognized the dogwood tree right away by its flowers and by its ... well, bark.

But it wasn’t until he took a closer look that he realized the tree _ with a diameter of nearly 3 feet _ had championship potential.

``I stopped and observed it closer and realized it was a monster,″ Bullard said. ``It just took my breath away.″

Bullard, a retired dentist from Mount Olive, sent the dogwood’s dimensions to the National Register of Big Trees in Washington, D.C., which certified it last August as the largest in the country. Bullard waited until spring, when the tree is in its full glory, to announce his discovery.

The dogwood, located in an old cemetery, replaced a slightly smaller tree in Norfolk, Va., as the dogwood champ _ fitting, perhaps, because the dogwood is North Carolina’s state flower.

Bullard said it is difficult to tell how old the tree is. He talked to the caretaker of the cemetery, who is in his 60s.

``He said no living person would know how old this tree is,″ Bullard said. ``The cemetery goes back to 1864.

``The oldest grave is very near this dogwood, which leads us to assume this tree was probably there when the cemetery was established.″