Farms, trees, and bees in Sampson County

Matthis Family Tree, the biggest dogwood tree in North Carolina

Dogwoods are blooming all over here in North Carolina. I feel I never get my fill of them — until this year — when we devised a Dogwood Loop Tour by bicycle in very rural Sampson County (east of Fayetteville). Dogwoods, dogwoods everywhere!

What prompted it was something that’s been on my NC list for a few years — visiting the country’s largest dogwood tree. Or so we were told. As it turns out, the tree in the Matthis Family Cemetery on Highway 24 about two miles east of Clinton has been dethroned. But no matter, it was an awesome sight! And we timed it to see it in bloom, its twisting branches popping with white blossoms. Gorgeous!

Dogwood blossom, a sight of spring.

The “Matthis Family Tree” measures 31 feet tall with an average branch spread of 48 feet and a trunk circumference of 114 inches. But it’s no longer listed on the National Register of Big Trees, and I’m guessing that might be because no one sent in new measurements. Apparently one needs to requalify for the tree registry every decade. (OK, folks in Sampson, let’s get back on track!) Now contending for “biggest” are dogwoods in Hampton, Va. and in Williamson, Tenn. Their overall sizes seems to be similar, so I’m thinking that our NC tree has a fighting chance.

The ride itself was interesting. We passed loads of pink and white blossomed dogwoods, swamps filled with sunning turtles, and many large family farms, as well as a lot of unsavory smelling livestock farms, with either pigs, chickens or turkeys. Small, unkempt trailer parks often were situated near the large farms and seemed to all be populated by Hispanic families, which likely means migrant workers. The ugly side of our state’s rich agricultural tradition are the poor farm workers, most of them from Mexico — an important fact to remember when it’s time to donate to nonprofits that assist them.

One of the many bees in a field of yellow flowers. We're guessing rapeseed. What do you think?

We cycled 30 miles, and, this being early spring, we’re pretty out of shape. So by Mile 20 my legs were starting to complain. What perked us both up was when we stopped to catch a buzz — a bee buzz, that is. A field of some kind of yellow flowers (see photo; you tell me) attracted thousands of bees, and when you stood near the field you could hear their steady hum. Their bellies were yellow with pollen, as you can see here, and they were very, very busy. Exciting!

With temps around 70, blooming trees and buzzing bees, it was a good day in rural North Carolina!

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2 Responses to “Farms, trees, and bees in Sampson County”

  1. Alice Charkes Says:

    Will I get to see dogwoods in bloom when I’m in NC in two weeks?

  2. didaniel Says:

    Maybe in Virginia, but in NC they’ll likely be finished. But, Alice, would you really know a dogwood if you saw one? ;)

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