After nearly 200 years in existence, the oldest White House tree is being cut down, reportedly at the order of First Lady Melania Trump. The tree being taken down is a Magnolia Tree that was planted by former President Andrew Jackson. First Lady Trump made the decision to have the tree taken after reviewing reports about the fitness of the Jackson Magnolia.
In a statement provided to CNN, the first lady's communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said that the decision to cut down the Jackson Magnolia was made out of a concern for safety.
"Mrs. Trump personally reviewed the reports from the United States National Arboretum and spoke at length with her staff about exploring every option before making the decision to remove a portion of the Magnolia tree," Grisham told CNN. "After reviewing the reports, she trusted that every effort had been made to preserve the historic tree and was concerned about the safety of visitors and members of the press who are often standing right in front of the tree during Marine One lifts."
The reports provided by the United States National Arboretum — a botanical facility operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — said that the tree was damaged and was only able to stand because cables have been attached to it.
The report was drafted after the White House brought in officials from the United States National Arboretum to vet the Jackson Magnolia.
"The overall architecture and structure of the tree is greatly compromised and the tree is completely dependent on the artificial support. Without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago," the reports read, according to CNN. "Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains. It is difficult to predict when and how many more will fail."
The tree will be taken down down during the week before the start of the new year, CNN reports.
The Jackson Magnolia sits on the South Lawn of the White House, where it was a planted by former President Jackson after his wife died. The tree has been featured prominently on different versions of the American $20 bill, which show Jackson on the front of the bill and the White House's south side on the back.
The reports from the United States National Arboretum that led to Trump's decision not only said the tree was damage but also advised against providing extra artificial support.
"Further cabling and support of the east leader is not an option due to the fragile, almost non-existent lower trunk. There is no longer a sound foundation, and the upper portion lacks sound wood for cabling," the report read, per CNN. "This half of the tree is considered a hazard. The west leader, on the other hand, could possibly be saved for a time, but will eventually succumb to the same fate. In addition, the high winds resulting from frequent helicopter landings complicates the future of the limb. It may fail in an unpredictable way."
The report also said that the tree should have been taken down long ago, and probably would have if not for its historic significance.
The decision on the Jackson Magnolia is far from Melania Trump's first call related to the appearance of the White House. Most recently, the first lady orchestrated the White House's new look incorporating Christmas decorations. As far as the Jackson Magnolia is concerned, CNN reports that a plan to replace the tree had already been put in place.
The White House intends to replace the original and historic magnolia with another that was born from the original version.