Melania Trump orders for historic White House tree to be cut down
The Jackson Magnolia was planted on the orders of President Andrew Jackson in memory of his deceased wife. It has stood on the hallowed White House lawns for nearly two centuries but is now set to be chopped down.
According to a report by CNN, the historic Jackson Magnolia that has graced the White House lawns for the better part of two centuries is set to now be torn down on the orders of first lady Melania Trump. The tree had been planted during president Andrew Jackson's term as president in memory of his deceased wife and is the oldest on the White House's illustrious grounds.
The tree will remain a part of White House folklore, with its grandiose branches extending from the ground floor, up the windows of the state dining room on the first floor and then beyond the executive residence on the second.
Despite it seeming as though cutting it down altogether is a harsh and poorly thought out move, it is, in fact, the best course of action according to specialists from the United States National Arboretum. The tree has been in decay since the 70s and numerous efforts had previously been made to preserve it, but it has now been deemed too dangerous to keep up.
The final decision to have it brought down was taken by Melania herself after she assessed all the information and accompanying historical documents. Speaking on the issue, the Trump communications director Stephanie Grisham told CNN that Melania had personally reviewed the reports provided by the United States National Arboretum and that she had talked with staff about exploring every possible option before coming to the decision of having a portion of the tree removed.
Documents obtained by CNN suggested that the architecture of the tree was 'greatly compromised' and that it was 'completely dependent on artificial support.' Over the years, an extensive cabling system had been installed in the tree that had helped support it, but now, that system is reportedly failing in the east trunk.
The cable is said to have pulled through the thin layer of wood that has remained and it has now become difficult to predict when and how many more of these cables will fail.
Grisham was quoted saying: "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 tree is scheduled to be cut down later this week, but Melania is said to have asked for the wood from the tree to be preserved.
The tree has a long and storied history, with President Jackson having insisted on planting a sprout from his dead wife's favorite magnolia tree from their farm in her memory. Years later, another magnolia would later be planted on the opposite side for the purpose of symmetry, and both trees have been witnesses to some of the White House's most significant events.
From 1928 to 1998, it featured on the back of the country's $20 bill. First Lady Laura Bush commissioned a set of White House china inspired by the tree, called "The Magnolia Residence China," painted with magnolia leaves and blossoms and then, Michelle Obama took a seedling from the tree in 2009 to the United States Department of Agriculture so that it could grow at the USDA's community garden.
Barack Obama and various other dignitaries have also used saplings or seedlings of the tree as gifts to other countries. Unfortunately, its days have been numbered for nearly five decades, three trunks emerged from its base and created a hodgepodge of tangled bark. When one such trunk broke off in 1970, its cavity was exposed and made the entire tree susceptible to decay.
In a procedure that is highly inadvisable today, that cavity was filled with cement during President Nixon's time, doing it irreversible damage. That cement was later removed and replaced with the current cabling system, the time for the tree to be taken down was always coming.
According to CNN, the Arboretum experts had written in their report that: "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. This half of the tree is considered a hazard."
The report does mention that the west trunk could be saved for a time, but that it would also eventually succumb to the same fate as the rest of the tree. It also mentions that the frequent helicopter landings that take place on the front lawn complicate its future and might cause it to fail in an 'unpredictable way.'
It goes on to add that the tree's leaves are thinning, indicating that it is too weak to support any more cables and that "if this was an ordinary tree, it would have been removed long ago. We understand this is a historic tree, and all measures have been used to save it to this point in time. While we cannot comment on the need to preserve the tree as long as it stands, we believe eventually, the tree will fail."
This has been a contingency that the White House groundskeepers have been prepared for. It has been reported that healthy offshoots of the tree have been tended to at an undisclosed greenhouse-like location nearby. These shoots are now said to be eight to 10 feet tall. Furthermore, according to CNN, another Jackson Magnolia, born directly from the original, will be planted in the place of the one cut down.
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