A White House Staple for Nearly 200 Years Is Vanishing

Magnolia tree planted by Andrew Jackson in memory of his wife is too decayed to stay up
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2017 9:00 AM CST
A Southern magnolia tree that was planted by President Andrew Jackson is seen at the White House on Oct. 15, 2009.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(Newser) – The oldest tree at the White House is set to be taken down later this week, bringing to an end a piece of Americana that's been in place in DC since the mid-1800s. Per CNN, the Jackson Magnolia, one of several magnolias on the presidential grounds, has been the subject of efforts over the years to keep it strong and healthy, but federal arborists were recently brought in and found "the overall architecture and structure of the tree is greatly compromised," according to National Arboretum documents. The only thing keeping the tree erect, in fact, are the cables put in place to hold it up, and that cable system is now starting to falter. A White House official says first lady Melania Trump made the call to cut the tree down after seeing the paperwork, which says the magnolia's woes may have started as long as 50 years ago.

"We believe eventually, the tree will fail," tree inspectors now write in their report. The magnolia has a love story behind it, though a bittersweet one. Just over a month after Andrew Jackson won the 1828 presidential election, his wife, Rachel, died, of an illness Jackson swore was exacerbated by attacks from his political foes. The new widower is said to have brought with him to Washington a sprout from one of Rachel's favorite magnolias on their Tennessee plantation, though when exactly it was planted at the White House is murky. Per the Oakridger, the sapling may have grown in various conservatories before arriving in DC, taking root at the White House as late as 1835. The White House plans to take a piece of the magnolia and plant it where the original stood. CNN and the Oakridger detail events that have taken place near the tree and past presidents who've enjoyed it. (Read more White House stories.)

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