First Lady Melania Trump has ordered a large portion of a nearly 200-year-old magnolia tree planted by President Andrew Jackson on the White House grounds to be removed due to decay.
Trump’s director of communications, Stephanie Grisham, said Tuesday that the first lady made the decision after reviewing reports from the U.S. National Arboretum and exploring options with White House staff.
“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,” Grisham told the Associated Press.
The tree will be removed this week while President Donald Trump and his family are at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the holidays.
The first lady requested that the wood from the tree be preserved, and that seedlings be conserved in the event that a new tree can be planted.
News of the tree’s partial removal caught the attention of former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, who tweeted her gratitude to Trump for preserving part of the tree.
“Thank you to all the Chief Horticulturists and everyone from the National Park Service who have taken care of the beautiful grounds of the @WhiteHouse over the years,” Clinton wrote. “Thank you@FLOTUS for preserving part of a tree I & so many have treasured.”
Jackson planted the magnolia — which stands almost as tall as the White House itself — on the south grounds of the White House in 1835, according to the White House Historical Association.
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In September 1994, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, a man was killed when he crashed a stolen plane through the tree and into the White House, below the president’s private quarters. The Clinton family was not in the White House at the time.
CNN first reported on the White House’s plan to remove part of the tree, citing documents the network said it obtained exclusively. According to the papers, the tree, which is currently held upright by cables, must be removed quickly.