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The Andrew Jackson Southern Magnolia (on the left) in 2006 at the White House. Photo by James Rosenthal/ Library of Congress

White House plans to chop portion of historic but ailing Jackson Magnolia tree

GREENACRES, Fla. — A “large portion” of a famed Magnolia tree planted on the south grounds by President Andrew Jackson will be removed because it is weak and poses a safety risk, the White House said Tuesday.

Removal is planned for this week while President Donald Trump and his family are at their Florida home for the holidays.

Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump, says the first lady reviewed reports from the U.S. National Arboretum about the nearly 200-year-old tree’s weakened condition and discussed exploring options with White House staff before ultimately deciding that a portion of the tree needed to be removed.

“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,” Grisham said.

Mrs. Trump has asked that wood from the tree be preserved, and that seedlings be readily available if the opportunity to plant a new Magnolia tree arises.

Jackson added the Magnolia to the White House grounds in 1835, according to the White House Historical Association. It stands on the west side of the South Portico, opposite a second Magnolia that subsequently was planted for symmetry.

CNN first reported on the White House’s tree-trimming plan. According to documents the cable TV network said it had obtained exclusively, the tree must be removed quickly, despite decades-long efforts to preserve it, including through the use of cables to help keep it upright.

The documents read in part:

“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. 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.”

A historic southern Magnolia, planted by President Andrew Jackson in 1829, frames United States President Barack Obama’s Marine One helicopter as it departs the South Lawn of the White House for a day trip from Washington on April 15, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Gary Cameron

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