A large portion of a famed Magnolia tree, at left, photographed from the Ellipse in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 and planted on the south grounds of the White House by President Andrew Jackson in 1835 has become too weak to remain standing.Andrew Harnik / AP
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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.
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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.
The White House, asked for more clarity, says of the three "leaders" in the Jackson Magnolia tree. one is slated to be removed this week.
The first lady's office was emphatic that only a portion of the tree is set to be removed — since only one of three leaders is on the docket for demise. That said, it's possible that once arborists begin to remove the leader, they may end up needing to remove more or all of three — the White House expects to know within a week of removal, if not sooner, if that's the case.
Hallie Jackson is the chief White House correspondent for NBC News.