The oak tree sapling planted on the White House lawn by President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron has died following its mandatory quarantine last April.
Macron gifted the symbolic, approximately four-feet tall tree to President Trump during Macron’s visit to the U.S. in April 2018. The tree had become known as their “friendship tree,” a positive sign of Trump’s blooming relationship with France at the time. Media outlets and meme creators even entertained the idea of a Trump-Macron “bromance.”
The importance of the oak tree doesn’t stop at diplomatic friendship. The tree was taken from Belleau Wood, the site of one of the battles of World War 1, where over 2,000 American soldiers died and thousands more were injured defending France’s freedom. President Macron stressed the significance of the sapling, which was grown from the earth blood-soaked by U.S. soldiers 100 years ago as of June 1918. On the day of the ceremonial planting, April 24, 2018, Macron tweeted that the oak tree will serve as a reminder “of these ties that bind us.”
Days after the planting, however, the tree mysteriously vanished. Photographs surfaced of an empty patch of yellow grass where it had stood the evening before, the off-colored grass being the only proof of the tree’s temporary display.
Online speculation of the tree’s fate quickly flowed into the media stream, but French Ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, acted to ease rumors, tweeting that “(the tree) is in quarantine which is mandatory for any living organism imported to the US.” It was relocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at its facilities near Beltsville, Maryland for an inspection that was part of normal regulatory rules for imported trees. According to a USDA official at the time, that process can last up to two or more years.
Araud also ensured that it would be replanted at a later date after customs had deemed that it had not been carrying any invasive, threatening pathogens.
Araud’s claim prompted further questioning from the public, who wondered how the quarantine of a plant that had already been placed in U.S. soil would help to protect against potential threats that plant could bring. He responded, stating that “the roots were enclosed in a plastic protection.”
In a similar fashion to the oak sapling, the Trump-Macron friendship has wilted in the past year.
The moment Macron lost faith in the United States’ willingness to help with matters of European security came in December 2018 when the French President caught wind of Trump’s intention to pull U.S. troops from Syria. To most everyone’s shock, and despite Macron’s phone conversation with Trump that evening in which he warned Trump of the repercussions such an action would bring, Trump’s tweet came hours later. It read, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” For Macron, it heightened his concerns that the U.S. might back away from another, more sacred commitment: the NATO defense alliance.
Now, it appears the sapling never made it back to its new home on the White House lawn after that transplant to quarantine. France’s AFP news agency has reported Monday morning that the tree has died while in quarantine.