A symbolic oak tree given last year by French President Emmanuel Macron to United States President Donald Trump has died and been removed from the White House grounds, The Guardian reports. Macron gave the gift to Trump during a state visit to the U.S. last year, saying at the time that the young tree would be “a reminder…of these ties that bind us” and the “tenacity of the friendship” between the two countries.
The tree was meant to be symbolically representative of the budding relationship between the two leaders, implying that as the small tree grows and becomes stronger, so would the bond between Trump and Macron. In what could be seen as further symbolism, the tree has died in the midst of what seems to have been generally deteriorating relations between the two leaders. The two presidents have had a number of high-profile disagreements of late, with two, in particular, being climate change and potential conflict with Iran.
The young tree was sourced from Belleau Wood, a location northeast of Paris, which was the site of a critical World War I battle which left more than 1,800 Americans dead.
In April of 2018, Macron and Trump bent down together to plant the tree by piling dirt using gold-colored shovels. The first ladies, Brigitte Macron and Melania Trump looked on at the time as the White House stood in the background.
The sapling, like the leaders’ bromance, couldn’t survive. https://t.co/4Jws5LuGfF
— Slate (@Slate) June 10, 2019
Yet even the supposedly feel-good moment when the tree was planted was tinged in controversy when it happened. Commentary immediately spread on social media and elsewhere, suggesting that Macron had actually selected the gift as a veiled jab at his American counterpart, subtlety mocking Trump’s less-than-progressive environmental policies.
After the photo-op, the small tree was immediately dug back up and placed into quarantine in order to prevent the spread of any non-native diseases or invasive insect. Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States at the time, explained the reason for the quarantine.
“[A quarantine is] mandatory for any living organism imported into America” he said, indicating that the tree would be replanted later. Soon only a small yellow patch of grass remained in the spot where the tree had been.
Apparently, the little tree did not make it successfully through its period in quarantine. The Agence France-Presse confirmed the tree’s death, citing a diplomatic source with knowledge of the situation. French media began reporting the death of the tree last week, with many commentators indicating that its death was a metaphor for the relationship between Trump and Macron.