WASHINGTON — The tree struck by the light plane that crashed outside the White House is the oldest on the grounds of the Executive Mansion--a towering southern magnolia planted more than 150 years ago by President Andrew Jackson as a memorial to his wife. She died just before he took office.
The plane apparently hit the ground and then struck the tree, severing a limb but doing no further damage.
Jackson planted the tree sometime during his two terms in office--between 1829 and 1837--but no more precise date is known, according to Neel Lattimore, a White House spokesman.
Today, the graceful tree--as depicted on the back of the $20 bill--stands at the center of a small terrace, shading the tall windows of the State Dining Room and the residential quarters above it.
The plane struck the magnolia at a point just under the one first-floor window that is visible (the Red Room) to the left of the steps leading from the South Portico to the South Lawn.
The magnolia is a graft of one from the grounds of the Hermitage, Jackson's home outside Nashville, Tenn.
Steeped in White House lore, the tree reflected the unusually deep feelings that Jackson, whose nickname was "Old Hickory," had for his wife, Rachel Donelson Robards.
In 1806, Jackson killed Charles Dickinsin, a fellow Nashville attorney, in a duel because Jackson believed that Dickinsin had spread scurrilous gossip about Mrs. Jackson.