Commemorative Tree Plantings

A small southern magnolia next to the White House in a small garden area.
To the left is one of the two Jackson southern magnolias planted in the 19th century; on the right is the southern magnolia planted by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden in 2022.

NPS / Kelsey Graczyk

Since the 1870s, most presidents have planted a commemorative tree while they were in office. Their variations in species and generation represent the historical flow of “The People’s House.” The White House Gardens are constantly changing with the seasons and administrations.

Some of the trees on the White House Grounds date back to the 1800s. The oldest is a southern magnolia attributed to Andrew Jackson. Legend holds that President Jackson himself planted the stately southern magnolias located immediately west of the South Portico, in memory of his wife, Rachel, who died just weeks before his swearing-in ceremony in 1829.

The trees around the White House are both symbolic and practical. They may symbolize friendship between nations, or a leader's intent to build a lasting legacy for future generations. The trees serve an aesthetic purpose, each lending its own unique characteristics of shape, color, flowers, and more, in spectacular variety. The trees provide homes for animals on the White House grounds; Theodore Roosevelt himself tallied a list of 92 birds he saw in Washington, DC, and at the White House in 1908. Finally, the trees also provide security, privacy, and comfort for the people who live, work, and visit here.

Explore more

  • A scenic shot of the White House gardens.
    Special event
    White House Garden Tour

    Explore the gardens on the South Lawn and uncover the White House's history on the Spring and Fall Garden Tours. Tickets are required.

  • A small plaza with flowers and trees.

    Several gardens on the White House grounds serve a variety of practical and aesthetic purposes.

Last updated: December 19, 2023

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