When French President Emmanuel Macron came to Washington in April last year for his first state visit, he and President Donald Trump planted a European sessile oak tree on the South Lawn of the White House. It was meant to symbolize friendship between the two countries and the 100th anniversary of when American troops fought in France during World War I.
“This oak tree,” Macron said on Twitter, “will be a reminder at the White House of these ties that bind us.” During the tree-planting ceremony, Trump and Macron took turns shoveling dirt on top of the sapling uprooted from Belleau Wood in France, the site of one of the most gruesome battles in World War I.
Now it’s dead, and some are wondering if it’s a metaphor for the withering relationship between Macron and Trump—and the president’s relationship with European leaders more broadly. French media reported that the tree was removed a few days after the photo op for a standard two-year stint in quarantine. After the tree disappeared from the South Lawn, stirring a bit of mystery, former French Ambassador Gérard Araud confirmed the tree had been taken to quarantine. He said it would be replanted later, but it never was.
The sapling didn’t survive the first year of the quarantine, which is required of all international imports of living plants and seedlings to prevent the spread of pests and disease.
When Trump and Macron both assumed their offices in 2017, the two had a budding friendship. The Trumps visited the Macrons in France to attend Bastille Day festivities, and their friendly demeanor led to talk of a “bromance” between the two world leaders. That relationship has since cooled, as they clashed over the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accords, and even traded blows on Twitter.
During Trump’s visit last week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Trump and Macron met briefly, downplaying their disagreements over Iran. Macron and Trump said they have the same objective—to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon—but ignored their differing opinions on how to get there. Macron also offered some veiled criticism of Trump’s isolationism and his distrust of international institutions, urging him instead to fulfill the “promises of Normandy” and support NATO and the U.N.
With Trump and Macron’s bromance withering and their friendship tree deceased, the whole thing seems like a bleak, on-the-nose metaphor straight out of French cinema. Fin.