Even indoor trees fall victim to nature.

Visitors to the Hennepin County Government Center's skyway level will notice fenced-off squares that appear to be construction zones.

The 20 Benjamina ficus trees on the skyway level are all rootbound and unable to grow, said Mike Sable, Hennepin County facility services director.

The 24-story government center at 300 S. Sixth St. has been open since 1977. The trees surround a reflecting pool in the open area between the connected twin towers for the county administration and courts. The 403-foot building has ground-floor-to-rooftop windows on both sides that form a stylized letter H from the outside and create an atrium inside.

In early 2015, remodeling on the skyway level public area added new seating, high-top tables with electrical outlets and a flat-screen TV.

As for the trees, 16 are in planters and can be easily replaced.

But four of the trees, which were original to the building, sat over metal grates with roots that reached below the subterranean concrete slab, Sable said.

The roots of the trees on the grates were starting to create rust and potentially electrical problems. The grates were a tripping hazard, as were the trees themselves.

"There are instances where people have walked into them," Sable said.

The metal grates will be tiled over seamlessly with the floor. Sable said the cost is $20,000 for the change.

The skyway level of the Government Center is the busy gateway to county administrative offices and the courts. It's also a well-traveled thoroughfare in downtown Minneapolis buildings.

Alas, the trees won't be getting new homes. Sable said the indoor plants don't do well with moves.

The Benjamina ficus tree is easy to grow, tolerant to drought and ideal in a pot. The trees, also known as the weeping fig, survive on very little sunlight, but they can't withstand a chill, much less a Minnesota winter.

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