Q: Is it necessary to remove the wire cage from the root ball of a tree? I’ve discovered that the pin oak planted in my yard a year ago still has its cage. There seem to be varying opinions about removing it.
A: The question of whether to remove the cage around a balled and burlapped (B&B) tree root system is yet unresolved. Dr. Carl Whitcomb writes in the Journal of Arboriculture that the upper roots of a tree might be harmed by the upper wires of the basket. But he acknowledges that millions of B&B trees have been successfully planted without removing the cage. He also mentions the hazard posed if the tree is removed and the stump is ground out. Metal from the wire basket can persist for twenty years a few inches below ground.
In my view, it is more important to remove all of the burlap at planting. Burlap definitely inhibits root establishment. If the wire basket prevents burlap removal, cut as much wire as you need to free the burlap. My personal technique is to put a tree in its hole, straighten it, stabilize it with a couple of shovel-fulls of dirt, then remove as much burlap and wire as I possibly can. I use a razor knife and bolt cutters to accomplish the task.
In your case, if you