What Is General Tree in Data Structure?


Heather Bennett

A general tree is a type of data structure in computer science that represents a hierarchical structure. It is composed of nodes connected by edges, where each node can have zero or more child nodes. Unlike binary trees, which have a maximum of two child nodes for each parent node, general trees can have any number of child nodes.


A general tree consists of a collection of nodes, with one designated as the root node. Each node in the tree contains a key or value and may also contain additional information or attributes. Nodes are connected to each other through edges, which represent the relationships between them.

The root node is the topmost node in the tree and does not have any parent nodes. Child nodes are directly connected to their respective parent nodes, forming branches or subtrees. Leaf nodes are nodes that do not have any child nodes.


General trees have several properties that make them useful for organizing and representing hierarchical data:

  • Root: The topmost node in the tree.
  • Parent: A node that has one or more child nodes.
  • Child: A node directly connected to its parent node.
  • Sibling: Nodes that share the same parent.
  • Leaf: A node without any child nodes.
  • Subtree: A portion of the tree consisting of a node and its descendants.


To better understand general trees, let’s look at an example:

              / | \
             B  C  D
                  / \
                 F   G

In this example, node A is the root node, and it has three child nodes: B, C, and D. Node D has one child node, E, which further has two child nodes: F and G. Nodes B and C are siblings since they share the same parent.


General trees are widely used in various applications:

  • File systems: File systems often use general trees to represent the hierarchical structure of directories and files.
  • Organizational charts: General trees can be used to represent organizational structures with employees and their respective managers.
  • Family trees: General trees can be used to represent family relationships with individuals as nodes and parent-child relationships as edges.
  • Parsing expressions: General trees are commonly used in parsing expressions to represent the syntactic structure of expressions.


In conclusion, a general tree is a versatile data structure that enables the representation of hierarchical relationships between nodes. It allows for multiple child nodes per parent node and provides a flexible way to organize data. Understanding general trees is essential for efficiently managing complex hierarchical information in various applications.

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