Edmonds' algorithm

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This article is about the optimum branching algorithm. For the maximum matching algorithm, see Blossom algorithm.

In graph theory, a branch of mathematics, Edmonds' algorithm or Chu–Liu/Edmonds' algorithm is an algorithm for finding a spanning arborescence of minimum weight (sometimes called an optimum branching). It is the directed analog of the minimum spanning tree problem. The algorithm was proposed independently first by Yoeng-jin Chu and Tseng-hong Liu (1965) and then by Jack Edmonds (1967).



The algorithm takes as input a directed graph D = \langle V, E \rangle where V is the set of nodes and E is the set of directed edges, a distinguished vertex r \in V called the root, and a real-valued weight w(e) for each edge e \in E. It returns a spanning arborescence A rooted at r of minimum weight, where the weight of an arborescence is defined to be the sum of its edge weights, w(A) = \sum_{e \in A}{w(e)}.

The algorithm has a recursive description. Let f(D, r, w) denote the function which returns a spanning arborescence rooted at r of minimum weight. We first remove any edge from E whose destination is r. We may also replace any set of parallel edges (edges between the same pair of vertices in the same direction) by a single edge with weight equal to the minimum of the weights of these parallel edges.

Now, for each node v other than the root, find the edge incoming to v of lowest weight (with ties broken arbitrarily). Denote the source of this edge by \pi(v). If the set of edges P = \{(\pi(v),v) \mid v \in V \setminus \{ r \} \} does not contain any cycles, then f(D,r,w) = P.

Otherwise, P contains at least one cycle. Arbitrarily choose one of these cycles and call it C. We now define a new weighted directed graph D^\prime = \langle V^\prime, E^\prime \rangle in which the cycle C is "contracted" into one node as follows:

The nodes of V^\prime are the nodes of V not in C plus a new node denoted v_C.

If (u,v) is an edge in E with u\notin C and v\in C, then include in E^\prime a new edge e = (u, v_C), and define w^\prime(e) = w(u,v) - w(\pi(v),v).

If (u,v) is an edge in E with u\in C and v\notin C, then include in E^\prime a new edge e = (v_C, v), and define w^\prime(e) = w(u,v) .

If (u,v) is an edge in E with u\notin C and v\notin C, then include in E^\prime a new edge e = (u, v), and define w^\prime(e) = w(u,v) .

For each edge in E^\prime, we remember which edge in E it corresponds to.

Now find a minimum spanning arborescence A^\prime of D^\prime using a call to f(D^\prime, r,w^\prime). Since A^\prime is a spanning arborescence, each vertex has exactly one incoming edge. Let (u, v_C) be the unique incoming edge to v_C in A^\prime. This edge corresponds to an edge (u,v) \in E with v \in C. Remove the edge (\pi(v),v) from C, breaking the cycle. Mark each remaining edge in C. For each edge in A^\prime, mark its corresponding edge in E. Now we define f(D, r, w) to be the set of marked edges, which form a minimum spanning arborescence.

Observe that f(D, r, w) is defined in terms of f(D^\prime, r, w^\prime), with D^\prime having strictly fewer vertices than D. Finding f(D, r, w) for a single-vertex graph is trivial (it is just D itself), so the recursive algorithm is guaranteed to terminate.

Running time[edit]

The running time of this algorithm is O(EV). A faster implementation of the algorithm due to Robert Tarjan runs in time O(E \log V) for sparse graphs and O(V^2) for dense graphs. This is as fast as Prim's algorithm for an undirected minimum spanning tree. In 1986, Gabow, Galil, Spencer, and Tarjan produced a faster implementation, with running time O(E + V \log V).


  • Chu, Y. J.; Liu, T. H. (1965), On the Shortest Arborescence of a Directed Graph, Science Sinica 14: 1396–1400 
  • Edmonds, J. (1967), Optimum Branchings, J. Res. Nat. Bur. Standards 71B: 233–240, doi:10.6028/jres.071b.032 
  • Tarjan, R. E. (1977), Finding Optimum Branchings, Networks 7: 25–35, doi:10.1002/net.3230070103 
  • Camerini, P.M.; Fratta, L.; Maffioli, F. (1979), A note on finding optimum branchings, Networks 9: 309–312, doi:10.1002/net.3230090403 
  • Gibbons, Alan (1985), Algorithmic Graph Theory, Cambridge University press, ISBN 0-521-28881-9 
  • Gabow, H. N.; Galil, Z.; Spencer, T.; Tarjan, R. E. (1986), Efficient algorithms for finding minimum spanning trees in undirected and directed graphs, Combinatorica 6: 109–122, doi:10.1007/bf02579168 

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