What is DSU on Trees?

DSU, short for Disjoint Set Union, is a data structure used to efficiently handle disjoint sets, where each set is a collection of distinct elements. When dealing with trees, DSU on trees refers to the specific application of DSU where the sets are represented as trees. This data structure provides a powerful tool for solving various problems involving connectivity and disjoint sets.

DSU on Trees

Understanding Trees

In computer science, a tree is a widely used data structure that represents a hierarchical structure. It consists of nodes connected by edges, with a distinguished node called the root. Each node can have zero or more child nodes, forming a parent-child relationship. Trees have properties such as depth (the length of the path from the root to a node) and height (the maximum depth among all nodes).

In the context of DSU on trees, we represent trees using parent pointers, where each node points to its parent. A node that has no parent is considered the root of its tree.

Disjoint Set Union (DSU) Data Structure

DSU is a data structure that allows efficient handling of disjoint sets. It provides three main operations: MakeSet, FindSet, and Union.

  • MakeSet: This operation creates a new set with a single element. Initially, each element is considered a separate set.
  • FindSet: Given an element, this operation returns the representative element of the set to which the element belongs. The representative element is typically the root of the tree representing the set.
  • Union: This operation merges two sets into one. It takes the representative elements of two sets and makes one of them the parent of the other, effectively combining the two sets.

Basic Operations of DSU

DSU on trees supports the following basic operations:

  1. MakeSet(x): Creates a new set with a single element x.
  2. FindSet(x): Finds the representative element of the set to which x belongs.
  3. Union(x, y): Merges the sets containing x and y into a single set.

These operations are essential for performing various tasks related to connectivity and disjoint sets efficiently.

Path Compression Optimization

One optimization technique used in DSU on trees is path compression. Path compression aims to reduce the height of the tree during the FindSet operation, resulting in faster future operations.

When FindSet(x) is called, it traverses the path from x to its root. Path compression optimizes this process by making each visited node point directly to the root, effectively compressing the path. This reduces the height of the tree and improves the time complexity of subsequent FindSet operations.

Rank-based Union Optimization

Another optimization technique employed in DSU on trees is rank-based union. The rank of a set represents an upper bound on its height. During the Union operation, the set with a lower rank is attached to the set with a higher rank, ensuring that the resulting tree remains balanced.

By considering the rank of the sets, rank-based union optimization guarantees that the height of the tree remains small, resulting in faster FindSet operations.

Time Complexity Analysis

The time complexity of DSU operations on trees is crucial for evaluating its efficiency. Here is the time complexity analysis for each operation:

  • MakeSet: O(1)
  • FindSet: O(log n) (amortized with path compression)
  • Union: O(log n) (amortized with rank-based union)

These time complexities make DSU on trees a highly efficient data structure for handling connectivity and disjoint sets compared to alternative approaches.

Applications of DSU on Trees

DSU on trees finds applications in various domains. Some notable applications include:

  1. Kruskal’s algorithm for finding minimum spanning trees: DSU on trees is used to efficiently detect and merge the disjoint sets of edges while constructing the minimum spanning tree.
  2. Connected components in an undirected graph: DSU on trees can determine the connected components of an undirected graph in an efficient manner.
  3. Detecting cycles in a graph: By using DSU on trees, cycles in a graph can be detected and handled effectively.

Implementing DSU on Trees

To implement DSU on trees, follow these steps:

  1. Initialize the parent pointers for each element, pointing to itself.
  2. Implement the MakeSet, FindSet, and Union operations based on the requirements of your problem.
  3. Apply path compression and rank-based union optimizations for improved performance.

Here’s an example of how to implement DSU on trees using Python:

class DSU:
    def __init__(self, n):
        self.parent = [i for i in range(n)]
        self.rank = [0] * n

    def find_set(self, x):
        if self.parent[x] != x:
            self.parent[x] = self.find_set(self.parent[x])
        return self.parent[x]

    def union(self, x, y):
        x_root = self.find_set(x)
        y_root = self.find_set(y)
        if x_root != y_root:
            if self.rank[x_root] < self.rank[y_root]:
                self.parent[x_root] = y_root
            elif self.rank[x_root] > self.rank[y_root]:
                self.parent[y_root] = x_root
                self.parent[y_root] = x_root
                self.rank[x_root] += 1


DSU on trees, also known as Disjoint Set Union on trees, is a powerful data structure for handling disjoint sets efficiently. It provides operations such as MakeSet, FindSet, and Union, allowing for tasks like finding connected components and detecting cycles in a graph. With optimizations like path compression and rank-based union, DSU on trees offers excellent time complexity and versatility in various applications.


FAQ 1: Can DSU be used on other data structures apart from trees?

Yes, DSU can be used on other data structures as well. However, DSU on trees is specifically designed to handle sets represented as trees efficiently.

FAQ 2: Is DSU the only data structure for handling disjoint sets?

No, there are other data structures like disjoint set forests and disjoint set arrays that can handle disjoint sets. DSU on trees is one of the most commonly used and efficient approaches.

FAQ 3: What is the difference between path compression and path splitting?

Path compression is a technique in DSU on trees that compresses the path from a node to its root during the FindSet operation. Path splitting, on the other hand, splits the path during the Union operation to ensure a balanced tree structure.

FAQ 4: Can DSU be used for weighted graphs?

Yes, DSU on trees can be adapted for weighted graphs by considering the weights of edges. It can be used in conjunction with other algorithms like Kruskal’s algorithm for finding minimum spanning trees.

FAQ 5: Is DSU a suitable choice for real-time systems?

DSU on trees can be a suitable choice for real-time systems depending on the specific requirements and constraints of the system. It offers efficient operations and can be optimized further for better performance.

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