Is there an upper bound of the number of induced subgraphs in a tree (i.e., connected acyclic undirected graph)? The bound can be expressed in terms of vertices, edges, etc.

For example, consider the following graph $G$ represented as edge list: $\{(S,T),(T,G),(T,B),(B,H),(H,Q)\}$. The number of connected subgraph (i.e., tree) is (represented by the set of vertices): $\{S\}$, $\{T\}$, $\{G\}$, $\{B\}$, $\{S,T\}$, $\{T,G\}$, $\{T,B\}$, $\{S,T,G\}$, $\{B,T,G\}$,$\{S,T,B\}$, $\{S,T,G,B\}$, $\{T,G,B,H\}$,$\{T,B,H,Q\}$, $\{S,T,B,H\}$,$\{S,T,B,H,G\}$,$\{T,G,B,H,Q\}$,$\{S,T,B,H,Q\}$, and $\{S,T,B,H,G,Q\}$.

I find two seemingly relevant answer that can directly answer my questions 1 and 2 but I'm not sure.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sorry, I missed the crucial word "acyclic", which resolved all ambiguity! I would suggest simply replacing "connected acyclic graph" with "tree" in any case. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2021 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ Probably taking a depth-n, perfect k-ary tree is a good place to start. If you call F(n,k) its number of connected subgraphs, and G(n, k) to those who include the root, then you have something like: F(n, k) = k*F(n-1, k) + \sum_{i=1}^k (k choose i) G(n-1, k)^i $\endgroup$ May 3, 2021 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ If a tree has $n$ vertices then it has $n-1$ edges. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2021 at 7:20

1 Answer 1


Let us prove by induction that any tree on $n$ vertices has at least $2^{n-1} - n$ induced disconnected subgraphs.

When $n = 1$, this is clear since $2^{n-1} - n = 0$. Now suppose $n > 1$, and let $T$ be a tree on $n$ vertices. Choose an arbitrary leaf $v$, let $T'$ be the tree obtained by removing $v$, and suppose that $v$ is connected to $u \in T'$. By induction, $T'$ has at least $2^{n-2} - (n-1)$ induced disconnected subgraphs. Each of these correspond to two induced disconnected subgraphs of $T$, one including $v$ and one not including $v$. Moreover, for any $w \in T'$ different from $u$, the subgraph induced by $\{v,w\}$ is disconnected, and does not arise from an induced disconnected subgraph of $T'$ (since the subgraph of $T'$ induced by $\{w\}$ is connected). In total, we get this many induced disconnected subgraphs of $T$: $$ 2(2^{n-2} - (n-1)) + (n-2) = 2^{n-1} - 2(n-1) + (n-2) = 2^{n-1} - n. \quad \square $$

This is tight, as the example of a star shows. If the center of the star is $x$ and the other vertices are $y_1,\ldots,y_{n-1}$, then the subgraph induced by any subset of $\{y_1,\ldots,y_{n-1}\}$ of size at least 2 is disconnected. There are $2^{n-1} - (n-1) - 1 = 2^{n-1} - n$ of these.


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