Spanning Trees of Bounded Degree

  • Andrzej Czygrinow
  • Genghua Fan
  • Glenn Hurlbert
  • H. A. Kierstead
  • William T. Trotter


Dirac's classic theorem asserts that if ${\bf G}$ is a graph on $n$ vertices, and $\delta({\bf G})\ge n/2$, then ${\bf G}$ has a hamilton cycle. As is well known, the proof also shows that if $\deg(x)+\deg(y)\ge(n-1)$, for every pair $x$, $y$ of independent vertices in ${\bf G}$, then ${\bf G}$ has a hamilton path. More generally, S. Win has shown that if $k\ge 2$, ${\bf G}$ is connected and $\sum_{x\in I}\deg(x)\ge n-1$ whenever $I$ is a $k$-element independent set, then ${\bf G}$ has a spanning tree ${\bf T}$ with $\Delta({\bf T})\le k$. Here we are interested in the structure of spanning trees under the additional assumption that ${\bf G}$ does not have a spanning tree with maximum degree less than $k$. We show that apart from a single exceptional class of graphs, if $\sum_{x\in I}\deg(x)\ge n-1$ for every $k$-element independent set, then ${\bf G}$ has a spanning caterpillar ${\bf T}$ with maximum degree $k$. Furthermore, given a maximum path $P$ in ${\bf G}$, we may require that $P$ is the spine of ${\bf T}$ and that the set of all vertices whose degree in ${\bf T}$ is $3$ or larger is independent in ${\bf T}$.

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