Maximum Spanning Tree using Prim’s Algorithm


One of the most important ideas in graph theory and data structures is the Maximum Spanning Tree using Prim's Algorithm. It tries to find the tree that links all of the points in a graph with the most weighted edges overall. Prim's Algorithm quickly finds this tree by adding the edges with the most weight after each iteration. It is a key part of network design and clustering uses.

Prim's Algorithm Overview and Basics

Prim's method is a popular greedy method that is used to find the MiST or the minimum spanning tree of a connected, weighted graph. In the context of this topic, we are interested in how it can be used to find the MST of a weighted graph. The MST is a subset of edges that links all of the graph's vertices with the least amount of total edge weight while still making a tree with no cycles

Graph Representation

Before getting into Prim's Algorithm, it's important to know how to describe a graph. A graph G(V, E) is made up of a set of vertices and edges that connect these points. The weights of the edges show how much it costs or how far it is between two linked vertices. Adjacency matrices or lists can be used to show what a graph looks like.

Key Concepts in Prim's Algorithm

In Prim's Algorithm, the key concepts include −

Visited and Unvisited Vertices − Vertices are classified as visited or unvisited throughout algorithm execution based on whether or not they are part of the minimum spanning tree.

Cut Property − This property helps in identifying the edges that can be potentially added to the MST. A cut is a partition of vertices into two disjoint subsets, and an edge with minimum weight that crosses the cut is eligible for inclusion in the MST.

Steps of Prim's Algorithm

The steps of Prim's Algorithm to find the maximum spanning tree are as follows −

  • Start with an arbitrary vertex as the initial MST.

  • Mark all other vertices as unvisited

  • Find the minimum weight edge that connects an unvisited vertex to a vertex in the MST.

  • Add the found edge and the unvisited vertex to the MST

  • Mark the newly added vertex as visited.

  • Repeat steps 3 to 5 until all the vertices are visited.

Understanding Maximum Spanning Trees

Differences between Minimum Spanning Tree and Maximum Spanning Tree

The primary difference between the minimum spanning tree (MST) and the maximum spanning tree (MST) lies in the edge weights they select. MST contains the edges with the minimum total weight, ensuring the tree's cost is minimized. In contrast, MST includes edges with the maximum total weight, resulting in the tree's cost being maximized

Properties of Maximum Spanning Trees

The maximum spanning tree shares some properties with the minimum spanning tree. For example −

  • Both are spanning trees, meaning they connect all vertices of the graph

  • Both are acyclic, ensuring that there are no cycles in the tree.

  • Both have V-1 edges, where V is the number of vertices in the graph.

Implementing Prim's Algorithm for Maximum Spanning Tree

import java.util.*;

class Graph {
   private int V;
   private List<List<Edge>> adjList;

   Graph(int V) {
      this.V = V;
      adjList = new ArrayList<>();
      for (int i = 0; i < V; i++) {
         adjList.add(new ArrayList<>());

   void addEdge(int src, int dest, int weight) {
      adjList.get(src).add(new Edge(dest, weight));
      adjList.get(dest).add(new Edge(src, weight));

   List<Edge> maximumSpanningTree() {
      List<Edge> maxSpanningTree = new ArrayList<>();
      boolean[] visited = new boolean[V];
      PriorityQueue<Edge> maxHeap = new PriorityQueue<>((a, b) -> b.weight - a.weight);

      // Start with vertex 0 as the initial MST
      visited[0] = true;
      for (Edge edge : adjList.get(0)) {

      while (!maxHeap.isEmpty()) {
         Edge currentEdge = maxHeap.poll();
         int u = currentEdge.dest;

         if (!visited[u]) {
            visited[u] = true;

            for (Edge edge : adjList.get(u)) {
               if (!visited[edge.dest]) {

      return maxSpanningTree;

   static class Edge {
      int dest;
      int weight;

      Edge(int dest, int weight) {
         this.dest = dest;
         this.weight = weight;

public class PrimMaxSpanningTree {
   public static void main(String[] args) {
      int V = 5; // Number of vertices
      Graph graph = new Graph(V);
      graph.addEdge(0, 1, 2);
      graph.addEdge(0, 3, 1);
      graph.addEdge(1, 2, 3);
      graph.addEdge(1, 3, 4);
      graph.addEdge(1, 4, 5);
      graph.addEdge(2, 4, 6);
      List<Graph.Edge> maxSpanningTree = graph.maximumSpanningTree();
      System.out.println("Maximum Spanning Tree edges:");
      for (Graph.Edge edge : maxSpanningTree) {
         System.out.println("Edge: " + edge.dest + " - Weight: " + edge.weight);


Maximum Spanning Tree edges:
Edge: 1 - Weight: 2
Edge: 4 - Weight: 5
Edge: 2 - Weight: 6
Edge: 3 - Weight: 4

Time complexity: O((V + E) log E).

Space Complexity: O(V + E).

Optimizations and Variations of Prim's Algorithm

  • Early Termination in Prim's Algorithm −

  • Early termination optimizes Prim's Algorithm by stopping it when all vertices are included in the Minimum Spanning Tree (MST). It avoids unnecessary iterations, reducing time complexity.

  • 5.2 Lazy Prim's Algorithm −

  • Lazy Prim's Algorithm defers work until later stages, improving efficiency for dense graphs. It postpones adding edges to the priority queue until they are needed, saving memory and processing.

  • 5.3 Prim's Algorithm with Fibonacci Heap −

  • Prim's Algorithm with a Fibonacci Heap optimizes time complexity. The Fibonacci Heap supports efficient operations, leading to faster edge extraction and updates, achieving O(E + V log V) time complexity, ideal for large graphs.

Applications of Maximum Spanning Trees

  • Network Design and Communication − Maximum Spanning Trees optimize network design for efficient data transmission, cost reduction, and resource utilization in communication networks.

  • − Maximum Spanning Trees aid in image processing by segmenting and clustering regions, enabling object recognition and edge detection

  • − Maximum Spanning Trees are hierarchical clustering algorithms for efficient data organization and analysis.

Comparison with Other Spanning Tree Algorithms

Kruskal's Algorithm vs. Prim's Algorithm for Maximum Spanning Tree

While both Kruskal's and Prim's algorithms find minimum spanning trees, they can be adapted for maximum spanning trees. Kruskal's algorithm, using a greedy approach, sorts edges by weight, but it may not efficiently handle dense graphs. Prim's algorithm, on the other hand, starting from a vertex, grows the tree iteratively, making it more suitable for dense graphs

Boruvka's Algorithm vs. Prim's Algorithm for Maximum Spanning Tree

Boruvka's algorithm also finds minimum spanning trees, and similar to Kruskal's, it can be modified for maximum spanning trees. However, Prim's algorithm tends to perform better for maximum spanning trees due to its efficient priority queue-based approach, especially when applied with Fibonacci Heaps for large graphs


In conclusion, Prim's Algorithm for Maximum Spanning Tree efficiently finds the tree with the highest total weight in a connected graph. By iteratively selecting edges with the highest weight, it constructs an optimal spanning tree. Understanding this algorithm and its applications is essential for solving various real-world optimization problems in networks and clustering.

Someswar Pal
Someswar Pal

Studying Mtech/ AI- ML

Updated on: 28-Jul-2023


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