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Trees in Java: How to Implement a Binary Tree?

Last updated on Mar 01,2023 97.2K Views

13 / 22 Blog from Java Collections

If I had to pick the single most important topic in software development, it would be data structures. One of the most common and easiest ones is a tree – a hierarchical data structure. In this article, let’s explore Trees in Java.

What is a Binary Tree?

Tree is a non-linear data structure where data objects are generally organized in terms of hierarchical relationship. The structure is non-linear in the sense that, unlike Arrays, Linked Lists, Stack and Queues, data in a tree is not organized linearly. A binary tree is a recursive tree data structure where each node can have 2 children at most. 

tree - trees in java - edureka

Binary trees have a few interesting properties when they’re perfect:

  • Property 1: The number of total nodes on each “level” doubles as you move down the tree.
  • Property 2: The number of nodes on the last level is equal to the sum of the number of nodes on all other levels, plus 1

Each data element stored in a tree structure called a node. A Tree node contains the following parts:
1. Data
2. Pointer to left child
3. Pointer to the right child

In Java, we can represent a tree node using class. Below is an example of a tree node with integer data.

static class Node {    
	int value; 
        Node left, right; 
        Node(int value){ 
            this.value = value; 
            left = null; 
            right = null; 

Now that you know what is a binary tree, let’s check out different types of binary trees.

Types of Binary Trees

Full Binary Tree

A full binary tree is a binary tree where every node has exactly 0 or 2 children. The example of fully binary tress is:

Full Binary Tree

Perfect Binary Tree

A binary tree is perfect binary Tree if all internal nodes have two children and all leaves are at the same level. The example of perfect binary tress is:

tree - trees in java - edureka

Complete Binary Tree

complete binary tree is a binary tree in which every level, except possibly the last, is completely filled, and all nodes are as far left as possible. An example of a complete binary tree is:

tree - trees in java - edureka

Now that you are aware of different types of binary trees, let’s check out how to create a binary tree.

Binary Tree Implementation

For the implementation, there’s an auxiliary Node class that will store int values and keeps a reference to each child. The first step is to find the place where we want to add a new node in order to keep the tree sorted. We’ll follow these rules starting from the root node:

  • if the new node’s value is lower than the current node’s, go to the left child
  • if the new node’s value is greater than the current node’s, go to the right child
  • when the current node is null, we’ve reached a leaf node, we insert the new node in that position

Now let’s see how we can implement this logic with the help of an example:

package MyPackage;
public class Tree { 
	static class Node {    
	int value; 
        Node left, right; 
        Node(int value){ 
            this.value = value; 
            left = null; 
            right = null; 
    public void insert(Node node, int value) {
        if (value < node.value) { if (node.left != null) { insert(node.left, value); } else { System.out.println(" Inserted " + value + " to left of " + node.value); node.left = new Node(value); } } else if (value > node.value) {
          if (node.right != null) {
            insert(node.right, value);
          } else {
            System.out.println("  Inserted " + value + " to right of "
                + node.value);
            node.right = new Node(value);
     public void traverseInOrder(Node node) {
        if (node != null) {
            System.out.print(" " + node.value);
     public static void main(String args[]) 
    Tree tree = new Tree();
    		    Node root = new Node(5);
    		    System.out.println("Binary Tree Example");
    		    System.out.println("Building tree with root value " + root.value);
    		    tree.insert(root, 2);
    		    tree.insert(root, 4);
    		    tree.insert(root, 8);
    		    tree.insert(root, 6);
    		    tree.insert(root, 7);
    		    tree.insert(root, 3);
    		    tree.insert(root, 9);
    		    System.out.println("Traversing tree in order");


Binary Tree Example
Building tree with root value 5
  Inserted 2 to left of 5
  Inserted 4 to right of 2
  Inserted 8 to right of 5
  Inserted 6 to left of 8
  Inserted 7 to right of 6
  Inserted 3 to left of 4
  Inserted 9 to right of 8
Traversing tree in order
 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

In this example, we have used in-order traversal to traverse the tree. The in-order traversal consists of first visiting the left sub-tree, then the root node, and finally the right sub-tree. There are more ways to traverse a tree. Let’s check them out.

Tree Traversals

Trees can be traversed in several ways: Let’s use the same tree example that we used before for each case. 

Depth First Search

Depth-first search is a type of traversal where you go as deep as possible down one path before backing up and trying a different one. There are several ways to perform a depth-first search: in-order, pre-order and post-order

We already checked out in-order traversal. Let’s check out pre-order and post-order now.

Pre-Order Traversal

In Pre-order traversal you visit the root node first, then the left subtree, and finally the right subtree. Here’s the code.

public void traversePreOrder(Node node) {
    if (node != null) {
        System.out.print(" " + node.value);


 5 2 4 3 8 6 7 9

Post-Order Traversal

In Post-order traversal you visit left subtree first, then the right subtree, and the root node at the end. Here’s the code.

public void traversePostOrder(Node node) {
    if (node != null) {
        System.out.print(" " + node.value);


 3 4 2 7 6 9 8 5

Breadth-First Search

This type of traversal visits all the nodes of a level before going to the next level. It is like throwing a stone in the center of a pond. The nodes you explore “ripple out” from the starting point. Breadth-First Search is also called level-order and visits all the levels of the tree starting from the root, and from left to right.

Applications of Binary Tree

Applications of binary trees include:

  • Used in many search applications where data is constantly entering/leaving
  • As a workflow for compositing digital images for visual effects
  • Used in almost every high-bandwidth router for storing router-tables
  • Also used in wireless networking and memory allocation
  • Used in compression algorithms and many more

This brings us to the end of this ‘Trees in Java’ article. 

Data Structures in Java | Stack, Queue, LinkedList, Tree in Data Structures | Edureka


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Trees in Java: How to Implement a Binary Tree?