I would like you to tell me if the proof is correct and how can I improve the formalisation of it. Also, if all the assumptions/steps of the proof are correct.

A tree has at least two leaves. (proof by contradiction.)

I intend to prove the above statement, and to do so I proceed by contradiction.

Let $T$ be a tree of order $n \geqslant 2$, in which we assume the number of leaves is $< 2$.

It must have at least one leaf, otherwise we would have a cycle. Then, let us call that leaf $l$.

Consider the path that starts at $l$, and follows to any other vertex $v$. If $v$ is a leaf, we are done. Otherwise it must be adjacent to at least another vertex $u$. Repeat the reasoning for $u$.

Thereby, our path can only end in a leaf (which is not possible by assumption) or in an already visited vertex creating a cycle (which is not possible by assumption since the graph we consider is a tree) and hence we found a contradiction.

P.S: sorry for the wrong math symbols,

A lot of thanks to all of you!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ To simplify your argument, take the longest path in $T$ and consider its end points. $\endgroup$
    – hbm
    Mar 30, 2014 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ A small point as well- it's probably worth noting that $T$ has finite order. If $T$ is an infinite graph, your proof doesn't hold. $\endgroup$
    – ml0105
    Mar 31, 2014 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ Take a path of maximal length. The start/end nodes must have degree 1 otherwise we can a) extend the path or b) create a cycle in the path. $\endgroup$
    – janes
    Apr 20 at 6:39

1 Answer 1


I'm convinced. Your proof looks good to me.

Another way to do this would be with a handshake argument. I think this argument is perhaps a bit easier to see. An equivalent definition of a tree with $n$ vertices is that it has $n-1$ edges. So let's assume exactly one leaf. Then every other vertex has degree at least $2$. So by the Handshake Lemma, $\sum_{v \in V(T)} d(v) = 2n - 2$. Since every vertex except the one leaf has degree at least $2$, we get $2 \sum_{v \in V(T)} d(v) \geq 2[2(n-1) + 1] = 4n - 2 > 2(n-1)$, a contradiction.

  • $\begingroup$ Alright, so you add up all degrees on one side and on the other side you summ all edges, quick and clean, thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Ruben
    Mar 30, 2014 at 17:38

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