[][src]Crate cactusref

🌵 CactusRef

Single-threaded, cycle-aware, reference-counting pointers. 'Rc' stands for 'Reference Counted'.

The type Rc<T> provides shared ownership of a value of type T, allocated in the heap. Invoking clone on Rc produces a new pointer to the same value in the heap. When the last externally reachable Rc pointer to a given value is destroyed, the pointed-to value is also destroyed.

Rc can detect and deallocate cycles of Rcs through the use of Adoptable. Cycle detection is a zero-cost abstraction.

🌌 CactusRef depends on several unstable Rust features and can only be built on nightly. CactusRef implements std::rc's pinning APIs which requires at least Rust 1.33.0.

CactusRef vs. std::rc

The Rc in CactusRef is derived from std::rc::Rc and CactusRef implements most of the API from std.

cactusref::Rc does not implement the following APIs that are present on rc::Rc:

If you do not depend on these APIs, cactusref is a drop-in replacement for std::rc.

Like std::rc, Rc and Weak are !Send and !Sync.

⚠️ Safety

CactusRef relies on proper use of Adoptable::adopt and Adoptable::unadopt to maintain bookkeeping about the object graph for breaking cycles. These functions are unsafe because improperly managing the bookkeeping can cause the Rc Drop implementation to deallocate cycles while they are still externally reachable. All held Rcs that point to members of the now deallocated cycle will dangle.

CactusRef makes a best-effort attempt to abort the program if an access to a dangling Rc occurs.

Cycle Detection

Rc implements Adoptable to log bookkeeping entries for strong ownership links to other Rcs that may form a cycle. The ownership links tracked by these bookkeeping entries form an object graph of reachable Rcs. On drop, Rc uses these entries to conduct a reachability trace of the object graph to determine if it is part of an orphaned cycle. An orphaned cycle is a cycle where the only strong references to all nodes in the cycle come from other nodes in the cycle.

Cycle detection is a zero-cost abstraction. If you never use cactusref::Adoptable;, Drop uses the same implementation as std::rc::Rc (and leaks in the same way as std::rc::Rc if you form a cycle of strong references). The only costs you pay are the memory costs of one empty RefCell<HashMap<NonNull<T>, usize>> for tracking adoptions and an if statement to check if these structures are empty on drop.

Cycle detection uses breadth-first search for traversing the object graph. The algorithm supports arbitrarily large object graphs and will not overflow the stack during the reachability trace.

Self-Referential Structures

CactusRef can be used to implement collections that own strong references to themselves. The following implements a doubly-linked list that is fully deallocated once the list binding is dropped.

use cactusref::{Adoptable, Rc};
use std::cell::RefCell;
use std::iter;

struct Node<T> {
    pub prev: Option<Rc<RefCell<Self>>>,
    pub next: Option<Rc<RefCell<Self>>>,
    pub data: T,

struct List<T> {
    pub head: Option<Rc<RefCell<Node<T>>>>,

impl<T> List<T> {
    fn pop(&mut self) -> Option<Rc<RefCell<Node<T>>>> {
        let head = self.head.take()?;
        let tail = head.borrow_mut().prev.take();
        let next = head.borrow_mut().next.take();
        if let Some(ref tail) = tail {
            unsafe {
                Rc::unadopt(&head, &tail);
                Rc::unadopt(&tail, &head);
            tail.borrow_mut().next = next.as_ref().map(Rc::clone);
            if let Some(ref next) = next {
                unsafe {
                    Rc::adopt(tail, next);
        if let Some(ref next) = next {
            unsafe {
                Rc::unadopt(&head, &next);
                Rc::unadopt(&next, &head);
            next.borrow_mut().prev = tail.as_ref().map(Rc::clone);
            if let Some(ref tail) = tail {
                unsafe {
                    Rc::adopt(next, tail);
        self.head = next;

impl<T> From<Vec<T>> for List<T> {
    fn from(list: Vec<T>) -> Self {
        let nodes = list
            .map(|data| {
                Rc::new(RefCell::new(Node {
                    prev: None,
                    next: None,
        for i in 0..nodes.len() - 1 {
            let curr = &nodes[i];
            let next = &nodes[i + 1];
            curr.borrow_mut().next = Some(Rc::clone(next));
            next.borrow_mut().prev = Some(Rc::clone(curr));
            unsafe {
                Rc::adopt(curr, next);
                Rc::adopt(next, curr);
        let tail = &nodes[nodes.len() - 1];
        let head = &nodes[0];
        tail.borrow_mut().next = Some(Rc::clone(head));
        head.borrow_mut().prev = Some(Rc::clone(tail));
        unsafe {
            Rc::adopt(tail, head);
            Rc::adopt(head, tail);

        let head = Rc::clone(head);
        Self { head: Some(head) }

let list = iter::repeat(())
    .map(|_| "a".repeat(1024 * 1024))
let mut list = List::from(list);
let head = list.pop().unwrap();
assert_eq!(Rc::strong_count(&head), 1);
assert_eq!(list.head.as_ref().map(Rc::strong_count), Some(3));
let weak = Rc::downgrade(&head);
// all memory consumed by the list nodes is reclaimed.



A single-threaded reference-counting pointer. 'Rc' stands for 'Reference Counted'.


Weak is a version of Rc that holds a non-owning reference to the managed value. The value is accessed by calling upgrade on the Weak pointer, which returns an Option<Rc<T>>.



Perform bookkeeping to link two objects with an owned reference.

Type Definitions


Cactus alias for Rc.


Cactus alias for Weak.