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I have seen trees 1 block wide and some that are 4 wide and have a huge canopy. What determines the growth of the bigger trees? Is it the space between each planted sapling?

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The wiki article has quite a bit of information about how trees grow in Minecraft. Basically, a sapling will attempt to grow at random levels. When it makes this attempt, it randomly chooses a tree configuration based on its type and then if it can grow in that configuration it does.

Jungle trees are a special case because if four jungle saplings are arranged in a 2 by 2 pattern on the ground, then if the area is open enough they will grow into a 2 by 2 tree. These trees can also spawn naturally in jungle biomes.

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Also see the tree farming entry for more info. –  MBraedley Apr 17 '12 at 19:15
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