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Cannabis seed mutation

7 Common Cannabis Plant Mutations

Mutations in cannabis plants are a natural occurrence that can change a plant’s characteristics and is most common in the leaves, flowers, and stems. Now, there are a couple of mutations that can affect plant growth but, in general, most mutations that don’t cause a deformity (or malformation) will cause your plant to grow odd without affecting its health, allowing your plants to grow normally. These mutations can cause your plant to exhibit different colored leaves, grow an odd number of apexes (number of fingers on the leaves) or even grow more branches than it should; Most growers prefer not to grow mutated plants but it can be fun and you could learn a lot by seeing how a mutated cannabis plant grows. So here are the most common cannabis plant mutations that will still allow your plant to grow normally and produce decent yields if grown properly, obviously.

1. Unusual Number of “Fingers” On The Leaves

An unusual number of “fingers” in each fan leaf is considered to be a mutation in some cases, but can also be just a characteristic of that strain’s genetics. Despite the “standard” number of apexes (or “fingers”) being 7, it’s very common to see hybrid strains with more or fewer apexes, depending on the genetic mix. However, there are several different mutations that can affect not only the number of apexes, developing more apexes than usual (or less), but also how they grow. For example, some strains can grow up to 11 apexes or even more, which can be due to genetics (if they grow properly) or a mutation if the growth is unusual, like in the following image.

As you can see in the images above, this mutation can occur in different ways but in all cases, the leaves fingers will grow differently than what you’re used to. Now, this type of mutation does not apply only when the leaves grow a lot of apexes, this kind of mutation can also cause the leaves to grow fewer apexes than the specific strain should. These one-fingered leaves are very common to the leaves that develop when a photoperiodic plant is revegetating but you won’t get confused because revegetating occurs when your plant is already flowering and the light cycle changes back to 12/12. The one-fingered leaves will only start growing after that change happens whereas, when the cause is a mutation, the one-fingered leaves will grow since germination.

2. Unusual Leaf Shape

Apart from the unusual number of apexes, cannabis leaves can also grow with an unusual shape which is also a mutation although it can be harder to come by than the unusual number of apexes. In most cases, leaf shape will most likely not affect plant growth, your plant will grow as it should but, obviously, with different leaves. It is also possible to get a mutation that affects a couple of leaves, so your plant will grow regular leaves with a couple of mutated leaves here and there.

Leaves can develop unusual shapes, sometimes with the apexes glued together or with the margins separated.

Nowadays, there are a lot of growers and breeders that look after these mutations and try to stabilize them, this is why you can find multiple strains that produce leaves like the ones you can see in the images above. This occurs because when a breeder finds a mutation, they will crossbreed it until the random mutation becomes a full strain, with an offspring that will always develop the same mutation.

3. Plant Topping Itself

A self-topped plant does basically what most growers who perform high-stress training techniques do, top the plant. This causes the plant to not develop a main cola but several side branches instead, resulting in a plant that grows low and bushy instead of tall, just like your plant would when topped.

Self-topping happens when plants do not develop the main cola, growing several side branches just like when topping.

When your plant is self-topped, there shouldn’t be a problem other than your plant growing topped but in some cases, this self-topping mutation may come with other mutations such as the one in the second image where the plant grew one-fingered leaves where it should have grown the main cola.

4. Twin Seedlings

Just like it happens with other living beings, cannabis plants can also grow twins; This happens when two seedlings come out of one single cannabis seeds, both of these seedlings will have the potential to form a separate plant and grow normally but in some cases, one of them may grow shorter and more fragile.

This happens because the bigger seedling will most likely take over the space both of them are growing in and the smaller one will end up dying so you can always let them be or separate them, either way, they should grow normally.

5. Buds Growing On The Center of The Leaf

Mutations don’t always apply to the fingers of the leaves, mutations can appear in different ways and sometimes will definitely surprise you. There have been reports of buds growing on the center of the big cannabis fan leaves, as you may know, the leaves don’t contain much THC but when this mutation occurs, you will have lots of resin growing from the center of each leaf. As you can see, there’s a flower forming in the center which is definitely not common.

Despite not being big buds, you can definitely smoke them and make edibles, extractions, or whatever you prefer; Now, this mutation doesn’t actually make the plant grow buds on the leaves, it makes them grow a flowering site. This means that the plant can also grow pollen sacs on the leaves if it ends up being a male or turn into a hermaphrodite so, if this happens in your grow space, make sure you separate it from the others because it will pollinate your female plants.

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6. Leaves With Unusual Color Patterns

Unusual color patterns may be caused by mainly two things:

  • The tobacco mosaic virus;
  • Or variegation.

These unusual color patterns are often confused with the TMV (tobacco mosaic virus) but unlike the TMV, this isn’t caused by a virus but by a genetic mutation. Unusual color patterns (aka variegation) usually present themselves by splitting the plant, stem, or buds in two, where each side has a different color. No one knows exactly what colors a plant may present, but there have been cases that which half of the leaf (or the whole plant) turns white, yellow, or purple.

These mutations are not a nutrient deficiency or any other problem and cannot be fixed, your plant will grow as it should but the buds, stems or part of the plant will show an unusual color. Have in mind that variegation doesn’t affect your plant, your plant will be able to grow normally despite the odd colors, also remember that this mutation is more common on the leaves or stems but it’s possible for the whole plant to be affected when this happens even the buds will turn white, yellow, purple or any other color but don’t worry, they are no less potent or anything, they’re just showing a different color.

7. Seedlings with Three Leaves

As you may know, cannabis seedlings grow with just 2 round leaves (aka cotyledons), but sometimes the seedling may have a mutation and grow 3 leaves. Now, this won’t affect plant growth and sometimes the plant grows out of it and starts growing normally so you should treat your triple seedling normally.

Tri-leaf seedlings suffer from a mutation that makes them grow more than 1 pair of leaves since germination.

But in some cases your plant won’t grow out of it and will continue to develop triple leaves and branches; This isn’t bad, the only thing that will be affected is the plant’s appearance but it may be an advantage for those who grow in a SCROG setup or want to LST their plants.

8. Is Hermaphroditism a Mutation?

Hermaphroditism in cannabis is a naturally occurring feature, and while it is a defense mechanism inbuilt into the plant’s genetic code, it is a characteristic that we as cultivators want to always avoid. Hermaphrodite weed plants develop both masculine and feminine sexual traits, which means that while there will be budding sites present with fully formed flowers, there will also be pollen sacks that will definitely dust these flowering sites and cause them to be packed full of seeds. This has a huge evolutionary advantage, as a self-pollinating plant will always ensure its genetic lineage is passed on to the next generation. But, when growing weed for consumption, the very last thing we want is for seed to be present in our crop. A pollinated cannabis plant expends a huge amount of its energy on producing healthy seeds, which takes away from the amount it can spend on growing the biggest, densest buds possible. The result is a smaller yield with fewer trichomes and way less terpene production.

What Causes a Cannabis Plant to Turn Into a Hermaphrodite?

There are two causes of hermaphroditism in weeds – genetic markers and environmental stress. Certain strains of weed are just way more genetically predisposed to turning into hermies, with pure Sativa and Sativa-dominant cultivars having a much higher chance of switching when compared to Indica-dominant strains. Thai Sativas, in particular, seem to have the highest rates of hermaphroditism out of any strains that have been studied so far.

No matter the amount of genetic sensitivity, a certain strain may or may not have, every single cannabis plant has the chance of becoming a hermaphrodite by the direct influence of stress. If a flowering plant “feels” that the environmental conditions are not suited to flowering or pollination, she may switch over and become a hermie and can do so at the drop of a hat. Certain stress factors have a direct influence on the chances of a weed plant becoming a hermie, with the most impactful being:

  • Physical damage to the plant structure
  • Overfeeding or underfeeding
  • Thermal stress (which happens when you feed your crop with water that is too cold or hot)
  • Interruptions to the lighting period
  • Light leaks into the grow area
  • Overly warm ambient temperature conditions
  • Underwatering and overwatering
  • Pest, mold, fungal, or viral infestations
  • Overuse of pesticides, fungicides, or insecticides
  • Missing the harvest deadline
What Steps Can Be Taken to Ensure Your Plants do NOT Become Hermies?

The name of the game here is reducing or totally avoiding any of the stress-inducing situations listed above leading into, and during the flowering period. Providing the optimal environmental conditions is key, as is getting any and all plant training over and done within the vegetative or pre-flower growth stages. Essentially you want to get the plant good and ready before those buds start to properly develop, otherwise you may be in for some hermie trouble. Keeping the grow area as sterile as possible will help with reducing the chances of any pest, mold, fungal, or viral infestations taking hold, and prevention is always the best tool for battling these issues. You should be conducting daily checks for these issues anyway.

Regularly check all timers you have in place to ensure no unexpected interruptions or changes to the lighting periods and light leakproof the area as well as you can. If you have any other automated systems, such as timers for drip feeders or temperature and humidity controls, then these should also be checked for normal operation at least a few times a week. Watering the crop with a properly balanced nutrient solution is highly important, so make sure you invest in a decent pH meter and a TDS or EC pen. Knowing the correct amount of feed water to give a plant comes down to your growing style, and how much experience you have. For beginners, we always suggest starting out with coco-coir cultivation, which you should be watering until you see about 25% runoff.

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You can’t control the genetics of a cannabis strain, but you can choose strains with lower chances of hermaphroditism. All trustworthy seed banks should have customer reviews that are easily accessible, so be sure to read up on what previous growers have experienced with each and every strain you choose to grow. Regular, unfeminized seeds do have a slightly lower percentage of hermies, but then you have to deal with the possibility of the whole (or at least a large percentage) crop being male anyway, which is even worse than a full hermie or pollinated female crop.

What to Do If You Find That One Of Your Plants Has Turned Hermie?

If one or more of your plants start to show both male and female characteristics at the start of the flowering cycle you have two options available. If the plant is only showing a couple of male pollen sacks, and it seems like it is a localized problem that hasn’t spread to the entire plant then you can go ahead and very carefully try to remove the sacks. You can use tweezers for this job, just be very careful not to pop them. This doesn’t ensure that no more sacks will grow, but there is a chance that the plant will continue with normal female flowering from this point onwards. This is a risky strategy though because you could easily miss one of the tiny pollen sacks which could go on to quickly pollinate the entire crop. Disaster.

The other, more recommended practice is to go ahead and remove the plant from the crop and eliminate it. This ensures that there is no chance that the rest of the crop could be affected. If you notice the male flowers forming near the end of flowering you have one more viable option – quarantining the plant from the rest of the crop, removing the pollen sacks as carefully as possible, and just harvesting the flowers earlier. Sure, you will probably end up with a few seeds, but what’s the point of wasting all that great bud that you have poured your heart and soul into growing just because it contains some seeds? These flowers are perfectly fine to smoke, and they can be used for making edibles or concentrates.

What to Do With Seeds From Hermie Plants?

This is a bit of a contentious subject among cannabis cultivators. Some say that seeds from hermie plants should be thrown away and forgotten about, while some are of the thinking that since the seed inherent all the genetic information from the mother. That means that if you were growing a feminized seed that went hermie, all the seeds should also be feminized. One thing to keep in mind though is that all the seeds produced will have also inherited the genetic markers for hermaphroditism, so if you are wanting to eliminate the chances of hermies ever appearing in your grow space then chuck those seeds out and start again.

9. In Conclusion

Mutations are not always a bad thing, sometimes a mutation can present in a curious way that will not only teach you new things but also allow you to see something new that you didn’t even know it was possible, like a triple-leaf seedling of twins!


Most mutations aren’t harmful but here’s a table to help you understand what the worst-case scenario could be for each one of the mutations named above. If you have seen or grown a mutated cannabis plant feel free to share your experience with fellow growers, leave your comment in the comment section below!

7 Common Cannabis Plant Mutations

If you grow a lot of cannabis plants, you’re eventually going to run into unusual plants, mutations, and other unexpected growth patterns. Nature loves variation! Here are some of the most common marijuana plant mutations I’ve encountered over the years. If you see one of these strange occurrences, you’re not alone. Submit a picture if you have a cool mutation you want to share!

1.) Tri-Leaf Seedlings

Nearly all cannabis plants that are grown from seed will start with just two leaves per set, like the following:

Normal cannabis seedling (2 leaves per set)

Every once in a while, growers will run into a “tri-leaf” seedling. This is a relatively common mutation, and you’re likely to run into it eventually if you germinate a lot of cannabis seeds. A 3-leaf cannabis seedling should generally be treated like any other seedling.

These seedlings grow about 1/3 more side branches than a regular plant, so a 3-leaf seedling might be a good candidate for cannabis plant training or a ScrOG setup.

Tri-leaf cannabis seedlings (3 leaves per set)

Some plants will grow in this pattern from seed to harvest, while other plants “grow out of it” and eventually start growing with just 2 leaves per node after a certain point.

2.) Two-Toned Leaves

Two-toned leaves usually have split coloring in a relatively straight line. This mutation often affects just one or two leaves on the whole plant, though sometimes you’ll get a whole stem or part of the plant that displays this characteristic.

The two-toned leaves don’t seem to have much effect on anything, but it’s kinda cool looking!

This is an example of “variegation” (wikipedia link) and may be due to a “sectorial chimera”. Other plants besides cannabis plants grow leaves like these, too!

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Not to be confused with a nutrient deficiency, this mutation usually affects just one or two leaves on the plant. Nothing to worry about! Sometimes half of the leaf will turn purple…

More commonly, half of the leaf will turn light yellow or even white.

Here’s an example of a cola that is split down the middle between purple and green

Could you be seeing signs of Tobacco Mosaic Virus? (probably not, but can’t hurt to check!)

3.) Buds Growing From Center of Leaf

Here’s a normal cannabis leaf. Cannabis leaves are beautiful, but they typically don’t contain an extremely high concentration of THC. At least not compared to the buds. Therefore most growers don’t actually smoke the leaves.

Normal Cannabis Leaf (no buds growing from the base)

But some mutations give your leaves a bonus… free extra buds!

Some plants produce cannabis leaves with buds growing from the base

This is a mutation I’d love to see on my plants one day ? Though strangely placed, these buds seem to be like any other buds found on the plant. You basically get a couple of extra buds encrusted with cannabinoids & trichomes!

These cannabis plants have THC-encrusted buds growing from the center of each leaf

The following leaf-bud has grown a single calyx with a few pistils

Here’s another amazing plant – imagine what you could do with all the trim!

The following nug is almost 1/2 gram – Talk about a bonus!

This unusual case “hermed” which means the center bud is growing both male and female flowers (notice the yellow “bananas” in addition to the lovely female hairs). Unfortunately, like any herm plant, this should be removed from the grow room immediately or it will make all the rest of your buds seedy from pollination.

4.) Cannabis Seeds Can Have “Twins”

Twin tap roots can sometimes emerge from a single cannabis seed. This is sort of like your seed having twins, because each new root comes with its own set of leaves and has the potential to form into a separate plant!

When this seedling sprouted, it had two taproots coming from the same seed

When the leaves appeared, there were two distinct seedlings – you can see another tiny set of leaves behind the main sprout (notice the taller seedling is also tri-leaf!)

In this case, I decided to kill the smaller sprout, but you can also gently and carefully separate the two seedlings and transplant one into a new home.

If you grow two seedlings together in one container, one plant will usually end up being a lot smaller than the other one. But if you give each plant their own home, they can both thrive!

5.) Plant Topped Itself

What’s interesting about this case is that the plant naturally did something that many growers do on purpose. Cannabis plants normally grow in a triangle tree shape, and growers often cut or train the plant in order to grow more low and bushy, with many main buds instead of just one. Growers often achieve a low and bushy growth pattern with a plant training technique known as “topping.” Learn more about topping.

Here is a normal young cannabis plant with a regular growth tip (set of leaves) at the top:

So to get rid of this top growth node, a grower would normally cut it off, like this

Now the following plant had a strange mutation…

This plant randomly grew a leaf instead of a growth node, so it naturally topped itself, take a look!

This Royal Cookies Autoflowering plant did basically the same thing

Single-point leaves appeared where there should have been a growing tip, which effectively topped the plant above the first node. It stayed on the small side and yielded less than its sister plants (like many plants with unusual growth mutations), but buds still came out great!

6.) Unusual Leaf Shape

Cannabis leaves sometimes appear in unusual shapes. You may see the odd leaves all over the plant, and or only here and there.

This leaf had a double tip on one of its points

Some leaf shapes have become favored and been developed into their own strains. These differences likely started out as a random mutation, but have been developed into full “strains” of cannabis.

“ABC” or Australian Bastard Cannabis (learn more about the ABC strain)

Pretty neat, huh?

In addition to the actual shape of the leaves, sometimes you’ll see plants with an unusual number of “fingers” on each leaf…

7.) Unusual Number of “Points” on Each Leaf

The “standard” number of points on a cannabis leaf is considered to be 7. It’s also common to see 9 points per leaf on a mature plant. But some plants have even more or less!

A “normal” leaf has 7 points. Here’s a typical cannabis leaf shape.

However, there can be a surprising amount of variation between leaves, even on the same plant. And some plants naturally grow more or less than others.

This leaf has 13 points!

But sometimes you see the opposite. This plant only grew single-point leaves from seed to harvest. It doesn’t even look that much like a cannabis plant from far away!

Each of these leaves only has one point

Here’s one last example of strange leaves, though this is caused by the environment and not a mutation. Look what happens when you revert a flowering plant back to the vegetative stage.

This is a Re-Vegged Plant (not a mutation)

I hope you enjoyed this quick tour of common cannabis plant mutations

Have you seen an interesting or unique plant mutation? Submit a picture of your cannabis oddity and we may add it here!