The Marijuana Leaf: Everything You Need To Know
By Anthony Franciosi
The Marijuana Leaf: Everything You Need To Know
Long before it became a ubiquitous symbol of the modern global cannabis community, the marijuana leaf was a source of powerful inspiration (artistic and otherwise) for stoners in many cultures throughout history.
In this post, the all-things-cannabis experts at Honest Marijuana break down the biology behind the most common types of the marijuana leaf in addition to showing you a few leaf variations you may not have heard of.
We’ll also make sure that you can spot signs of poor leaf and plant health. Lastly, we’ll discuss the benefits of juicing and cooking your leaves into cannabutter in order to make the most out of them.
A Brief History Of The Marijuana Leaf
The cannabis plant has been around for a long, long time. Longer, in fact, than many people realize.
Stoners of yore — and we’re talking extremely yore — have been drawing the marijuana leaf on cave walls for millennia.
Take, for example, this cave painting in Kyushu, Japan dated from around 10,000 years B.C.
See the seven-lobed indica leaves in the orange circles? Ancient marijuana, man! And is that a unicorn at the top? Methinks it is! It’s no wonder that some of the best cannabis in the world comes from this area .
And lest you think the cannabis craze was isolated in the far east, check out this illustration of the Egyptian goddess Seshat. Pharaoh Tuthmosis III described this deity as, “she of the seven points.”
She’s obviously got marijuana on her mind. Smart lady.
Even the ancient Greeks got in on the marijuana-leaf action. Below is an illustration of the cannabis sativa plant taken from the Vienna Dioscurides, a Greek medical textbook, dated at around 512 A.D.
Scientists now call these ancient plants landrace strains because they are very different from the high-THC and high-CBD strains you can buy at your local dispensary.
Landrace strain or brand-new variety, it’s obvious that humans have recognized the marijuana leaf (and the cannabis plant as a whole) as a source of artistic inspiration, medicine, and, yes, psychedelia, for at least 12,000 years — and probably a lot longer.
Isn’t that groovy, man? We’re part of a long history that stretches back to before the domestication of crops and animals. Can’t say that about too many things these days.
Now that you know a bit about the history of the marijuana leaf — this really is a tiny amount; there’s so much more to learn — let’s turn our attention to the types of marijuana leaf we see today.
The Marijuana Leaf: Types
All of the different types of cannabis leaves belong to the general umbrella category or genus known as Cannabis sativa L .
The “L” in the plant’s genus name stands for Carl Linnaeus’s last name. He was the first to identify and name the species in 1753 according to the modern taxonomic nomenclature that he developed.
Linnaeus didn’t “discover” cannabis —- remember its use stretches back thousands and thousands of years — rather, he established the classification system (binomial nomenclature) that we’ve used for the past 260-odd years to describe plants and animals (even ourselves: Homo sapiens ) and keep everything straight in our heads.
Biology lesson complete, let’s dig into each type of marijuana leaf to see what we can learn.
Large cannabis sativa leaves can have up to thirteen long, slender, pronounced, jagged, spiky serrations.
The coloration of sativa leaves ranges from light to dark green.
Sativa leaves can come from either female plants — from which we harvest the smokable weed we all know and love — or from the male plants known as hemp.
Hemp plants produce more CBD than THC but are typically grown for a mind-blowing array of renewable, eco-friendly, industrial, planet-saving purposes.
Check out the illustration below for just a few of the many uses.
So even if you can’t use the marijuana leaf as medicine or to get high, you can use it and other parts of the plant for some truly righteous things.
Linnaeus mistakenly assumed that the cannabis genus was monolithic, meaning that it only had one species — the sativa variety itself.
There are, however, several other varieties of marijuana leaves that grow from the different subvarieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. Case in point: Cannabis indica.
Cannabis indica leaves typically grow much shorter and wider than sativa leaves and contain seven to nine olive-green leaflets.
French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck coined the name Cannabis indica in 1785 to account for the differences between the Cannabis sativa hemp grown mostly for agricultural purposes in Europe and the Cannabis indica plants grown for medicinal purposes in India.
Russian botanist D.E. Janischevsky identified a third species of marijuana plant that he named Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis ruderalis grew across eastern Europe and was commonly used by Russians and Mongolians to treat depression.
There is some debate as to whether Cannabis ruderalis is actually its own species.
The leaves of the ruderalis plant possess five to thirteen leaflets and are very similar to those of the indica leaf. The only significant difference being that ruderalis leaves are somewhat smaller and narrower.
Ruderalis grows wild and doesn’t have as much THC content as the other species of cannabis plants.
In recent years, growers have experimented with crossbreeding ruderalis and indica plants in an attempt to create strains with shorter growing seasons.
Cannabis sativa and ruderalis crossbreeds have produced strains that flower automatically without having to reduce the amount of light (i.e., number of hours) to which the plant is exposed.
Wild Weed Leaf Variations
Marijuana is a very adaptable, dynamic plant that loves to mutate if given the chance. We’ll discuss three common mutations of the marijuana leaf.
However, it’s worth knowing that deliberate attempts to grow marijuana plants with these mutated leaves don’t always produce the best medicinal cannabinoids.
The Webbed Marijuana Leaf
Growers of the past (i.e., before cannabis was legal) attempted to stabilize the webbed mutation in order to disguise their plants from the prying eyes of The Man.
These webbed varieties have fallen out of favor in recent years because now growers can plant and cultivate the regular varieties (sans mutation) right out in the open.
If you’re interested, you can still obtain webbed varieties on the internet (Ducksfoot is a common option), but you’ll have to grow them from seed.
The Whorled Marijuana Leaf
In recent years, some growers have come to believe that plants with a whorled marijuana leaf produce flowers with higher potency. There is, however, no scientific evidence to prove this belief true.
Australian Bastard Cannabis
Australian bastard cannabis is another common marijuana mutation. The plant has hairless leaflets with no more than five points, which are only a few centimeters long.
As novel as these mutations may be, the best results for growing your own cannabis will come from cultivating a seed that comes from a healthy plant with normal characteristics.
To help you get the most out of DIY grow operation, we’ll now discuss how to keep your plant in good condition .
Signs Of Sickness In The Marijuana Leaf
The leaves of your pot plant are clues to all sorts of issues that your plant may encounter during the growing process.
Your leaves will show specific discolorations and deteriorations if the plant is deficient in key nutrients, such as boron, calcium, copper, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, or zinc.
Boron deficiency is characterized in two ways:
- Large gray or brown spots on the marijuana leaf
- Soft, purple stems between the marijuana leaf and the main body of the plant
To prevent boron deficiency, make sure your plants don’t dry out too often, don’t over-fertilize, and make sure the humidity in your grow space is above 25 percent.
Molybdenum deficiency is difficult to diagnose because it looks so much like other issues, such as nitrogen deficiency and calcium deficiency.
Molybdenum deficiency usually rears its ugly head by causing the marijuana leaf to develop brown, crispy edges and orange or pink shades in the center.
The best solution for molybdenum deficiency is to flush the growing medium with pure 6.0 pH water and then to make sure the pH of your soil is perfect from there on out.
Magnesium deficiency is characterized by a yellowing of the marijuana leaf and tips that eventually become dry, brown, and crunchy.
Curing your cannabis plant of magnesium deficiency involves flushing the substrate with 6.0 pH water, feeding the plant with an optimal-pH fertilizer, and then adding a high-quality, cannabis-specific magnesium supplement into the mix.
The Best Way To Avoid Deficiencies
You can avoid these deficiencies entirely by utilizing tried and true organic marijuana growing methods involving proper cannabis compost and our super soil formula for organic 420 fertilizer .
You can still add specific organic nutrients to the soil and stimulate new ganja growth if you keep the PH range of the soil optimal for the specific nutrient.
You’ll need to flush your lines with clean, neutral pH water containing half the plant’s nutrients for the deficiency to clear up and to stimulate new growth if you’re using hydroponic growing methods.
You’ll know you’re overwatering if the marijuana leaves grow firm, droop, and curl down toward their stems. At that point, they are essentially starving for oxygen.
If you see this happen, you’ll need to cut back on watering and give them time to recover.
You can try increasing the temperature from the lights and your airflow if you are growing indoors to speed up water absorption. You can also poke some holes in the soil with a pencil to give them some oxygen. Your plants may also require a better drainage system.
The serrated edges of the leaves will begin to curl up if they are exposed to too much natural or artificial light.
You’ll see yellow and brown burn spots on the leaves if they receive too much light or especially direct contact with a bulb.
To alleviate these issues, decrease the intensity of your lighting and increase air circulation with fans to help your indoor plants recover. Hang a large cloth or sheet or build some other source of shade for your outdoor plants.
Water them in the early morning and late evening to help them retain water and recover from heat and light stress.
Making The Most Out Of The Marijuana Leaf
Soaking your freshly harvested marijuana leaves in cold water for five minutes and then juicing them with some lemon, apples, carrots, beets or other vegetables is an extremely easy and incredibly healthy way to make the most out of your marijuana leaves.
Juicing your cannabis leaves won’t transform the raw THCA acid into the psychoactive THC cannabinoid that will get you high. However, many patients love experiencing the health benefits without the euphoric high by juicing ganja leaves.
Kristen Peskuski was bedridden, taking forty medications a day, told she would never be able to have children, and was near death due to a degenerative condition known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus when Dr. William Courtney (pictured above) prescribed raw cannabis juice.
Kristen recovered, married Dr. Courtney, and wound up giving birth to a healthy daughter without any complications or medical intervention.
This high-powered, 420-friendly family has since become a leading advocate for the miraculous medicinal powers of raw cannabis leaf juice.
Don’t Smoke The Leaves!
Well, actually you can! However, smoking raw marijuana by itself will only give you a mild buzz as opposed to a proper euphoric high .
This is why we don’t recommend smoking marijuana leaves unless you’re using them to smoke good ground bud by rolling it into a custom joint for yourself!
You can also harvest the THC-bearing trichomes on your marijuana leaves into an edible 11-Hydroxy-THC body high by cooking your leaves into cannabutter .
A Quick Cannabutter Recipe
Wash and soak about 3.5 ounces (100 grams) worth of your freshly harvested pot leaves in cold water for five minutes the same way you would before juicing them.
Then chop and grind up your leaves.
Toss in about 4 grams of your favorite ground weed bud for good measure.
Heat and simmer the ground weed leaves with equal parts butter and water in a saucepan for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour the mixture through a strainer to remove leftover plant matter, and let the mixture refrigerate to solidify into cannabutter that you can use to make a wide variety of marijuana edibles.
You can also harvest the trichomes from the marijuana leaves by using a grinder with a kief catcher to grate the plant matter. Once you’ve collected enough kief, you can sprinkle it in your joint before you close, mix it in your breakfast smoothie, or go crazy and make some moon rock weed .
The sky’s the limit at that point, so get creative with your kief.
A Quick Guide To Grinding Your Marijuana Leaves
Here’s how to collect the most kief from a four-piece grinder:
- Get a four-piece grinder (duh!).
- Make sure the grinder is clean .
- Assemble the grinder so it’s ready to go.
- Tear the marijuana leaf into small pieces that will fit in your grinder (depending on how many leaves you have, they may not all fit in the grinder at one time).
- When the grinding chamber is empty, reload and grind again.
- If the collection chamber fills up, empty the ground-up plant matter into a bowl for further processing.
- Once you’ve pulverized all your marijuana leaves, put the already-ground plant matter back into the grinder and grind some more.
- This time around, before emptying the collection chamber, bang the grinder against your hand or a table (gently) to separate more of the kief into the kief chamber.
- When you’re all done with the second round of grinding, we suggest steeping the ground-up plant matter in some hot water to make a weed tea .
- While your tea’s brewing, empty the kief chamber of its contents so you can use the powder as you see fit.
- Alternatively, you can leave the kief in the grinder and collect more when you grind your raw bud. It’s up to you.
If you do decide to store the kief in the grinder, we suggest at least cleaning the other parts of the grinder. That way the marijuana leaf plant matter doesn’t dilute the full-strength ganja you’re going to grind next time around.
Leafing You Dazed and Educated!
As a final reminder, it’s important to keep your leaves healthy so that you can enjoy the immense health benefits from juicing or creating cannabutter with your freshly harvested marijuana leaves.
Want to get to know the pot plant better? Learn about the marijuana leaf. The experts at Honest Marijuana tell you everything you need to know.
Why Some Pot Leaves Have More “Fingers” Than Others
We all know the standard image of the cannabis leaf, right? By this point, you’ve probably seen it about a million times imprinted on lighters, shirts, websites, and just about everything else!
Typical Cannabis Leaf Shape
Now before you examine the picture too closely, answer this: How many “fingers” or “points” is a cannabis leaf supposed to have? (more formally called “leaflets”, “segments” or ‘lobes”)
Don’t feel bad if you don’t know. It’s a trick question.
Cannabis leaves usually change the number of fingers/points on their leaves as they mature. The number we’re most familiar with seeing is the leaf with 7 points, but cannabis leaves can naturally grow leaves with 1-13+ points!
Cannabis leaves on young plants almost always start with fewer points. The following progression shows what leaves typically look like from seedling to adult.
Normal Leaf Progression
Two round cotyledon leaves emerge from inside the shell during germination. After that, the seedling grows two serrated leaves (“real” leaves) with one point.
The first set of serrated leaves have just one point
When the plant grows the next set of leaves, they usually have 3 points.
With this plant, you can see the first set of serrated leaves have one point, and the second set has 3 points
The next set of leaves typically have 5 points once they’ve grown in. I put a red dot at each point to help you see them better.
The third set of serrated leaves usually has 5 points
By the 4th set of serrated leaves and beyond, leaves typically have 7 points each. Most plants will continue making 7-point fan leaves for the rest of their life.
“Typical” 7-point Cannabis Leaf
However, most adult plants will occasionally make 9-point leaves, especially when growing fast with lots of light.
This outdoor plant has a 9-point leaf in the middle of the picture (where it’s getting a lot of sun), though most leaves on the plant are 7-point.
Another 9-point leaf
It’s entirely ordinary for cannabis leaves to have 9, 11, or even 13+ points. It’s rarely the sign of a problem. They often appear on healthy, fast-growing plants.
This leaf has 13 points!
What about other numbers of “points”?
Sometimes you’ll see other numbers of points. This can be the result of several factors. Some causes are benign (it’s just genetics for some plants), but sometimes weird-point leaves are a symptom of something bad happening. You no longer need to wonder. Without further ado, here’s info about other possible numbers of points you might see!
It’s normal to see single-point “sugar leaves” after your plant has started making buds. These are much smaller than regular leaves, and the base of a sugar leaf is inside the bud.
1-Point “Sugar Leaves” emerging from buds are normal
Sugar leaves appear “tucked in” the buds during the flowering stage
Sometimes you’ll see 1-point leaves as the results of genetics or a mutation. You know this is the case when your otherwise healthy plant grows 1-point leaves from seed to harvest.
Examples of 1-point leaves from genetics or a mutation
This is normal genetic variation. Nothing is wrong here.
Here’s another cannabis plant that only grew single-point leaves from seed to harvest
Sometimes 1-point leaves are the sign of a problem!
You should be concerned if your plant starts growing 1-point fan leaves as an older plant, especially if the leaves are rounded and appear on long stems. That’s often a sign the plant is “re-vegging”.
Look What Happens When You Re-Vegetate a Plant After it Starts Flowering…
This is a Re-Vegged Plant (reverted from the flowering stage back into the vegetative stage)
A re-vegged plant will grow round single, triple, or quintuple pointed leaves at first, before it starts growing regular serrated leaves.
Re-vegetating a plant means you take a flowering/budding plant and put it back in the vegetative stage. It is also sometimes referred to as “Monstercropping” or “Monster Cropping.” This refers to the fact that a revegged plant will tend to grow much bushy than a plant grown from seed.
Some growers like to reveg a plant on purpose after harvest, instead of throwing it away.
Benefits to re-vegging (monster cropping)
- you don’t have to plant a new seed or clone
- possibly saved vegetative time
- no need to dispose of harvested plant
- re-vegged plants grow back bushier (sometimes to an extreme)
Downsides to re-vegging (monster cropping)
- it takes a long time for a flowering plant to re-veg
- initial growth is strange and stretchy, with round leaves
- plant training may be more difficult as plant already has set structure
- yields are often lower than the first time around
Sometimes re-vegging happens by accident – a grower puts their flowering plants outdoors too early in the year, and the plant reverts to vegetative growth. Sometimes a grower will start flowering a plant and have to return it to the vegetative stage for some other reason. In all these cases, the plant will display these strange rounded leaves for a while until it gets back into the swing of things.
These cannabis plants were re-vegged by accident
Close to Harvest
Right After Being Brought Outside Too Early in the Year, Causing Re-Veg
Plants Can Also Re-Veg If You Clone a Plant That’s Already Budding
Here are two clones from a flowering plant
It’s normal to see 3-point leaves on a young seedling, and occasionally you’ll have a plant that keeps growing 3-point leaves as an adult due to normal genetic variation. But sometimes it’s a sign of a problem.
What causes 3-point leaves?
- Genetics – Some strains grow 3-point leaves no matter what you do — for example, any Ducksfoot strain. If plants are otherwise healthy and grow 3-point leaves from seed to harvest, you likely don’t need to worry.
- Environmental stress – Extreme temperatures, underwatering, stagnant air, and other stresses can trigger the plant to start growing 3-point leaves
- Light stress – Especially a significant change in light type or light levels
- Unusual photoperiods – For example, if grow lights turn on and off at a new time, or you otherwise change your lighting schedule. Some growers have seen them after switching plants to 12/12 to initiate the flowering stage.
- Re-vegetating – If a plant starts flowering (making buds) and then switches back to the vegetative stage, it can cause leaves to grow with 3 points. Learn more about re-vegging.
Some strains such as the Ducksfoot strain naturally grows 3-point leaves no matter what
The Ducksfoot cannabis strain doesn’t really look like cannabis, does it?
However, if a plant “reverts” back to 3-point leaves, you should be concerned.
These plants were growing typical leaves, but after being switched from a fluorescent light to a powerful LED, all the leaves started growing in with 3-points as a stress response. However, they quickly adjusted to the light and began to grow regular leaves again within a few weeks.
These plants started growing 3-point leaves after experiencing light stress
Here’s a closeup
These outdoor plants in Australia began to grow 3-point leaves after massive bush fires created smoke that blocked out the sun. The odd light periods caused the 3-point stress response.
Smoke blocked out the sun, triggering 3-point leaves in these outdoor plants
If you know why your plants started growing 3-point leaves, all you need to do is correct the issue (or potentially wait for them to grow out of it). But if you see 3-point leaves appear out of nowhere, don’t ignore it! Try to determine what’s causing the change.
Why Some Pot Leaves Have More “Fingers” Than Others We all know the standard image of the cannabis leaf, right? By this point, you’ve probably seen it about a million times imprinted on lighters,