Cannabis is an extremely diverse plant, so you shouldn’t expect strains to have a uniform appearance. Pest infestations, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies can all cause marijuana plants to look unusual.
However, occasionally growers come across some utterly bizarre mutations that freak them out. If you come across a mutant cannabis plant, don’t panic. In most cases, it won’t negatively affect your yields.
This guide looks at seven common marijuana mutations. Hopefully, it gives you an idea of what you’re up against should you ever spot a strange-looking plant in your grow operation.
1 – Leaves with Two Tones
While cannabis leaves can have hints of discoloration, this mutation is highly unusual. It typically involves having half the leaf with one color, while the other half has a different color. It looks particularly cool when the colors are split in a fairly straight line. In general, two-toned leaves don’t cause problems for your cannabis.
Bi-colored leaves is due to a phenomenon called ‘sectorial chimera.’ Genetic chimerism involves a single organism comprised of cells with two or more distinct genotypes.
It is easy to mistake two-toned leaves for a nutrient deficiency. The main difference is that you’ll usually only see a handful of leaves with the unusual pattern. In contrast, a nutrient deficiency affects the entire plant. One of the most aesthetically pleasing forms of this mutation is when the leaf is half purple and half green.
2 – Polyembryony
Some growers find that a cannabis seed germinates two taproots instead of one. What typically happens is that one plant is normal, while the other is a clone of its mother. Separating these plant twins is challenging.
However, if you spot it fast enough, you could remove the seed casing within a day or two. Then you have the chance to separate the seedlings. Complete the process correctly, and you should benefit from two healthy plants. However, one will generally grow a lot smaller than the other if you try to grow them together in the same container. There are also rare instances of seeds putting out three taproots.
By the way, there is also a cojoined twin mutation where two plants separate the same root.
3 – Polyploidism
Individual organisms with a larger number of chromosomes than is normal for their species are called polyploids. Marijuana has two sets of chromosomes, which makes it a diploid plant. Polyploid cannabis plants are usually much larger than is typical for their strain. It isn’t a trait that is passed to other plants.
Nonetheless, some breeders have attempted to take advantage of polyploids in cannabis. Tetraploid plants have four sets of chromosomes and could lead to improved potency and yield. Crossing a tetraploid with a diploid plant will result in triploid plants, which are infertile and seedless. In theory, growers could produce sinsemilla cannabis in a field of mixed males and females.
4 – Variegation
This is the technical term for when cannabis has no pigmentation. It happens due to a genetic issue with the genes that regulate chlorophyll. These plants are completely white because they cannot absorb light. They are interesting to look at, but ultimately, you should remove them from your garden because they’re no longer able to grow.
5 – Three Leaf Seedlings
In general, almost every marijuana plant you grow from seed will begin with two leaves per set. However, there are occasions where a tri-leaf seedling appears. This is one of the most regularly discovered mutations. If you’ve grown cannabis long enough, you have probably seen it with your own eyes.
Tri-leaf seedlings produce approximately one-third more side branches than their standard two-leaf counterpart. As such, you should consider it for a SCROG setup or another form of marijuana plant training.
In some cases, the plant will grow in this unusual pattern for the duration of its cycle. Others begin growing with two leaves per node after a while.
6 – An Unusual Number of Leaf Points
Not everyone is aware that cannabis leaves typically have seven or nine points. Some growers find a massive variety of the number of points on leaves, even on the same plant. It is pretty cool to see leaves with 13+ points. Other growers have discovered that their plants had single-point leaves.
The first set of leaves on a seedling normally has a single point. The next set has three points, while subsequent sets have five, then seven, and sometimes nine. In many cases, this mutation is simply a matter of genetics. For instance, the Duckfoot strain grows three-point leaves no matter what. However, leaves with an unusual number of points could also be a sign of trouble.
For instance, extreme temperatures, overwatering, or other environmental stresses could cause three-point leaves. Light stress and unusual photoperiods can also result in a strange number of points.
7 – Oddly Shaped Leaves
For the most part, the majority of cannabis plants have a similar leaf shape. However, mutations can create some weird and wonderful varieties. The famous Australian Bastard Cannabis (ABC) is one example. ABC grows like a shrub with smooth and shiny leaves that seldom grow more than two inches long.
The strange shape of the leaves is down to its ability to tolerate cold temperatures. Discovered in Sydney in the 1970s, ABC became internationally famous in the 1990s. The original version of the plant contains relatively few cannabinoids. However, breeders have tried to experiment to create a potent version that retains the unusual leaf shape. They haven’t yet succeeded by all accounts.
Final Thoughts on Common Marijuana Mutations
The above outline just seven of the hundreds of cannabis plant mutations you might come across. In some cases, it is all down to genetics. However, occasionally, it is potentially a sign that your plants are in trouble. While many mutations aren’t harmful to your crop, it is better to be safe than sorry and remove it from your cannabis garden.