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Understanding, Identifying and Using Cannabis Leaves

The leaves are the most recognisable and well-known part of the cannabis plant. Despite the great degree of variation found naturally in local populations of cannabis, the leaves do not alter greatly in appearance between varieties. Here is the story behind the leaves of three main strains, how to identify them and some ideas on how you can use these leaves.

The leaves of a cannabis plant play a big role in supporting its growth and the overall health of the plant. The stomata on the bottom of the leaves, which are tiny little holes that open and close, take in carbon dioxide and release water and oxygen. This is required for photosynthesis, which would be near impossible without the leaves. They also provide a way for the plant to absorb nutrients (foliar feeding).

Cannabis leaf phyllotaxy

According to the standard phyllotaxy (the arrangement of leaves on a plant stem), cannabis leaves are compound (with multiple leaflets, as opposed to simple, where a single leaf grows from the stem) and opposite decussate rather than alternate.

Opposite leaves emerge in pairs, one each side of the stem, with a clear vertical space between the leaf pairs. Decussate leaves are opposite, but each new leaf pair is at a right-angle to the last pair. Alternate leaves emerge from the stem singly, swapping sides as the vertical height increases.

Although cannabis leaves are usually decussate, as the plant prepares to flower the leaves may begin to emerge in an alternate pattern. Interestingly, rejuvenated cannabis plants demonstrate alternate phyllotaxy.

Experiments with hemp showed that early-planted specimens, which flowered in low light conditions but did not die, began to put out new alternate leaf growth when hours of sunlight increased. The initial new growth was simple rather than compound, and as new growth continued, the number of leaflets gradually increased.

There is some evidence that this phenomenon leads to vegetative growth of greatly increased vigour, although the genetic processes responsible are not fully understood. It is thought that the evolution of opposite-decussate phyllotaxy occurred comparatively recently, from an alternate-leaved ancestor, and that the genes controlling the decussate phyllotaxy ‘switch off’ around the time of inflorescence.

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The leaves can help identify common growing mishaps

The leaves of cannabis plants can be very telling. Here are some tell-tale signs of a mishap in the making that can be seen by merely inspecting the leaves:

  • Blistered, twisted, shiny “wet” looking leaves – This may be an indication of mites, which are too small to see with the naked eye. If this is the case, new leaves may grow in twisted, top leaves can droop.
  • Spotted leaves – Spotty leaves may indicate a deficiency (likely a calcium deficiency). This normally affects new leaves or parts that are actively growing.
  • Edge of leaves fading to pale yellow – This is likely a sign of magnesium deficiency.
  • Edge of leaves change to white or bright yellow – If this is seen along with the inner main part of the leaves turning purplish or dark blue, then there’s probably a copper deficiency. They may also appear shiny or start to turn under. This most often affects leaves directly in the light.
  • Curling, folding, miscolouring leaves – If leaves are too close to light or heat, they can start undergoing heat stress. This can lead to them folding up, curling down under and turning yellow or even plainly getting a burnt look to the edges.
  • New leaves grow in bright yellow – If new leaves are growing in from the get-go with a bright yellow colour, the plant may have an iron deficiency.

Leaf differences between the three main subspecies

Putting aside the eccentricities of cannabis leaf growth for a moment, let us take a look at the differences between the three pure main subspecies of cannabis, which are:

  • C. sativa
  • C. indica
  • C. ruderalis

C. sativa leaves are long and slender, often with pronounced serrations, giving the leaves a jagged, almost spiky appearance. The colour of sativa leaves ranges from bright, lime green to blackish-green at the darkest. The largest leaves can often have up to thirteen leaflets.

C. indica leaves are much wider. The largest leaves usually have fewer leaflets than the largest sativa leaves, with seven to nine leaflets. Indica leaves are commonly deep olive-green; very light green leaves are rare and often a sign of deficiency.

C. ruderalis leaves are generally smaller than the other subspecies’, as the mature plant is much smaller overall. The largest leaves may contain anything from five to thirteen leaflets. Ruderalis leaves are usually closer to the indica in terms of width, although they can be much narrower than any indica leaf would normally be.

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Mutated patterns seen in cannabis leaves

The incredible variation in cannabis morphology throughout the world has led to some very unusual leaf patterns occasionally occurring. Many of these traits are seen as highly desirable due to their visual dissimilarity to “normal” cannabis, as they can serve to disguise a crop from the unwelcome attention of law enforcement in areas where cultivation is illegal.

Webbed leaves are a common mutation, and one which various breeders have attempted to stabilise. Such efforts have unfortunately not prevailed to the point where webbed varieties are now commercially available, though. In the past, however, it was possible to source webbed varieties such as Ducksfoot in seed form.

Whorled phyllotaxy is another common mutation, although this is less desirable as a concealment trait as the plants still definitely resemble cannabis.

However, many growers find the trait desirable for cosmetic purposes, Some believe that such plants yield flowers of higher potency, although this has not been demonstrably proven.

Australian Bastard Cannabis is perhaps the most striking mutation yet seen in cannabis. It is believed that this mutation was first seen in escaped populations around Sydney. Breeders have also attempted to stabilise this trait … again, without commercial success.

This mutation takes the form of hairless, succulent leaflets, usually with no more than five leaflets to a leaf. The individual leaflets usually do not exceed a few centimetres in length.

Despite the allure of cannabis that does not resemble cannabis, most attempts to breed viable strains using these genetics have ended in failure.

Not unsurprisingly, the best results will usually be gained from healthy plants that exhibit normal characteristics. However, the success of breeding ruderalis genetics (which are poor in cannabinoids) with higher-potency varieties indicates that further research may yield improved results.

Cannabis leaves are so recognizable, they’re basically iconic. But what do you know about them? Learn to identify the leaves and what you can do with them.

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.

Source: Sensiseeds.com

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.

Source: Leafscience.com

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

Source: Pinterest.com

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.

Sativa

Source: Marijuana1.co

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.

Source: Realhemp.com

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.

Indica

Source: Marijuana1.co

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.

Ruderalis

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.

Source: Cannabisgrowing.wordpress.com

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.

Source: Cannabisgrowing.wordpress.com

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

Source: Sensiseeds.com

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

Source: Sensiseeds.com

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

Source: Sensiseeds.com

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

Source: Thenug.com

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

Source: Thenug.com

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

Source: Royalqueenseeds.com

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.

Overwatering

Source: Thenug.com

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.

Light Burn

Source: Thenug.com

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

Source: Alchimiaweb.com

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.

Source: Alchimiaweb.com

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!

Source: Forums.cannabisculture.com

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.

Source: Theweedblog.com

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:

  1. Get a four-piece grinder (duh!).
  2. Make sure the grinder is clean .
  3. Assemble the grinder so it’s ready to go.
  4. 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).
  5. Grind!
  6. When the grinding chamber is empty, reload and grind again.
  7. If the collection chamber fills up, empty the ground-up plant matter into a bowl for further processing.
  8. Once you’ve pulverized all your marijuana leaves, put the already-ground plant matter back into the grinder and grind some more.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 .
  11. While your tea’s brewing, empty the kief chamber of its contents so you can use the powder as you see fit.
  12. 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!

Source: Vaccineliberationarmy.com

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.