by Nebula Haze
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
“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!
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
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
Here’s another cannabis plant that only grew single-point leaves from seed to harvest
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.
Did you enjoy this article? Check out more cannabis plant oddities!