by Seshata on 30/11/2015 | Cultivation

Top 10 Craziest Cannabis Mutations

16-11-2018 We’ve updated our article.

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Top Cannabis Mutations Diseases, pest infestations, poor environment and deficiencies can all make cannabis plants look a bit weird. But this article is all about DNA mutations, which can give rise to even stranger looking plants!


All the genetic information needed to make a plant is found in its DNA. DNA is a helical molecule, composed of two spiral strands that are connected by ‘rungs’ called base pairs. A single DNA molecule, or chromosome, contains hundreds of individual genes, each of which is made up of thousands of base pairs.  Mutations arise when a plant’s DNA is altered.

There are two types of DNA mutations, gene mutations and chromosome mutations. In a gene mutation, the order of bases on a strand of DNA is changed. A chromosome mutation may take several forms: the order of the genes on the chromosome can change; genes can be duplicated or deleted; and genes can even break off of one chromosome and join onto another. The number of chromosomes can also increase in a mutation known as polyploidity (discussed in more detail below).

Gene and chromosome mutations occur naturally, generally at a low frequency. Higher rates of mutation occur when the DNA is damaged by a mutagenic agent such as a chemical, like colchicine, caffeine or mustard gas, or by UV, X-ray or gamma ray radiation.

Often these DNA alterations are detrimental to the plant and are not passed on to subsequent generations. But desirable or neutral traits sometimes arise through random mutations. Such traits can often be stabilised through selective breeding or natural selection. Exceptional strains can result from random, beneficial mutations.

This article covers both one-off mutations of the type that might pop up occasionally in a single plant, and mutations that have been stabilised through natural selection or selective breeding.

Whorled phyllotaxy

Phyllotaxy is the botanical term for the arrangement of leaves on a plant stem. The basic leaf arrangements are opposite and alternate (also known as spiral). In the case of opposite phyllotaxy, two leaves originate from the same position on the stem, while in alternate phyllotaxy each leaf originates from a unique point on the stem. Whorled phyllotaxy is an interesting variant where several leaves arise from the same point on the stem. Young cannabis plants display opposite phyllotaxy, with alternate phyllotaxy becoming evident as the plant nears sexual maturity. Whorled phyllotaxy is a relatively common cannabis mutation, and causes three or more leaves to grow from each node rather than the usual two. Along with the extra leaf or leaves, an extra branch is also generated at each node, meaning that plants with whorled phyllotaxy often grow extra bushy!

Top 10 Craziest Cannabis Mutations
Cannabis Mutations – Whorled phyllotaxy

Whorled phyllotaxy is pretty and may lead to somewhat greater yields, but is generally considered relatively useless to breeders as the trait usually disappears with any efforts to develop true-breeding strains.

Webbed Leaves

The ‘Ducksfoot’ is a variety of cannabis that has extremely wide, webbed leaves reminiscent of the webs between the toes of a duck’s foot, hence its delightfully descriptive name! During the vegetative period, Ducksfoot (as well as the many crosses it has spawned) looks practically nothing like a cannabis plant, and even in full flower, its appearance and smell are highly deceptive.

Top 10 Craziest Cannabis Mutations
Cannabis Mutations – Webbed Leaves

Leaf-webbing is considered a useful mutation, as it can successfully be developed into true-breeding strains that are advantageous to growers that wish to disguise their crop, without sacrificing potency.

Creeper

The creeper phenotype is a strange mutation that is generally found in tropical strains, which often grow extremely large, in very humid conditions. Rather than focussing their energy on producing a large central cola, some of these tropical strains grow such large and  heavy lower branches that they can  bow down to touch the ground. At that point, the branches continue to grow along the ground. In common with many other plants, it may even form new root sites where the underside of the stem touches the ground!

Top 10 Craziest Cannabis Mutations
Cannabis Mutations – Creeper

The creeper phenotype has the potential to be useful, as it somewhat disguises the plant, and may also confer some extra vigour via extra rooting sites. However, this phenotype appears to be rare, and has not been developed into any known strains.

Australian Bastard Cannabis (ABC)

This rare and unusual mutation was, according to internet-forum wisdom, first found in the countryside near Sydney, Australia in the 1970s or ‘80s, where it was known as cannabis australis (not a proper botanical name) or Bindi Buds. About as unlike a regular cannabis plant as a mutant can ever be, this strange anomaly grows more like a shrub than a classic christmas tree shape, and its leaves are non-serrated, smooth and shiny like those of a succulent, with each leaflet reaching no more than 5cm in length.

Top 10 Craziest Cannabis Mutations
Cannabis Mutations – Australian Bastard Cannabis

The unusual leaf shape is associated with improved hardiness and cold tolerance, making it well adapted to its territorial range in southern New South Wales and Victoria, both of which are among the cooler parts of Australia.

When the plant was introduced to the rest of the world in the 1990s it was dubbed Australian Bastard Cannabis, or ABC for short.

The original ABC was low in cannabinoids, but some underground breeders who experimented with the strain managed to produce plants that looked like the ABC but had significantly greater THC levels.

The ABC made ripples in growing circles when it first appeared around a decade ago, but despite initial promise with breeding programs, it appears that no strains have been made commercially available. The challenge for breeders is that the characteristic leaf shape was found to be highly recessive, and therefore hard to pass on to its progeny.  The hardiness and cold tolerance of the ABC was, however, evident in the crosses.

Vine-like cannabis

This is where things start to get a little murky. Several of the underground breeders who experimented with the ABC genetic reported producing crosses that actually had vine-like characteristics, including the ability to form stems that wrap in a spiral pattern around each other.

Top 10 Craziest Cannabis Mutations
Cannabis Mutations – Vine-like cannabis

This mutation appears to be extremely rare, and does not seem to have been noted beyond these few anomalous experiments. Beyond its rarity and extremely unusual appearance, the vine characteristic does not appear to be highly advantageous, and no commercial strains have ever been developed.

Leaf buds

Typically, flower sites on cannabis plants occur at the nodes, at the same point that the petioles (stalks of leaves) originate from. However, a relatively common mutation can cause buds to form at the other end of the petiole, at the base of the leaves themselves. This is sometimes called a piggyback mutation.

Top 10 Craziest Cannabis Mutations
Cannabis Mutations – Leaf buds

This mutation is unusual and interesting in appearance, and is often thought to be advantageous due to the extra bud sites. However, in reality it is probably better to remove these leaves as soon as they are observed, as buds yielded from these sites are usually tiny, and take up nutrients that could be put towards developing your main flower sites.

Polyploidism

Polyploids are individual organisms that possess a greater number of of chromosomes than is normal for the species they belong to. Polyploidism underlies the phenomenon of hybrid vigour, where crosses of two closely related species display higher yields and improved resistance to drought or disease.  For example, durum wheat (used to make pasta) is a polyploid form of wheat created via an inter-species cross of two grasses with the typical chromosome count.

Cannabis is a diploid plant, with two sets of chromosomes. Rare instances of spontaneous polyploidism can occur if the normal process of cell division malfunctions during development, and it can be also be induced in plants that would otherwise develop normally by treatment with a powerful mutagenic chemical called colchicine. Colchicone is highly toxic and should only be handled by those who understand the risks and know how to mitigate them!

Polyploidism has been widely exploited in fruit and vegetable growing, and two potential applications of polyploidism in cannabis have been investigated: tetraploids for increased yield and potency and triploids for seedless buds.

Tetraploid plants (with four sets of chromosomes) have the potential to increase yield and potency. This has been investigated by Buddha Seeds and reported in the International Cannagraphic Magazine forums. Disappointingly, no compelling advantages of the tetraploid plants over the diploid versions were observed. This is not the only study to question the received wisdom that tetraploid plants are more potent than duploids: a study of polyploidism in hemp found that tetraploids had more protein, starch and flavonoids than diploids, but less THC.

If a tetraploid plant is crossed with a diploid plant, the offspring are triploid (3 sets), and should be infertile and seedless, opening up the exciting possibility of producing sensimillia in mixed fields of males and females.  In the case of cannabis, triploids did exhibit reduced amounts of seeds compared to diploids, but fell far short of the absolute seedlessness required for sensimilla production.

Stringy” Cannabis

In stringy cannabis the calyxes grow all along branch rather than  in clusters.  Such plants yield less and can be a pain to harvest, but they can be very potent. Dr Grinspoon, the heirloom sativa strain named after Lester Grinspoon, author of the ground-breaking 1970s book ‘Marihuana Reconsidered’, is an example of a strain that exhibits stringy buds as its usual growth pattern.

The “stringy” tendency appears to be present mainly in intensively-bred sativa lines of Southeast Asian or South American background. Stringy strains take a long time to flower, exhibit a high degree of hermaphroditism, and yield very little – but their unique appearance, aroma and effects have won them many fans nonetheless.

Twin seedlings

Another common mutation found in cannabis is polyembryonic seeds. Polyembryonic seeds contain more one seedling, and when germinated, will surprise their owners by putting out two taproots instead of one.

Top 10 Craziest Cannabis Mutations
Cannabis Mutations – Twin seedlings

If carefully handled, it should be possible to remove the seed casing after a day or two and gently separate the two seedlings. Once separated, the two seedlings should happily grow into two healthy plants—and interestingly, while one of the two plants will be the normal offspring of its mother and father, the other will be a clone of its mother.

Although two seedlings are more common, some three-seedling polyembryonic seeds have also been observed. However, while this is an interesting mutation, it does not confer much advantage to the breeder, and apparently no effort has been made to develop a true-breeding polyembryonic strain.

Albinism & variegation

Arguably one of the most beautiful spontaneous mutations to occur in any plant, variegation occurs when some of the genes that control production of chlorophyll and other pigments do not express correctly, causing distinctive patterns of pigmented and non-pigmented sections on leaves and buds.

Top 10 Craziest Cannabis Mutations
Cannabis Mutations – Variegation

In some extreme cases, the genes that control production of chlorophyll may all be switched-off, and the plant will be entirely albino. However, plants that require photosynthesis to live cannot survive and reach full maturity if they are albino, as chlorophyll is required for the photosynthesis reaction.

Variegation is pretty, but is generally considered useless or even detrimental, as it reduces the plant’s capacity to photosynthesize and thus comprises its ability to achieve maximum health and yield.

However, there is some indication that the white flower tips commonly expressed during high-intensity LED cultivation may arise due to genetic mechanisms. Testing on these white tips has reportedly demonstrated above-average cannabinoid and terpene levels compared to normal parts of the same plant – so white flower tissue may not be so detrimental after all! Of course, we need to conduct more studies and tests to ascertain the exact nature of the relationship between high light levels, genetics and variegation.

We hope you have enjoyed this selection of unusual cannabis mutations—and if you encounter your own examples of these or other mutations, please let us know all about it in the comments section below!

This article was updated with the contributions of independent scientist Dr Gavin Macfie, to ensure accuracy and academic rigour.

Comment Section

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christooher wilhite

Are they all natural mutations , Adapting to environment.? Genetically altered by man?

05/01/2016

Mav

I have a rare strain we call starflower,half the plants instead of budding normally have skinny weed like branches that have nothing but seed calaxes alternating on both sides interspaced with random three bladed leaves, never seen anything like it before but after seven gene they are still showing up in this strain!!!

25/05/2016

Joey

@Christooher Wilhite

Your understanding of mutations is not accurate. Mutations are random changes in the DNA code. Mutations happen all the time, in your very body as you are reading this sentance. Mutations are not "adaptations" to the environment. They are random changes, and could be either good or bad. A human intentionally changing the DNA of an organism is clearly not a mutation, as it is not random. It doesn't even make sense to talk about natural vs artificial mutations, since all mutations are simply random.

21/02/2018

Patrick

No... the creeper example is just marijuan's way of ensuring more plants...

I took a white widow from greenhouse seeds that I did not want ant threw it in my compost heap.... it grew..
. I bent it and broke it and stuffed the branches under the dirt....... to my suprise they all rooted where I pushed it underground and grew like a chain plant..... I got 8 ounces off a plant I actively tried to kill it's whole vegitive state by breaking and bending... yet it came out having a huge root system and tons of popcorn sized buds.... all started from a piece of coco matt that had a root ball from a harvested indoor plant.... turned out to have a strong outdoor white widow that I never intended but had to let go due to its tenasity...

Goes to show your better off maintaing good perameters vs trying to give max light and max nuts for healthy strong plants.

22/02/2018

Tibi

I found also one different plant last summer. It have single finger leaf, mean not 3-5-7,just 1 Plant were female, so i don’t know if the seeds will grow the same because the male were nun muted i think.

05/01/2016

Todd

I have a Hindu Kush 100% indica plant growing that has one single finger leaf growing. The whole plant is like this. Why is it deformed like this.

06/02/2017

Mark

Hi .. I like to collect mutant strains. Thanks Mark.

10/02/2017

Allainyaha Charlene Matthews

I had one plant, started from seed produce the duckfoot whorled mutations. It was male and over produced pollen. I cloned it destressimg the plant and got really nice clones. I crossbreed males CBD hybrid with another female sativa, got seeds.

The seeds grow a longer taproot than my other plants. The leaves come in later as well. I am just starting this grow, so I do not know what I have yet. Only time will tell

28/12/2017

Steve

Interesting article.

05/01/2016

Rockster

Hi Sashata,

that pic isn’t of a polyploid plant but a fasciation mutation which is characterised by the terminal growth showing a strip of pistils rather than a point and occurs in many species of plants which means this mutation first showed way back in plant evolutionary time.

Hope this helps

Rockster @ Kaliman Seeds

05/01/2016

gypsy_king

Actually, it's a crestate mutation, and not polyploidism.

Poly happens, and can be diagnosed by (I think) an even number of nodal splits. 2/4/8/etc the chromosomes are redundant hence polyploidism. I might be wrong, but I paid attention in Plant physiology Botany class.

Please stop telling idiots to use the INCREDIBLY POISONOUS chemical colchicine, the stuff's so poisonous the next generation of plants is TOXIC as fuck to the casual breeder. They need to be isolated and separately cared for, as the NEXT PLANT IS TOXIC TO SMOKE. They look pretty too, though.

X-rays are a less harmful way of getting mutations, same crap-shoot.

Do not reply, I am not at this address. Peace and love.

17/10/2016

Nashville

Very good read, especially for a pot nerd like myself!

05/01/2016

GreenMike

I need some advice, I cant find any info on sunflower/cannabis hybrids. Currently I am 85 % sure that my sunflower seed and the cannabis seed i planted fused together. It started out looking like a Sunflower seedling But after its First set of sunflower true leafs it started developing 5 fingered leaves. I know there was 1 sunflower seed and a few old cannabis seeds i had from a failed attempt left in the pot. Let me know what you guys think . Stay green :)

18/10/2016

John

Interesting but your picture for polyploidy is actually a plant exhibiting fasciation – another fascinating mutation found in the genus Cannabis and only a few others.

05/01/2016

Richard Ellicott

fucking brilliant article

i love you guys :)))))

ofc don’t be sending me any mutant seeds right :)

05/01/2016

Damon

Which strain or oil is the best for MS….getting tired of the pain!!

05/01/2016

Pedro Meireles

do you know something about a fin bud mainly sativa pheno?
when i say fin its realy fin.

05/01/2016

Andrew

I have a mutation it is growing slowly , about 3 inches in 2 weeks it started with about six leaves at the bottom all shaped the same as the ABC plant however the leaves have now become serated and are also all single leaves with a ton of crystals all over the stems and leaves . anyone heard of or seen this mute before as I would be interested to know more about it.

12/03/2016

zacj

That's that high in everything drop mutation. It's best preferred to use red light and do not top the plant in till u shock it into buding then smoke that shit with me! :-)

17/02/2018

Amelia Hernandez

This topic is awsome but the seeds that I've had and these plants are growing beautiful but the only thing is some of the leaves on the stems are drying up ..can someone tell me why

15/04/2016

Kathryn Mitchell

Great article.
I have an indica plant that has a mini leaf growing at the palm of the leaf .There are four or five leaves with the piggyback leaf on the plant.
It's like the leaf bud if you traded the bud for a mini leaf

20/05/2016

Kathryn Mitchell

Your article is very good.
About my piggyback plant is this unique or something common?
I've never seen this before.

20/05/2016

Mav

I have a very rare strain that we call starflower,half the plants instead of budding normally have skinny weed like branches that have nothing but seed calaxes alternating on both sides interspaced with a few three bladed leaves, my brother has this strain and I managed to get some beans from him and starting some up, I have pictures of this strain but the ribbon cable in the phone broke and I can't forward them, I have never seen a strain like this and never will again exept if the seeds I got turn out, pictures will be taken when they do!!!

25/05/2016

Josef

Humulus lupulus is neither a vine nor has tendrils. It's a bine. Trust me on this one. Hops grow on a bine. Grapes grow on a vine. Grapes have tendrils. K bye.

23/01/2017

Seshata

You're absolutely right Josef, I'm not sure how I made that mistake. Will amend asap!

24/01/2017

Mark

Hi , I like to collect mutant strains .. I have a few types of ducks foot a split head auto and trying to get hold of a dr grinspoon too. I'm always on the lookout for any others.. Thanks Mark.

10/02/2017

Ami Rice

Very cool article. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Grew a plant from seed, outside & only one leaf split, two inches from the stalk, and morphed into two separate leaves for another three inches. Instead of 7 leaves it was 7.5 or 8. I took a picture of it with my cell phone but I don't know how to post it.

19/02/2017

Anthony

I've had the whirled phyllotaxy mutation a few times, where there's 3 of each leaf on each node. I thought that was always pretty cool

16/04/2017

Jerome Blimka

I have a leaf, on top of it leave. What causes it.

25/06/2017

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Jerome,

I'm afraid this is a question that I can't answer based on your description, sorry! I suggest you join the Sensi Seeds Forum, where you can upload photos of your plant (we strongly recommend turning off the geotag and any other location information on your camera) and consult our thriving community of cannabis fans for advice and suggestions.

With best wishes,

Scarlet

07/07/2017

Ross

I have a plant that seems to be exhibiting a strange growth pattern. The new branches are coming out at a nearly 90 degree angle and the fan leaf is at a 45 degree facing down. They are essentially growing out horizontally (the new grow is of course bending up towards the light. The seed came from a plant that grown in SCROG fashion and was trained so the colas ran and other branches ran horizontally under a mesh trellis.

Typically it seems the new branches come in facing upwards and require LST techniques such as staking branches down, etc. in order to get the branch growing horizontally.

Is it possible the seeds picked up this trait from the parent plant -- a result of the LST techniques employed?

18/07/2017

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Ross,

That's an interesting question! I'll forward it to the author of this article, and please also post it on the Sensi Seeds Forum (if you haven't already); there are sure to be some ideas from the community on this.

With best wishes,

Scarlet

24/07/2017

MR BLACK

Seen a super dwarf variety, it had leaves the size of a us fifty cent piece. Not an auto, very fruity probably less than 60-80 cm high when finished. Y2K have not seen since. Very clonable, very tiny. Almost definitely pure indica.

17/12/2017

Betty

Very interesting thank you

22/01/2018

joe

I have a plant showing ABC genes with the three leafs domanating but also some indica and the leaf-bud genes. I have calyx's forming all along the fan leaf stems. Not sure what to make of it. Also, she seems to be hermaphroditing. She produced some bananas but i plucked them and havent seen anymore

27/01/2018

Cannabis potency research

You forgot Freak show the newest rarest cannabis mutation of all

31/01/2018

Jeff Thompson

Have you ever seen two leaves in one? I have two leaf stems that came out of the same spot that are joined. At the end two leaves formed stuck together. It has a bushy look to it as it has 14 points.

17/02/2018

Bryan

Does anyone know that strain is in the last picture? I have a plant that has only five fingers in its fan leaf. Ar first i thought it was ruderalis but the leafs are to fat.

06/03/2018

PagoB

Hey guys,just browsing your article. Iv noticed there's no pic of the mutation polyploidation. I currently have plant half way through flowering That is polyploid . Would you guys like to use the photos?

10/05/2018

Scarlet Palmer

Hi there,

Thanks for your comment and for reaching out to us! I would definitely like to see your photos, please could you email them to me at scarlet@sensiseeds.com and I can then let you know if we can use them on the blog?

With best wishes,

Scarlet

17/05/2018

Donny

My leaves on one branch have a 10th leave coming out of the center of the leaves pointing different directions

17/07/2018

Randy Mason

I have a plant that has two leaves coming out over the existing leaves as a set of eyebrows; thus two layers of leaves, the two smaller ones over the natural existing ones, but much smaller; also, as usual a leaf will be in the opposite of a leaf, but this is two single digits leaves coming out as individuals opposing the natural leaf. Some of the eyebrow type leaves only have one brow that comes out over the natural leaves; also, on some of the small leaves coming from the branches seem to be similar to the Australian plant with leaves that twist and curl.

27/07/2018

Daniel Jones

I have a poliploidal plant (I think) this is my first ever grow and there is a plant that had a flat wide stem like it was 2 stems bonded as 1, I switched to flower (4 weeks in so far) and the cola of that stem is like 2 buds bonded as 1 and it is very hard and dense, and bigger than the others,
I will take photos later when I get chance if you would like to see?
I’m going to try and get seeds from this to keep it but as I’m a newb I’m going to have to do a lot of research but I like a challenge :).

07/08/2018

Damien

Yeah I grow and breed with ABC. Trying to retain the leaf pattern characteristic is difficult as is cross breeding it. The vine like growth from an abc hybrid is actually very common. Once crossed with a "normal" southern hemisphere Land race ABC takes on duck foot characteristics. At this point a more potent strain may be bred with ABC before back crossing ABC genetics to reinforce growth characteristics.

18/08/2018

Pdinc

We have grown a mystery cannabis plant that does not grow any buds or male buds. Only leaves are obtained. Is this a mystery plant or quite common.

24/09/2018

den Tapir

Decent article, despite a fair few of those examples being natural variations instead of mutations. Am currently working to stabilize a two-tone variegated ducksfoot type (it has aurea-type variegation and albinistic variegation beside the normal green). One of the mutations in that gene pool is the occurrence of plants that do not form growth points at all, thus making it a single stalk without any branches.

11/11/2018

Dr . Bud

Out standing . Thank u for all your dedicated work. I would like to keep in touch please . I have some mutations happening as we speak. Onelove dr.bud

17/11/2018

Dave Hart

Question, What strain only has 3 leaves ? My plants are young 4 to 5 weeks!
Thanks
Dave Hart

20/04/2019

GrowRogan

I have a plant that I started from seed , "Ayahuasca purple" that I bought from Singleseedcenter and it has three branches , leaves per node . Hoping for a nice lady. It is supposedly a feminized seed , but I don't trust that site , because I bought 5 feminized seeds and 5 autos , and they threw in 4 free GSC feminized seeds and only one of the feminized seeds popped out of all of those 5 and 2 out if the 5 autos popped , and none of the 4 freebees popped. Almost all the seeds where pale looking and small , and appeared mature . I sent them several emails , and they wouldn't even send me one good , mature seed in good faith , to keep my business , so I won't ever buy seeds from them , ever again . Anyway the Ayahuasca purple with the 3 stems and leaves is looking healthy , and the one auto "Himalayan Blue" is almost finished and smells devine , and last but not least , the last one "Blackberry Kush" auto has been in the ground since 4/15/19 and here we are at 6/7/19 is still vegging , no sign of flowers yet , which makes me believe that it is not a autoflower , which if I would have known I wouldn't have planted it in a 3 gallon pot , I'm hesitant to transplant it into a 10 gallon pot in fear that it might start flowering and then I might stunt it's growth. I will be buying my seeds from another website from now on that actually sends healthy , mature seeds , that are , indeed what they say they are . Lesson learned. Looks like a spent over $100 dollars on 1 auto , possibly 2 if the Blackberry flowers , and one feminized seed . That's $33 dollars a seed . Any ideas about the 3 leaf Ayahuasca purple?

07/06/2019

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