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What Makes Cannabis Plants Grow 3-Point Leaves?

This article explores the cause of 3-point cannabis leaves.

3-point cannabis leaves (each leaf has 3 “fingers”)

Every cannabis strain is a little different, and some plants grow with more “points” on leaves that others. Most cannabis plants grow a few 3-point leaves as seedlings, but by the time a cannabis plant is mature, the leaves usually have more points.

The second set of leaves after germination usually has 3 points each. After that, leaves normally have more than three.

What is considered a “normal” number of points? Seven is the most common though it varies by strain. Seeing 5, 9, 11 or even 13 points isn’t that unusual. Though typically an odd number, occasionally you’ll see leaves with an even number of points. Your growing conditions affect this, too. Big, fast-growing plants in an ideal environment tend to grow leaves with more points.

Cannabis leaves most often have 7 points

Yet there is a lot of variation between plants, and even on the same plant. This leaf has 13 points if you count the two middle ones!

But what if you had a plant with “normal” leaves that starts growing 3-finger leaves? What does that mean?

What causes 3-point leaves?

  • Light stress – One of the most common culprits, especially if there is a significant change in grow light type or light levels
  • Unusual photoperiods – Such as when grow lights turn on and off at a new time, or the plant’s lighting schedule is otherwise changed. Sometimes you’ll see 3-point leaves after switching to a 12/12 light schedule to initiate the flowering stage.
  • Environmental stress – Extreme temperatures, stagnant air, underwatering, and other stresses can trigger the unhappy plant to grow 3-point leaves
  • Re-vegetating – If a plant starts making buds in the flowering stage and then switches back to the vegetative stage, it can cause leaves to grow with 3 points. Learn more about re-vegging.
  • Genetics – Some strains grow 3-point leaves due to genetics, such as any Ducksfoot strain. If plants are otherwise healthy and grow 3-point leaves from seed to harvest, you likely don’t need to worry.

It is a stress response when a healthy plant “reverts” back to 3-point leaves. Typically this happens when there are major changes in light quality or light schedule. For example, the following plants were switched from a fluorescent light to a powerful LED. A few days later, all the leaves were growing with only 3 points. In this case, there was nothing really “wrong” as much as different. The plants adjusted to the light and started growing regular leaves within a few weeks.

These plants started growing 3-point leaves after being switched from a weak fluorescent light to a strong LED

Here’s a closeup

A change in light schedule can also do it. Plants may grow 3-point leaves if you switch your grow light “on” period from the day to the night, or otherwise give irregular or uneven light schedules.

These plants are growing odd leaves due to re-vegging

For outdoor growers, you can’t control what’s happening in the sky. 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

Some strains such as the Ducksfoot strain naturally grows 3-point leaves even under perfect conditions

A Ducksfoot cannabis plant grows 3-point leaves from seed to harvest

If your plant is growing 3-point leaves in response to stress, all you need to do is correct the issue and/or wait for plants to grow out of it.

But if you see 3-point leaves appear suddenly on a plant that was growing typical leaves, don’t ignore it! Try to determine what’s causing the change. Learn more about the number of “points” on cannabis leaves.

What Makes Cannabis Plants Grow 3-Point Leaves? This article explores the cause of 3-point cannabis leaves. 3-point cannabis leaves (each leaf has 3 “fingers”) Every cannabis strain is a

10 Odd Realities (With Pictures) About Growing Cannabis Plants

Table of Contents

1.) Tri-Leaf Seedlings

Nearly all cannabis seedlings, no matter how the seeds are sprouted, will start with just two leaves per set, like the following:

Normal cannabis seedling (2 leaves per set)

Every once in a while, growers will run into a “trileaf” seedling. This is a relatively common mutation, and you’re likely to run into it if you germinate a lot of cannabis seeds. 3-leaf cannabis seedlings should generally be treated like any other seedling.

They will grow about 1/3 more side branches than regular seedlings, so a 3-leaf seedling might be a good candidate for cannabis plant training or a ScrOG setup.

Tri-leaf cannabis seedlings (3 leaves per set)

2.) Two-Toned Leaves

Two-toned leaves usually have split coloring in a relatively straight line. This mutation often affects just one or two leaves on the whole plant, though sometimes you’ll get a whole stem or part of the plant that displays this characteristic.

The two-toned leaves don’t seem to have much effect on anything, but it’s kinda cool looking!

I believe this happens due to a type of “variegation” (wikipedia link) and may be due to “sectorial chimera”. Other plants besides cannabis plants can have this happen, too!

Not to be confused with a nutrient deficiency, this mutation usually affects just one or two leaves on the plant. Nothing to worry about! Sometimes half of the leaf will turn purple…

More commonly, half of the leaf will turn light yellow or even white.

Here’s an example of a cola that is split down the middle between purple and green

3.) Buds Growing From Center of Leaf

Here’s a normal cannabis leaf. Unfortunately, as beautiful as these leaves are, they normally contain no THC.

Normal Cannabis Leaf
(no buds growing from the base)

Cannabis leaves that are growing buds
(these cannabis plants have THC-encrusted buds growing from center of leaves)

This is a mutation I’d love to see on my plants one day 🙂 Though strangely placed, these buds are like any other buds found on the plant. You just get a couple extra buds encrusted with THC & trichomes!

The following leaf-bud has grown a single calyx with a few pistils

Here’s another amazing plant – imagine what you could do with all the trim!

The following nug is almost 1/2 gram – Talk about a bonus!

4.) Uncommon mutation – Plant naturally topped itself

What’s interesting about this case is that the plant naturally did something that the grower would normally have to do themselves. Cannabis plants normally grow in a triangle tree shape, and growers often must cut or train the plant in order to grow more low and bushy.

Growers sometimes accomplish a low and bushy growth pattern with a plant training technique known as “topping.” Learn more about topping

Here are two normal young cannabis plants, each with a regular growth tip (set of leaves) at the top:

Normal cannabis plants

So to get rid of this top growth node, a grower would normally cut it off, like this

Now the following plant had a strange mutation…

This plant randomly grew a leaf instead of a growth node, so it naturally topped itself, take a look!

View more pictures of this unique plant: http://imgur.com/a/PqpTu

5.) Some Buds Make “Fox Tails”

Bud with little foxtailing – common with Indica-based strains
(buds are rounded out, sometimes one foxtail visible near the top)

Massive foxtailing can be a genetic trait, and certain strains will tend to produce foxtails all over their buds no matter what. This seems to happen most commonly with Haze and Sativa-based strains.

This way that buds can grow is named after “foxtails” because the buds tend to grow in a rounded shape with the fluffy hair-like pistils coming from the end.

Example of healthy foxtailing based on genetics
(notice how there are foxtails all over the bud, instead of just at the top)

However, massive foxtailing is often the result of heat or stress. You know that’s likely the case when the foxtailing seems to be happening mostly in the parts of the plant that are close to a heat or light source.

When a single foxtail keeps growing longer and longer, it is almost always a sign of some sort of major stress to the buds, most often heat.

This massively long foxtail was caused by heat
(it’s basically a very long and thin bud, and will likely never fill out)

Here’s another foxtail that was triggered by too much heat

The following bud erupted with foxtails after a heatwave
(the plant also suffered from nutrient stress, which can trigger foxtailing on its own)

6.) This Is What Cannabis Roots Look Like

This incredible roots picture was taken by grower Ramon. The plant was first grown in hydro (with the roots grown directly in water), then transferred to soil.

7.) Cannabis Seeds Can Carry “Twins”

Twin tap roots can sometimes emerge from one cannabis seed. This is sort of like your seed having twins, because each new root has the potential to form into a separate plant!

When this seedling sprouted, it had two taproots coming from the same seed

When the leaves appeared, there were two distinct seedlings – you can see another tiny set of leaves behind the main sprout

In this case, I decided to kill the smaller sprout, but you can also gently and carefully separate the two seedlings and transplant one into a new home.

If you grow two seedlings together in one container, one plant will usually end up being a lot smaller than the other one. But if you give each plant their own home, they can both thrive!

8.) Leaves with Strange Number of “Fingers”

It’s normal for cannabis leaves to have a different number of fingers.

First, let’s go over what’s normal

For an adult cannabis plant, the most common number of fingers is 7. Here are a few examples of 7-fingered leaves.

7 Finger Leaves
(7 points is common for adult plants)

Cannabis leaves start smaller though, with fewer fingers. Here’s what leaves generally look like from seedling to adult.

Seedling
Two round cotyledon leaves, then two “real” (serrated) single-finger cannabis leaves

Next, the single-finger leaves expand, and the next set is usually 3-finger leaves

Next, the cannabis plant will start making 5-finger leaves

Finally, most cannabis plants stop at 7-finger leaves

If you look closely at the above plant, you can see that some of the newer leaves on this plant actually have 9 fingers. Here’s an example of a leaf that has grown 9 fingers:

9 Fingers

It’s completely normal for cannabis plants to have 9, 11, or even 13 points on their fingers. This is just a natural way that some leaves grow. It’s also common to get single-blade leaves growing directly off your colas.

Sugar Leaves Are Normal on Colas
(these single-finger leaves are often called “sugar leaves” and they are much smaller than regular leaves, with a base tucked mostly inside the bud)

Now That You Know What’s Normal…

These Sugar Leaves Have a Long Base Like Regular Adult Leaves
(uncommon mutation – not like regular sugar leaves)

In This Case, The Entire Plant Grew with Single-Finger Leaves

And Yet Another Strange Plant with Single-Finger Leaves

Want even more strange leaves?

Look What Happens When You Re-Veg a Plant…

This is a Re-Vegged Plant

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
  • yields may be 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 back 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

9.) It’s Possible to Bleach Plants With Too-Bright Light

Light Bleaching – most common with high-power LEDs, but can also happen poorly ventilated HPS lights that are kept too close to the tops of the plants. Basically, this is what happens when plants get too much light, kinda like how the hair on top of your head can turn lighter if you spend a lot of time in the sun.

Buds which have been bleached tend to be low potency or even have no potency (no available THC or other cannabinoids). Therefore you should avoid light-bleaching your plants at all costs!

Sometimes light-bleached cannabis will get mislabeled as “albino cannabis” or “white cannabis” but the truth is that the white color is not healthy, so this is not a desirable trait (even if it looks pretty cool).

10.) Flowering Cannabis Plants Can Make “Sap”

Sap – there’s lots of speculation about what it is. No one knows for sure. Many growers who have run into this agree that the type of sap produced is sweet and doesn’t contain much (if any) THC. It is mostly made of sugar and water and so is not smokable. Seems to be related to the plant over-producing sugars, and sap productions is more common when

Plants being in the flowering stage

Using sugar supplements like molasses, Botanicare Sweet, Sugar Daddy, etc.

Big temperature difference between night and day, especially if it gets cold at night

Certain strains or individual plants seem more likely to produce sap

Yet sometimes oozing sap seems to happen for no known reason

“Strain: Kosher Kush. Flowered her for 70 days and she was covered in trichs. When we harvested her we noticed about a dozen of these sap like globes. They range in color from clear to amber.”

“The plants had already been flushed properly – I let the soil dry completely and fed the plants 2TBSP/gallon of molasses, let them eat and then flushed them out again and waited 2-3 days before harvest. Both plants started producing excretions all over. I’ve seen this before, sap leaking from the stem of plants, however personally I’ve never seen it on the buds themselves. What I believe happened is the pores of the plants either get clogged and therefore “pop” for lack of a better word. Or, the plant liked the molasses better than it’s natural sugars and forced some of those out. Either way I’m going to try this on another plant and see what happens. Is there a benefit to it? Probably not, but I’m going to get the substance tested. I’ve ingested all of the little sap pockets I’ve found and while it tastes like canna, it doesn’t seem physchoactive. Who knows, it could be loaded with CBD or something else.”

Stem Sap (more common) – often appears to seep out of injured parts of the stem, but not always! Sometimes sap seems to ooze out of uninjured parts of the stem.

In this last case, there’s nothing that seems to be causing the sap except possibly genetics. Here’s what HNIC_204, the grower, had to say…

This is my first grow, literally. I have a couple females, that are currently in flowering. I am growing in soil with guano and flowering ferts (Flora Nova and Cal Mag). I have not added any sugars such as molasses or sugar daddy. The temperature stays pretty consistent, such as 78 during the day and 80’s when the lights are on. The seeds are mids from VA. The plant is looking as though it is a sativa hybrid. I’ve had two plants leak the sap, which tasted like honey, but didn’t have an aftertaste. I attempted to express more of the substance to come out and it would not. Maybe the sap is something to attract males, caused by pheromones. I don’t know, but if this happened on my first grow, I think it’s an awesome phenomenon. I have asked my local grow shop, but they didn’t have a clue.

Fact: Certain Strains Are Easier to Grow Than Others

Recommended strains for beginners

Aurora Indica – potent indica that is easy to grow.

BlackJack – get the effects of a Sativa or Haze with a plant that is actually suited to indoor growth, short and easy to train. BlackJack produces a potent soaring effect that hits hard, fast and is long-lasting – unbelievable number of trichomes on the buds and leaves. Suitable for medicinal purposes.

Beginners – Avoid these strains!

The following strains are considered “advanced” and while they produce amazing buds, they tend to be difficult to grow and/or finicky

Durban Poison – Tends to grow tall and shows a variety of unusual phenotypes, can be tough to clone. You don’t know what to expect when growing a Durban Poison seed. This strain originates from Africa and buds produce a unique “up” effect. Buds tend to be incredibly potent though not often “pretty” in the conventional sense with longer sugar leaves. Unusually quick to harvest, especially for a Sativa-leaning strain.

Jack Herer – Famous medicinal strain that is great for anti-anxiety, you cannot get the original Jack Herer strain as a feminized seed so you will need to buy regular (unfeminized) seeds and manually pick out all the male plants. Yields are on the smaller side but the quality of the buds produced are exceptional.

Liberty Haze – Genetics are not completely stable and many growers report different growth types with this strain. Can stretch tall in the initial stages of flowering, though does seem to respond well to supercropping. Unique flowery scent with citrus lime undertones. Unlike what breeder specs state, this strain needs about 10-12 weeks in flowering before she’ll be ready for harvest. When grown right, this strain produces thick dense colas with THC levels above 25%.

Ready to Start Growing for the New Year?

Get Your Stuff!

First, choose your grow type…

Did You Know? – 5 More Fun Facts For Cannabis Growers

Cannabis plants are always moving

This constant movement is something that all plants do and is known as “Circumnutational Movement” (wikipedia link).

Nothing can really show you as well as watching a time-lapse video:

This video shows how cannabis plants are constantly moving and putting their leaves up and down each day

Cannabis plants can “see”

Think about this: plants see you.

In fact , plants monitor their visible environment all the time. Plants see if you come near them; they know when you stand over them. They even know if you’re wearing a blue or a red shirt. They know if you’ve painted your house or if you’ve moved their pots from one side of the living room to the other.

Of course plants don’t “see” in pictures as you or I do. Plants can’t discern between a slightly balding middle-aged man with glasses and a smiling little girl with brown curls.

But they do see light in many ways and colors that we can only imagine. Plants see the same ultraviolet light that gives us sunburns and infrared light that heats us up. Plants can tell when there’s very little light, like from a candle, or when it’s the middle of the day, or when the sun is about to set into the horizon.

Plants know if the light is coming from the left, the right, or from above. They know if another plant has grown over them, blocking their light. And they know how long the lights have been on.

This is an excerpt from What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses by Daniel Chamovitz. I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about plants and exactly how they perceive the world!

No one knows exactly how cannabis plants determine gender

Environmental sex determination is known to occur with cannabis plants. Many researchers have suggested that sex in Cannabis is determined or at least strongly influenced by environmental factors. Ainsworth reviews that treatment with auxin and ethylene have feminizing effects, and that treatment with cytokinins and gibberellins have masculinizing effects. It has been reported that sex can be reversed in Cannabis using chemical treatment.

Learn more about cannabis sex determination on wikipedia.

A cannabis plant can grow taller than a tree in just one summer

Here’s a cannabis plant that produced 11 pounds 3 ounces worth of bud – grown in a 400-pound smart pot and filled with Vermisoil.

Look at the base of a cannabis plant this size, it looks just like a tree trunk with bark!

Cannabis seeds can germinate almost anywhere warm and wet

Life Finds A Way

“My friend accidentally grew this in her sink. How is this even possible?”

Seedlings have enough energy (“food”) stored in the seed to make their first set of leaves. After that, they need light and nutrients to grow further. Unfortunately, this seedling won’t make it unless transplanted to a more suitable growing environment.

THC-Filled Trichomes Can Grow Just About Anywhere on a Budding Cannabis Plant

Growers are breeding strains that produce more and more trichomes all over the plant.

Trichomes are small, glandular stalked resin glands that carry the majority of cannabinoids and THC produced by the cannabis plant.

A bud covered in trichomes will have an almost “sparkly” or “glittery” appearance. Cannabis breeders are selecting cannabis plants which produce more of these sparkly trichomes not just on buds, but on leaves and stems close to buds This is done with the purpose of getting more potency with the same amount of time, effort and space.

Crazy trichome closeup, thanks to Koma Trichome (find Koma on Facebook)

Vegetating Cannabis Plants Have an Amazing Ability to Heal

“This is a white widow a couple of weeks into flower, quite nice, but look to the bottom of the stem and you see a big ‘knuckle’.”

“This lady was snapped mid veg by accident. She was completely on her side and connected to the main stem by a few fibers and a sliver of ‘skin’. The ‘connected’ tissue was around 1mm, (around the thickness of a credit card).

“She was roughly taped upright with some very haphazard wrapping with electrical tape and forgotten about. Not only is she looking pretty good, (for a small pot and relatively modest light), she’s not at all delayed or less healthy than her sisters. I guess the message is never give up…”

Check out this manifold that was accidentally split down the middle when the plant was young.

The plant came back with a vengeance and ended up getting bigger than the other plants in the tent!

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Bonus pic: Closeup look at cannabis trichomes – some of these ones are touched with purple

View an assortment of strange mutations and unique pictures of growing cannabis plants.