Cannabis Mutations: What Are They & Should You Worry About Them?

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Added 22 February 2023

If you know anything about Darwin or evolution, you would know that every living species in the world evolves via mutations. 

Every once in a while, a plant or an animal expresses a mutation — sometimes, the mutation does not work so well and may end up killing the organism, but in some cases, the mutations give an edge to the organism, helping it survive better than its peers.

Over time, this mutation keeps building in the gene pool and becomes a characteristic of the organism. It has evolved. 

The same occurs in cannabis plants, too, and there is a high chance you may have come across a mutation in your garden only to chalk it up to disease or a problem. In this article, we discuss what causes cannabis mutations, the most common mutations you’re likely to see, and if you should worry about them.

What are Cannabis Mutations?

What are cannabis mutations

Image Credit - Ledros

A mutation is just a random change in the organization of the DNA or RNA of a living being that is responsible for its characteristics. DNA and RNA, being polymers, are formed by billions of nucleotides.

In most cases, when changes occur, they affect only a single nucleotide or a small part of the DNA, but it can lead to genetic variability that one can observe in the organism. These changes are merely errors in the genetic code.

But why does it occur?

DNA is structured as a double helix, containing a sugar-phosphate backbone and base pairs joined through hydrophobic interactions. During cell division, specific cells check all the divisions against base pairs, but these cells can sometimes make a mistake, which creates an incorrect match. This incorrect match leads to a mutation.

In most cases, the mutations go unnoticed due to the nature of recessive alleles. In cannabis plants, most mutations go completely unnoticed since they never find themselves expressed. But once in a while, the recessive allele containing the mutation will become dominant, resulting in a mutant phenotype. 

As mentioned, in most cases, a mutation is negligible and doesn’t really benefit the organism, in this case, the cannabis plant. And sometimes, it can even be harmful. But in rare cases, a mutation can express itself and benefit the plant. 

DNA changes in cannabis can affect many aspects of the plant, including its color, leaf shape, structure, bud location, yield, photosynthesis, structure, and much more. And in cases where they express a positive benefit, the cannabis plant can grow better and healthier. 

What are some Common Cannabis Mutations?

common cannabis mutations

There is virtually no limit to the kind of mutations your plant can express, but since mutations only get expressed in rare cases, it is easy to spot one on the cannabis plant. And despite having endless possibilities, cannabis plants are more likely to express some common mutations once in a while. 

Here are some of the most common cannabis mutations you may come across in your journey as a grower.

1. Two Seedlings from One Seed: Twin Seedlings

twin seedlings

Image Credit - maxcrazygrower420

When you place your cannabis seed in the soil, you would expect it to sprout and emerge into a small seedling. Singular — one seedling — but what if it starts growing into two seedlings?

Congratulations, you have twins! 

This is a relatively common mutation that occurs in plants, just like in humans when they give birth to twins, which botanists call polyembryony or twin seedlings. And generally, it occurs due to the cleavage of a fertilized ovum or when more than one embryo develops in a single seed. 

The question is, is this a good sign? It depends on you as the grower. In some cases where a smaller plant is beneficial, especially if you want to keep your plant hidden, twin seedlings may not be ideal and you should snip one of them off just above the soil. 

But if you don’t mind tending to an extra plant or two, you can keep the twin seedlings and grow them as is. You simply need to pry the two seedlings apart and continue growing them as regular cannabis plants. 

How to Separate Twin Cannabis Seedlings?

Separating twin seedlings is easy but not as easy as ripping both of them apart like Chuck Norris. It requires a bit of finesse. Follow these steps:

  1. Remove the twin seedlings from the soil carefully 
  2. Dip the roots in a glass of water to clean them and carefully untangle the roots 
  3. Gradually pull both seedlings apart 
  4. Dip the roots in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi spores or any rooting hormone and then stick them into the new growing medium to help them develop better 
  5. Transplant the seedlings into separate containers and continue growing them as usual

Twin seedlings are often a surprise and if you don’t mind growing two plants instead of one, you should definitely keep them. 

2. Buds That Look Like the Fox’s Tail: Foxtailing Cannabis

Foxtailing Cannabis

You may have already heard of foxtailing buds that usually occur when the plant experiences stress from heat, pest infestation, or nutrient problems. In this phenomenon, the buds’ top experience a spurt of growth, making them look like a fox’s tail. 

While this is a common occurrence in indoor plants that are not treated right, it can also occur naturally due to mutations in the cannabis plant. Generally, foxtails get a bad rep and are best avoided as they can affect the yield. This stays true even if the plant grows foxtail buds naturally due to a mutation. 

If you are worried about your cannabis plant foxtailing due to mutation, start by ensuring it gets the right heat, light, and nutrients throughout its growth. And avoid choosing strains or seeds that are more likely to grow foxtail buds. 

A reputable seed bank would list the strain’s genetic characteristics and how likely it is to grow foxtail buds. For example, Strawberry Cough and Skywalker Haze are common strains that sometimes grow foxtail buds, especially if they are grown in hotter conditions. 

And use the recommended environmental settings to ensure the strain does not grow foxtail buds. And even if it does, don’t worry. The buds are flimsy, sure, but they will still produce the same effects; just remember to choose a different strain next time. 

3. Leaves are White/Yellow Instead of Green: Variegation


Image Credit - SimplyGrowLogical

Of all the weird mutations cannabis can express, perhaps one of the most beautiful ones is variegation, which can either cover your entire plant or a part of it. With this mutation, your plant’s leaves will exhibit two colors, like yellow or white with green. 

This mutation occurs due to the lack of chlorophyll in the affected part of the plant, and since chlorophyll gives the green hue to the leaves, without it, the leaves can look yellow or green. 

Variegation in cannabis can occur in various types, some of which are as follows:

  • Two-toned Cannabis Leaves

In this case, your plant’s leaves will be dual-tone, i.e., one part of the leaf will be lighter than the other, and in some cases, there will be a straight distinction between the two colors. 

This type of variegation can sometimes be a problem since it is unstable but in most cases, it won’t have any adverse effects on the plant. If you breed your plant, the mutation is unlikely to transfer to the offspring, either. 

  • Albinism 

In albinism, your plant completely lacks chlorophyll in some parts, so the affected area ends up looking white or pale yellow. And this is something you should worry about since the plant will likely not survive for long — it does not have enough chlorophyll to sustain itself. 

But on the off chance your plant manages to survive, it’s time to celebrate because albino cannabis plants tend to have higher cannabinoid concentrations, according to many growers. 

Do note that a similar appearance on the leaves may also be caused due to a virus, so you need to look for other symptoms before chalking it up to a random mutation if your plant starts growing white or yellow leaves.

But if it is not due to a virus, you would still need to take care of the plant since it does not have enough chlorophyll. And don’t be surprised if your plant grows a smaller yield or dies prematurely. 

4. Australian Bastard Cannabis

Australian bastard Cannabis

Image Credit - TerpyZ X Kalyseeds

Commonly found in the rural south of Australia, this is a rare mutation that causes the plant to look completely different from what a typical cannabis plant looks like, except for the buds. 

Commonly referred to as ABC or Bindi Bud, Australian bastard cannabis tends to have a slow start but by the sixth week, it begins to grow a lot faster. And compared to a regular cannabis plant, ABC plants grow smaller leaves with serrated or non-serrated expressions. 

Sometimes, the leaves may also grow smooth, heavily fingered, shiny, thick, or resemble variegated leaves. The plant structure is generally like a Christmas tree but it grows like a vine. 

But unlike many other mutations, you don’t need to worry about this one. Australian bastard cannabis plants are more resilient to environmental stresses like cold or heat and even feature higher disease resistance. So, if you live in a difficult climate, it would even be wise to grow ABC cannabis. 

But on the flip side, the yield can be lower and the buds may not contain as many cannabinoids since ABC plants tend to be smaller than regular cannabis plants. But thanks to science, you can find F1 hybrid ABC plants that overcome these shortcomings. 

5. Ducksfoot Cannabis

Frisian Duck

Another mutation that originates in the land of down under is ducksfoot cannabis, and this mutation has become so popular that top seedbanks now offer ducksfoot varieties of various strains for you to grow. 

And as you can guess, ducksfoot cannabis plants feature leaves that are webbed or appear like a duck’s foot. The leaves are also typically wide, resembling maple leaves. 

The name is slang for pinnatifidofilla, i.e., simple leaf mutation or webbed foot, which was first photographed by Walter Scott Malloch in The Journal of Heredity (1922). And this mutation was later stabilized by Lyster Dewey in 1916.

While the mutation does not have any adverse effect on the plant, it can still make the plant not look like cannabis and some growers also claim that ducksfoot cannabis does not have a strong cannabis odor, making this mutation ideal for growers who want to be stealthy about their cultivation.

If the temperatures are cold enough, expect your ducksfoot cannabis to even grow purple buds!

6. Whorled Phyllotaxy

Whorled phyllotaxy

Image Credit - Overgrow

Another common cannabis mutation that is pretty is whorled phyllotaxy, which creates a unique geometry in the cannabis plant. 

For example, a regular cannabis plant typically has two leaves sprouting out of a single internode. This is due to phyllotaxy — how the leaves emerge from the internode. A regular cannabis plant features an alternate phyllotaxy, where the leaves are arranged in pairs located at a 90-degree angle to the pair under it. 

With whorled phyllotaxy, the plant may feature three leaves sprouting out of a single internode, often accompanied by an extra branch at each node. So, this mutation ends up making the plant a lot bushier than regular cannabis.  

The best part? This mutation can significantly boost your plant’s yield, but you shouldn’t plan on breeding these plants as the mutation usually gets lost in the offspring. If your plant expresses this mutation, grow it as usual while ensuring it gets enough light and air throughout the canopy, but don’t try to replicate it by breeding. 

7. Polyploids


Image Credit - dudegrows

Polyploidism is a phenomenon where an individual organism possesses more chromosomes than normal, and this mutation underlies hybrid vigor, where two closely related species are crossed to express improved resistance to diseases and higher yields. 

Regular cannabis plants are not polyploids — they are diploids, featuring two sets of chromosomes. But in some cases, if the normal cell division process is interrupted, the plant can turn into a polyploid. 

This mutation can help the plant in two ways. If the plant is tetraploid, it can exhibit better yield and potency, and if it is triploid, it can produce seedless buds. 

Tetrapoid cannabis contains four sets of chromosomes, and as reported in various forums, this mutation can improve the yield and potency of your cannabis plant. But since there is not a single scientific study to back this claim, you have to try it for yourself. 

On the other hand, a triploid plant features three sets of chromosomes, which typically makes the plant infertile and seedless. This can be a terrific benefit for growers who are growing multiple plants, both male and female, in close proximity. 

The mutation occurs randomly, but you can even force this mutation in your cannabis plant by treating it with a mutagenic chemical like colchicine but be careful as this chemical is toxic and must be handled with utmost care. This is not recommended for everyone. 

If you want to induce this mutation in your cannabis plant, research as much as you can about it and use the right methodology to do so. Using harsh chemicals can be risky not only for the plant but also for you, your pets, and the ecosystem and should be avoided if you aren’t sure about what you’re doing. 

8. Creeper Cannabis

Creeper cannabis

Image Credit - Dutchpassion

Mostly found in tropical strains, creeper cannabis is a mutation where the lower branches of the plant bow down to touch the soil, and when they reach the ground, they continue to grow. In some cases, these branches may even form new root sites. 

This mutation is most common in tropical cannabis plants since they tend to grow a lot larger in humid conditions. So, instead of producing one main cola, some strains end up growing heavier branches that start touching the soil over time. 

While this mutation does not have any adverse effects on the plant, it is usually a good mutation for growers who want to grow plants discreetly. In some cases, new root sites may also improve your plant’s vigor. But it is a rare mutation, so you are not likely to find any seed bank selling creeper cannabis seeds. 

9. Leaf Buds

Leaf Buds

Image Credit - Sensi seeds

One of the weirdest cannabis mutations is leaf buds, where the plant grows buds at the base of the leaves instead of the nodes, where branches grow. While this mutation is pretty to look at, it does not necessarily benefit you.

Sure, you have more buds now but the buds on the leaves are generally small and less potent compared to the buds growing at the nodes. So, unless you want to squeeze out every ounce of yield or plan to make some cannabis extracts, it is best to snip them off as they can steal nutrients from the main bud sites, potentially hampering the usual bud development. 

10. Self-Topping

self topping

Image Credit - cezario

If you’ve been growing cannabis for a while, you may have come across Topping as one of the most effective training methods that can increase your plant’s yield drastically. But did you know that sometimes your plant can top itself without you pulling out the pruning scissors?

This phenomenon is called self-topping, and experts aren’t really sure if it is a random mutation or something that every cannabis plant can express in specific circumstances. But some experts believe that it could be the result of improper nutrient delivery during the early stages of growth, forcing the plant to grow sideways. 

Regardless of the cause, during this mutation, your cannabis plant will split its main cola into two or more colas on its own, and like the training method, this self-topping can significantly increase your plant’s yield. 

Should You Worry About Mutations in Your Cannabis Plant?

Cannabis mutations are normal and many plants experience mutations; it’s just that all mutations often don’t express themselves until they become dominant in the gene pool. However, as scary or wonky as some might appear to be, most mutations are nothing to worry about for an average grower. 

Only some mutations, like foxtailing buds, can have adverse effects on your plant’s health or yield, but even these can be managed with a little extra care and love. 

Regardless of the type of mutation your plant expresses, we recommend growing it regardless just to see what it turns into. Of course, it won’t turn into Spider Man Plant, but some mutations will surprise you. It is a fascinating phenomenon. 

Can You Reproduce Mutations?

If you go through with it, you might end up with a mutation you really like. Maybe, your plant grew gorgeous purple buds due to a specific mutation, and you might want to reproduce it. Is it possible?

In some cases, yes. For example, Australian bastard cannabis is a mutation that is reproduced, and over time, breeders have even managed to make ABC plants potent, which they were not some decades ago. 

In other cases, the mutations may not express themselves in the following generation since they are recessive genes that somehow managed to find a way to dominance. You have to experiment. 

To reproduce a mutation, you can use breeding or cloning. Start by selecting a plant that displays the desired mutation and cross it with another plant. Grow many offsprings and choose the offspring that displays the same mutation, and continue breeding it until the strain’s line is stabilized. 

Or you can simply clone the plant with the desired mutation. This process is faster and more reliable, but you can’t scale it as the mutation may not occur in the seeds. 

Just know that reproducing mutations can lead to many undesirable effects, which may make the entire process pointless. And even if you do manage to produce a stable line with the desired mutation, it is going to take a lot of effort. Depending on the breeding technique you use, you may have to grow more than a hundred plants before you create a stable line!

Summary: Cannabis Mutations: What Are They & Should You Worry About Them?

If your cannabis plant starts expressing weird qualities, ensure it is not suffering from a disease or stress. If all is good, your plant is likely a mutant. Track the mutation and compare it to other common cannabis mutations.

In most cases, you need not worry about the mutation. Just make sure your plant gets everything it needs to grow healthy and you’re good to go. 

Mutations are fascinating even if they are negligible as the leaves grow a little shinier than usual. As a grower, it is always a good idea to pay attention to them as they can make you a better grower. 

To know more about cannabis plants and their genetic play, stay tuned to our blog. 


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Estoy cultivando una Kritical con auto-topping, ella solita sacó dos colas centrales, la iva a sacrificar recién nacida, pero le di una oportunidad! Estoy ansioso por ver los resultados, tengo fe en ella!! Un saludo 👋 😎👍
@Elbernaweed, what happened at the end?
Teenage Mutant Cannabis Plants
Bunch of freaks 😂 That's pretty cool than some pictures used in the article are from actual diaries 😃 Good reading 👍🏻
Hah I had a twin in my RQS Epsilon F1 diary although I tweezed it off.
Por cierto una información muy interesante!!! Buen trabajo 👍