Marijuana Leaves: Everything You Need to Know

Marijuana leaves are a vital component of the plant’s biological processes. They are the main sites where photosynthesis occurs and the process where energy from the sun fuels the plant’s growth. 

However, there’s more to marijuana leaves than just that. This article will detail the many uses of marijuana leaves and how you can turn simple weed leaves into useful byproducts.

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    The many uses of marijuana leaves

    Cannabis leaves fill many essential roles that support the health and growth of your plant

    Most of the vital biological processes your plants need to grow and thrive occur in their leaves. 

    One crucial biological process involves the stomata, which are the tiny pores found on the underside of the leaves.

    The stomata serve as a way for your plant to take in carbon dioxide, which is required for photosynthesis. 

    These tiny openings also allow for transpiration and the release of oxygen. 

    Transpiration is another vital role that your plants need as it’s a way for them to cool down and helps with the flow of nutrients throughout the plant.

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    On the note of nutrients, the leaves of your cannabis plants can even help with nutrient absorption via foliar feeding, which is done by spraying liquid fertilizers directly onto the cannabis leaf. 

    The leaves can even store nutrients for your plant during its flowering stage.

    Outside of serving many roles in your plant’s biological processes, the leaves are also a way to tell different types of cannabis apart. 

    And despite the sheer number of different strains available, you don’t need to be an expert in cannabis leaf anatomy to easily classify them into one of the four types of leaves.

    Despite the presence of four different types of cannabis leaves, they all still share extractable trace amounts of THC. So maybe think twice before throwing your leaves away.

    The different types of cannabis leaves

    Marijuana Indica Leaf
    Indica leaf

    Indica cannabis leaf

    Cannabis indica leaves are short and broad with around 7 to 9 fingers. 

    Indica leaves also have a dark or deep shade of green, indicating high levels of chlorophyll in the cells, which could be attributed to its rapid flowering time.

    Marijuana sativa leaf
    Sativa leaf

    Sativa cannabis leaf

    Unlike the wide and short leaves of an indica plant, a sativa produces long and slim leaves with up to 13 fingers. 

    The leaves of a sativa plant are also lighter in color, indicating lower levels of chlorophyll which could be why sativa plants have a longer flowering time.

    Marijuana ruderalis leaf
    Ruderalis leaf

    Ruderalis cannabis leaf

    A mature ruderalis plant has small and slim leaves with as few as 3-5 fingers compared to both types. It may resemble a sativa seedling.

    Hybrid cannabis leaf
    Hybrid cannabis leaf

    Hybrid cannabis leaf

    A hybrid cannabis plant produces leaves that carry both sativa and indica traits. 

    Its leaves aren’t as short and broad as an indica leaf, but they’re also not as slim and narrow as a sativa.

    Cannabis leaf phyllotaxy: How the leaves should grow

    All plants grow their leaves in a certain way, forming a distinguishable pattern or arrangement. 

    In botany, we call this phyllotaxy, and there are three types: alternate, opposite, and whorled. 

    I classify Cannabis as opposite decussate, a type of opposite phyllotaxy wherein a pair of leaves don’t just grow on each node on opposite sides of the stem but also grow the next pair of leaves at a right-angle to the last pair.

    During flowering, though, the phyllotaxy of cannabis changes from opposite decussate to alternate. 

    Alternate phyllotaxy is when the nodes of your plant produce single leaves in an alternating pattern, which means that the new nodes that your cannabis plants produce during their flowering stage will have alternating leaves as opposed to pairs of leaves growing on opposite sides.

    Outside of the leaves’ arrangement, their shape also has separate classifications – split into two categories. 

    These categories are simple and compound leaves. Cannabis produces compound leaves because it divides its leaf blade into what we call ‘fingers.’

    However, the phyllotaxy and the shape of cannabis leaves can change due to mutations that can range from helpful to detrimental to your plants.

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      Common marijuana leaf pattern mutations

      Webbed cannabis

      Webbed cannabis
      Webbed cannabis

      When it comes to beneficial mutations, webbed cannabis leaves are undoubtedly helpful for cannabis cultivation

      This plant mutation causes it to grow simple leaves rather than compound ones. 

      The iconic weed leaf that marijuana is known for does not appear, which can be beneficial if you want to grow outdoor cannabis discreetly.

      Whorled phyllotaxy
      Whorled phyllotaxy

      Whorled phyllotaxy

      Whorled phyllotaxy changes how your plant produces its leaves. Traditionally, a cannabis plant will grow a pair of leaves from its node, but plants with this mutation instead grow a set of 3 on each node.

      Ducksfoot cannabis
      Ducksfoot cannabis

      Ducksfoot cannabis

      Like with webbed cannabis, this mutation fuses the leaflets (fingers) together. The only difference between the two mutations is ducksfoot cannabis plants’ shape. 

      And as its name implies, this specific mutation causes the leaves to look like a duck’s footprint.

      Creeper cannabis
      Creeper cannabis

      Creeper cannabis

      Although mutations can appear on any strain, there are strain-specific ones. A great example is creeping cannabis which is specific to tropical strains

      This mutation causes the lower branches of your plants to grow low to the ground naturally and, in ideal conditions, allow the creeping branches to take root.

      Vine cannabis
      Vine cannabis

      Vine cannabis

      Cannabis with this particular mutation changes how its branches and stem grow. 

      Instead of growing upright, vine cannabis plants will twist around each other or on a trellis. 

      Leaf buds
      Leaf buds

      Leaf buds

      When it comes to cosmetic mutations, leaf buds are a fun way to impress the fellow growers in your community

      While buds typically grow on the nodes of your plant, there are cases where they can appear on the base of your plant’s leaves – the area where the leaflets (fingers) of the leaf join together.

      Polyploidism
      Polyploidism

      Polyploidism

      Polyploidism is a mutation in cannabis with more than two sets of chromosomes. 

      This mutation greatly affects the plants’ heterosis (or vigor), which means cannabis plants with polyploidism are healthier and more robust than either of their parents. 

      There are studies looking into whether or not polyploidism in cannabis can also increase a plant’s yield and potency.

      Upright phenotype

      Upright phenotype

      Upright phenotype is a mutation that causes your cannabis to grow like a tree, with some estimating heights of around 4 meters (greater than 13 feet)!. 

      This, of course, does lead to excellent yield, but it can be an inconvenience if you’re growing indoors.

      Twin seedlings
      Twin seedlings

      Twin seedlings

      Twin seedlings are a mutation wherein a single seed produces two seedlings. 

      Interestingly enough, they’re not conjoined either, which means that you can separate the two seedlings with a careful hand.

      Foxtailed cannabis
      Foxtailed cannabis

      Foxtailed cannabis

      Foxtailed cannabis is a type of mutation that leads to elegantly and delicately stacked plant buds on top of each other. 

      While the cause of this attributes to genetics, it can also result from stress brought on by excessive heat and light exposure.

      Australian bastard cannabis
      Australian bastard cannabis

      Australian bastard cannabis

      Australian bastard cannabis or ABC is regarded as one of the most distinct mutations found in cannabis. 

      It produces around 3-5 hairless but succulent leaflets on each node. It also has a whorled phyllotaxy instead of the standard opposite leaf arrangement that cannabis is known for. 

      Because of its strange appearance, ABC is often unrecognizable at first glance, allowing for the same discreet outdoor growing that webbed cannabis plants offer.

      How to harvest marijuana leaves

      Harvesting your marijuana leaves can be done in two ways, depending on how you trim off the fan leaves of your weed plants. 

      The first method involves trimming them by hand, which takes a lot of time and effort, but doing it by hand ensures that what little trichomes there are on the fan leaves don’t get knocked off like they would be if you machine-trimmed them.

      However, the efficiency of machine trimming is hard to overlook since it saves you time and effort. 

      Additionally, most weed trimming machines have a bin where all of the trimmed leaves fall, making it even easier for you to collect the usable scraps.

      What can you do with cannabis leaves?

      Cannabis leaves
      Cannabis leaves

      Use cannabis leaves to make edibles.

      Just like you would infuse butter with the aromatic flavors of sage and thyme, you can also do the same with your trim (cannabis leaves) to make cannabutter, an important ingredient for making edibles.

      Important tip: once the butter has been fully infused, remove the inedible plant material by running the molten butter through a cheesecloth

      Make marijuana tea from cannabis leaves.  

      Another way to use the leaves is to make tea. You can make marijuana tea by putting fresh or dried leaves in a strainer and allowing it to steep in hot water for 5 minutes. 

      After that, it’s up to you what you want to add extra flavor, but it pairs well with either honey or ginger.

      Create juice out of your cannabis leaves. 

      You can also juice your trim by putting them in a food blender with other ingredients to make it more palatable. 

      This can range from sweet things such as chocolate or milk or fruits like apples. You can also use cucumbers and celery to make a veg smoothie.

      Make hash or hash oil with cannabis leaves. 

      There are various ways to make hash or hash oil with your cannabis leaves. 

      The first is by running the dry leaves through a fine mesh, and the material that’s sifted from it is then compressed into a block of hashish. For hash oil, you need to use solvents to extract it.

      Make a compost. 

      Lastly, you can use the leaves of your previous batch of cannabis plants to make compost for the new batch. 

      It’s a great way to ensure that not a single part of your plant goes to waste since it becomes nutrients for the new batch of cannabis you’ll be growing.

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      In conclusion

      The leaves of your cannabis plant support many important biological processes – including transpiration and photosynthesis. 

      However, they don’t just have a vital role in the growth of your plants. Marijuana leaves can also be made into things you can enjoy, such as tea or juice. 

      You can even make edibles from them by making cannabutter and adding it to a pizza along with pot leaves as garnish if you’re feeling extra fancy.

      Outside of using the trim for something you can enjoy, there’s the option of using it as compost for your future batch of cannabis plants so that not a single part of the previous batch is wasted.

      You can use every part of the marijuana plant, which is just one reason why I love growing marijuana so much. 

      Learn even more growing tips by downloading my free Marijuana Grow Bible

      Happy Growing,

      Robert 

      FAQ’s about marijuana leaves

      Can you smoke marijuana leaves? 

      Can you smoke marijuana leaves’ and ‘can leaves get you high?’ are questions that new people in the cannabis community often ask. The answer to both is yes, but it’s not a pleasant experience. While there are trace amounts of THC in the leaves, there’s a lot of chlorophyll as well, which not only makes for a harsh smoke but one that tastes awful as well.

      What is a fan leaf? 

      Fan leaves are the compound leaves that you see growing from the branches of your cannabis plant. They’re classified as the primary leaves because they’re the main site where photosynthesis and transpiration occurs.

      When should you remove fan leaves?

      Growers typically remove the fan leaves of their plant a few weeks before harvest.  By that time, the leaves themselves will undergo senescence, wherein they’ll begin falling off. That’s why it’s better to trim ahead so that your plant can focus its energy on its buds.

      What’s the difference between fan leaves and sugar leaves? 

      The difference between fan leaves vs. sugar leaves divides into three subsets: the size of the cannabis leaf, where it grows, and the amount of trichomes it has. Sugar leaves are smaller than fan leaves, and instead of growing from nodes, they grow in-between the plant’s buds. Sugar leaves also have a higher concentration of trichomes than fan leaves, making them the better option for making edibles and hash.

      How many cannabis leaf types are there? 

      There are three types of cannabis leaves: sativa, indica, and hybrid. However, there are also four types with the addition of ruderalis. While ruderalis was only used to produce strains with the autoflowering trait, it is still a species of cannabis that produces buds with THC.

      Avatar for Robert Bergman

      Robert Bergman

      Robert Bergman is an Amsterdam-based marijuana grow expert who has years of experience from small grows to massive operations. His passion for growing led him to develop his own Gold Leaf strain. Now, Robert is dedicated to sharing his knowledge with the world.... [Read full bio]

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