Although uncommon and quite often unperceived, the cannabis plant may develop interesting mutations that sometimes even produce a larger harvest. These mutations arise from plant DNA damage that ends up unrepaired due to DNA replication errors or damage resulting from endogenous or exogenous factors. Among exogenous causes, we could mention the use of potent chemical substances, such as colchicine, an antimitotic drug that has represented the cornerstone for gout treatment for many years until nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) came out.
Each cannabis plant is distinct from others, regardless of whether they belong to the same strain or whether they were planted just the same way as nearby plants. The features of a plant start coming out as they burst into leaf. It may sound obvious, but some mutations cause leaves, flowers, and colours—a plant’s most distinct features—to be quite different. Here we will deal with the three most frequent mutations and some of the features they produce.
DucksFoot Cannabis—When Leaflets Stick Together
This mutation is characterised by palm-like leaves. It has originated in Australia, where a grower seized the opportunity and turned this variant into a real strain, stabilising seeds. Although DucksFoot genetics may be present in several strains, most of them are found within Cannabis sativa plants. These plants will also produce beautiful violet or purple buds if temperature is low enough during their flowering stage.
Variegation or Albino Cannabis
Variegation is one of the prettiest visible mutations of cannabis, affecting the whole plant or just a part of it. This mutation results from a plant’s inability to produce chlorophyll, so parts of it will look yellow or nearly transparent. This may occur in leaves, flowers, or the whole of a plant. In the latter case, plants are not able to live that much, because chlorophyll is essential for them to produce glucose—their food—and grow. This mutation will also make harvest less abundant. As they are unable to carry out photosynthesis, these plants will grow slower. Still, some variegated plants may turn out to reach a nice height if they are handled with loving care.
Polyploid plants have twice as many chromosomes as their unmutated counterparts. This feature may be introduced into a plant species through plant breeding. Polyploidy can arise spontaneously in cannabis plants, but it can also be induced applying a potent chemical substance called colchicine. This mutation provides a really useful feature to significantly increase THC yield and to bring in a richer harvest. Naturally, bigger plants mean XL flowers but, for the time being, no pure strains with this mutation have been stabilised.
The hybrid experimentation boom has brought us increasingly common mutations that are even intentionally introduced in strains. Some weird mutations have ended up forming the basis for some of the most popular existing variants in the current global cannabis market.