A Guide To Identifying Kratom Leaf Varieties

Above: This is a bouquet of the three main kratom leaves. From left to right are White Vein, Red Vein and Green Vein leaves. (Maeng Da is a fourth and last type known to us and appearing later)

Know Thy Kratom!

Although kratom is now a known name recognized by millions of people throughout the world there is still a lot lacking when it comes to proper documentation of the four varieties of these amazing trees. Not one picture exists online with the three kratom vein types together for comparison like in the photo above until now. With the millions of kratom followers and websites out there, why is there not more information available like this article?
I am not a trained botanist but I do know a lot about kratom as I am one of the few people who have actually spent over a decade travelling through the jungles of South East Asia and in particular, actively playing a role as a producer and wholesale supplier of kratom powder. Several times a year I go into the field to survey and source the best trees for harvesting wild kratom. I have always been interested in the culture and plants of this part of the world and as a result I have accumulated a lot of knowledge in this area that I believe many people will find educational and that I will be sharing here and in future articles.
For the record: To my knowledge I have never found or seen a Yellow Vein Kratom. They are most likely a marketing/sales fabrication to sound more exotic in order to drive more sales, or it could possibly be a White Vein confused as a unique species (sorry if this disappoints you!).

Above: An incredible kratom flower bud before blossoming.
I am often asked some basic and repetitive questions by even some of the more veteran wholesale buyers in the kratom industry. They do not go into the jungles of course but are large traders in the business who purchase from people like myself or other wholesalers. Therefore, it rests on the wholesaler to know, educate and to be able to accurately describe what they are selling. At least this is the way I see it and it was also some of the motivation to create this article.
The reality of what I see and hear is that there exists widespread confusion on many levels related to distinguishing one variety of kratom from the next. This is an important article as it is the first known attempt to define and classify what each leaf variety is and how they physically compare to one another. We have always followed morally correct ways of doing business and it’s about time someone made a correct description of each kratom type and what goes into each product. I will do my best to share from my own personal observations and photo documentation to clear up some frequently asked questions once and for all about what you are buying from The Healing East. My aim is to contribute to the general knowledge of kratom so please, if anyone can provide more evidence on these or other species, I would be happy to hear from you and potentially update my work.

Above: Some Red Vein leaves and a kratom flower blossom.
As mentioned, after traveling through South East Asia I have found only four varieties of kratom in the wild, each with its own distinguishing features. What follows next is how I have identified each leaf variety for our harvesting standard and quality assurance. I have had so many questions from buyers on this topic over the years that I have repetitively had to answer countless times. It feels high time I produce this article (and others like it) to publically address these questions and provide pictures to better illustrate how we classify the various leaf types and to share what we know. Since there is little scientific research in the field this is how we classify the various varieties. We use these pictures as our method of classifying our products by type. We do not mix strains unless specified (currently we do not) nor do we add any other leaves as fillers (more on this later).

Above: from left to right are the undersides of White, Red and Green Kratom leaves.

Above: from left to right are the top sides of White, Red and Green Kratom leaves.

White Vein Kratom

These leaves have a slightly reddish-white vein and leaf stem but are by no means “white” at all. Their shape tends to be relatively more oval and smaller than other varieties, which along with the coloring above differentiates them from all other kratom leaves. From one tree to the next White Vein leaves do not seem to vary in size as much as the Red and Green Vein leaves. They have more fibrous stems and veins than their closest similar-looking variety the Green Vein.

A branch of White Vein Kratom leaves.

Front and back view of the White Vein leaf.

Red Vein Kratom

I have found Red Vein kratom trees growing hundreds of kilometers inland in the vast interior of Kalimantan along rivers where access is difficult and takes several days travel even by road. Where this variety appears to stop growing are in more rocky and mountainous regions. Here they begin to be replaced with other tall hardwoods and also the other Green, White and Maeng Da kratom varieties.
These Reds are the most popular on the market and when their leaves are fresh they are very distinct having unmistakable red stems and veins. This red color can vary in intensity from tree to tree. When leaves are young they can often appear lighter in color intensity. A trained eye can quickly tell the leaves apart by their appearance and even deduce where it was harvested.

Above: These are two variants of the Red Vein leaf. Both have the distinctive red veins and stems, but the shape and size of the leaves can vary from tree to tree

Green Veins

Green Veins have a very vibrant green color hence the name! This eye-catching green seems to be fairly consistent from tree to tree. The leaf sizes can be bigger or smaller than White Veins but as long as they are from mature trees and properly processed you will get a high-quality product. As the photo below suggests, the texture of Green Vein leaves is softer and more delicate than the other two varieties. Leaves will bruise easily if squeezed between one’s fingers and within a minute or two will turn brown, sort of like an apple exposed for a few minutes after taking a bite.

Above: Under and top side of a Green Vein kratom leaf. This leaf shows how vibrant and green the stems really are.

Maeng Da Leaves

These leaves are pretty unique in shape and stem/vein structure. They only grow in certain higher hilly jungle regions away from rivers when found in the wild. They are actually quite rare and therefore harder for us to harvest in big quantities unlike the other varieties.
Maeng Da leaves are tougher in structure due to having more fibrous veins and stiffer stems. They are also spikier in shape than the other mentioned varieties. When picked fresh their aroma is like that of a green apple and significantly less bitter then any of the other three varieties covered above. They also have a very nice dark green top color. These leaves are fairly large and can be 15cm (6in.) long and 10cm (4in.) wide. I have also observed slight variations in stem and vein color from leaf to leaf on the same tree.

Above: A Maeng Da (premium) Kratom variety of leaf. They are very broad and much more rounded than the Red, White and Green species.

Above: A bouquet of Maeng Da leaves. Just five leaves are enough to make a fan!

Horned Leaf Kratom Leaves

These leaves are really just large Red Vein leaves. Some leaves have a slight mutation and appear to be more “horned tipped” than other leaves. With all the competitiveness out there, many people have been passing these off as an infamous new subspecies. In my experience, they are just large Red Veins. We may find a few on a tree that has otherwise normal and more regular shaped leaves. I had to collect the leaves below from more than one tree because they are mutations and rare, not a genuine variety. They are simply a fabrication as far as I am concerned (sorry to break it to you!).

Supersized Red Vein Leaves

I was not planning to show these so please excuse the quality of the leaves and lack of a common object to better gauge the size. My hand is slightly in the shot below to give an idea of proportion of how big the leaves are! (I am 186cm or 6’2”)

Above: Here are some regular sized Red leaves
All of the leaves harvested and documented in this article are from wild leaves picked from mature trees that are at least 10 years old, and therefore contain a high alkaloid content. Please note: this is not the case for the picture demonstrating what Horned Leaves are; those were actually from younger trees cherry picked for their certain “horned” shape.


Back in early 2017 it came to my attention that there exists certain wild trees that closely resemble the kratom species in many ways (but are definitely not kratom) which were being harvested and most likely mixed into kratom products. It is my presumption – since I can’t come up with any other logical reason – that these leaves are being processed together with real kratom and used as fillers to add weight. I witnessed this for myself recently in a little-known region where we harvest kratom. Here we found several of these trees (photos below) harvested of their leaves in the same fashion we would find kratom being gathered. I cannot say if this has been done intentionally or out of ignorance but what I can tell you is that it is very plausible there are kratom products on the market diluted with these filler leaves and being sold as 100% pure kratom.

Above: This is the type of tree (name unknown) we found harvested of its leaves in the same region and method that kratom is gathered.
At first, we were very curious of this new plant so I took a few pictures for later evaluation (posted here) and also some samples to see if the leaves contained mitragynine (the main active alkaloid found in kratom) or any other alkaloids with similar properties unknown to us. Unfortunately, these leaves did not have anything of the sort. So intentionally or not in either case at best they are basically just adding weight (a filler) and diluting the overall alkaloidal content of the final product being sold as kratom. Fortunately, our field test also found these leaves to be non-poisonous… just lacking of any and all qualities that make kratom so special.
In the last couple of years wholesale kratom prices have come down considerably while at the same time there has been more harvesting of leaves being done in a destructive and unsustainable manner. Some people go as far as cutting the whole kratom tree down to get at the leaves! (Our next article we are posting is specifically on this topic and documented in a similar way as this article)
In order for some small harvesters to continue making a living off gathering kratom leaves, I highly suspect these fillers to be a new (yet deceitful) strategy to maintain one’s profit with the dwindling supply available. Inspecting an adulterated kratom product next to the real deal and telling which is which is difficult if not impossible to distinguish for even someone experienced like myself. This is because when leaves have been properly dried and then ground into a very fine powder they appear almost identical. These leaves are so similar in aroma to real kratom that I honestly do not believe I could tell without an alkaloid test if there was even 30% of a filler used.
Currently we trust our harvesting team and methods of control we have been working with for five years. We do routine spot checks on our trucks of fresh leaves but in the near future I foresee extra testing will be required by the open market to authenticate if a product is 100% pure kratom or not. I do realize that by publishing this last bit of information on “fillers” that I may be making my own job more complex in the near future. If this is necessary to maintain our high standards then it will be inevitable and welcomed.

Above: These are more leaves of the same trees we found harvested that are not kratom trees.
All images are the property of The Healing East and are not to be reproduced without our written approval. All pictures and writing were done by our writer and photographer Jade Nolan in April 2018.

Above: A picture of antique Chinese and Dutch Colonial vessels of Indonesia’s past filled with Kratom in the form of crushed leaf, powder and extract.
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