Over at Slate this morning, sociologist and logo-watcher James I. Bowie warns the marijuana industry that it may be reaching peak leaf. “Enough With the Pot Leaves. Marijuana Branding Needs a MakeoverSlate roars above Bowie’s look at the quantitative rise of leaf-based logos, with passing shots at the habit of giving products names like “Canna-something” or “Mari-whatever.”

After looking at recent trademark applications, Professor Bowie concludes that a full 44 percent of new marijuana-related products opt for the iconic leaf, in one form or another. “By 2015, more than 1 in 500 new U.S. logos featured a cannabis leaf,” he writes.

Is this too much leaf? Probably, but there is reason to think twice. The Outpost is old enough to remember the heady aughts, when the Times-Standard looked for any excuse to put its particular clip-art leaf on the front page, above the fold. It was a running Humboldt County joke, but people at the paper said it never failed to boost newsstand sales by a not-insignificant percentage.

But these days we in Humboldt are more creative, right? We’re on the frontier of things? Surely we don’t just keep going back to the same old well?

Well, maybe. A short and non-scientific survey of local cannabusinesses shows a bit of a split. Businesses that serve growers — garden supply stores, hydro shops, light-dep-house manufacturers, water tank wholesalers — still tend to shy away from overt marijuana imagery, on the whole.

Meanwhile, businesses that sell weed or weed derivates to the consumer are far less shy about slapping the weed right there on the packaging, and it seems still true that nothing says “marijuana” as quickly and efficiently as the serrated, odd-numbered leaf.

You’d think that this makes a lot of intuitive sense. Bowie writes that over half of veterinarians feature an animal in their logo, and appreciable numbers of dentists, barbers and real estate agencies include teeth, striped poles and houses, respectively. But there is danger ahead, Bowie thinks:

If you need a quick haircut or your molar is killing you, you’ll look for the first striped pole or tooth logo you can find. Because legal pot is still a novelty, the leaf itself is enough to attract business. But as marijuana becomes legally available on a more widespread basis, its branding is going to have to move beyond the generic leaf to incorporate more distinctive visual elements.

With this in mind, you have to applaud something like the “Humboldt Tested” logo at right. No big, ostentatious leaf saying “we’re a weed business, dummies!” Instead, you have to seek, to search, to test, to find what you’re looking for. Scientific instrumentation helps.