Are you struggling to understand the anatomy of your cannabis plant? Learning in-depth about your plant gives you insight into what it requires, needs less of, and when it's time to harvest.
Join us as we discover the ins and outs of the anatomy of a marijuana plant and take your cannabis seed growing skills to the next level.
Male vs. female marijuana plants
Cannabis plant anatomy is one of the top 9 things to know before you start growing marijuana. Your plant’s gender can affect so much more than you know.
Cannabis plants are dioecious, meaning that most plants have either female or male reproductive organs. You require parts of each marijuana plant, both male and female, for cannabis seeds to form.
Female marijuana plants produce high levels of cannabinoids (CBD) and develop into flowers, while male marijuana plants produce pollen sacs to fertilize the female plant.
How to sex cannabis plants
Luckily for you, a marijuana plant anatomy diagram can easily teach you how to tell the difference between the sexes. Male and female plants are distinctive, once you know what they look like.
Learning how to sex your cannabis plant and familiarizing yourself with the anatomy of a marijuana plant is essential. As early as four weeks post-germination, pre-flowers can reveal your plant’s sex during the vegetative stage. Both the males and females produce pre-flowers at the nodes.
When looking closer at the male preflower, or staminate, it resembles a ball on a stick, which later develops into pollen sacs. The female preflower, or pistillate, has a more oval, pear-like shape with a longer and pointier tip.
Once a cannabis plant goes into full flower, it's much easier to tell the difference— females have obvious flowers while males have pollen sacs.
Female weed plants
Female marijuana plants, the breadwinners of the weed family, produce the buds we all know and love. Every cannabis plant anatomy diagram you’ve seen was probably a female plant.
Female cannabis plants receive pollen from male plants to produce seeds which carry genetics of both the male and female plants.
Male weed plants
Male plants produce pollen sacs while female plants create buds. The female parts of a marijuana plant are the useful part, so most growers get rid of the males. Cultivators don’t want males to pollinate female plants, because who wants to have a joint that might contain seeds?
Males are an essential part of breeding marijuana, but it’s better to let experts cultivate the next generation of marijuana plants. Cultivators also grow male plants to use for hemp products.
As mentioned before, cannabis plants are dioecious, but there’s an exception: Hermaphrodite cannabis plants.
What are hermaphrodite cannabis plants?
The rare hermaphrodite has both the male and female parts of a marijuana plant and can sometimes achieve self-pollination.
This result is undesirable as seeds containing hermaphroditic genes are then passed on. Very few growers want hermaphroditic plants, thanks to the risk of seeds forming in the female buds.
This odd cannabis plant anatomy occurs when a plant suffers excessive stress. Factors that cause stress include:
- Damage to the plant
- Bad weather conditions
- Nutrient deficiencies
The other main cause of hermaphroditic plants is poor genetics.
Cannabis plant anatomy
The anatomy of a weed plant is made up of many different parts, many of which it shares with other plant species that produce flowers. Having said that, cannabis plants also have unique features, not found in your ordinary flowering plant.
The flowers, also known as the buds, are vital parts of a marijuana plant.
They contain the reproductive organs of female plants, attract pollinators and produce seeds once pollinated. They also carry the well-known terpenes and cannabinoids that give you a high or offer health benefits.
Nowadays, you can buy feminized seeds that result in 100% female plants.
Seeds found inside the flowers are the starting point of every cultivator's journey. They‘re crucial parts of a marijuana plant. Cannabis seeds 101: No seeds mean no marijuana plants.
The seeds pass down DNA to the next generation to secure harvests for years to come. When exposed to humidity and relative darkness, the seed germinates and develops into a seedling. Eventually, this seedling emerges from the medium with a small pair of leaves called the cotyledons.
Cotyledon leaves play a key role in the marijuana plant anatomy; The cotyledons are the initial pair of leaves that emerges from the cannabis seed. They’re the first indicator of healthy plant growth.
Eventually, the first true fan leaves will emerge from the cotyledons, and as the plant matures, the cotyledons will die away.
The roots are an essential element of marijuana plant anatomy. They support, hydrate, and provide the plant with nutrients.
The roots have a long history of medical use dating back to roughly 2700 BCE. Cannabis roots can help with burns and inflammation. They also promote healthy cell membranes, and have properties that can potentially eradicate cancer cells.
Stem and branches
The main structure of a cannabis plant’s anatomy is the stem. It provides structure and stability while supporting the plant’s lateral branches.
Branches also play a supportive role and provide the structure where leaves carry out photosynthesis.
Inside these parts of a marijuana plant is the vascular system consisting of the xylem and phloem. The xylem transports water and nutrients around the plant, while the phloem is responsible for transporting proteins, sugars, and other organic molecules.
The nodes are where the branches grow out of the stalk, or from other branches. Buds and fan leaves can end up growing on certain nodes as well.
The distance between the growth areas is known as internodal spacing. It indicates how tall a cannabis plant is likely to get.
Nodes are essential parts of a marijuana plant. They are where buds form in females, or pollen sacs form in males, offering the first indication of your plant’s sex.
The huge cannabis leaves that everybody recognizes are the fan leaves. You’ll see them on every cannabis plant anatomy diagram. They play an important role in absorbing light so the plant can carry out photosynthesis.
Fan leaves are poor in resin and most growers discard them while pruning their plants.
In cannabis plant anatomy, the spiky leaves that surround your plant’s flowers are the sugar leaves.
You don’t usually consume sugar leaves, as they contain less trichome resin than buds. If the plant's genetic quality is high, you can use them make oils, edibles, and extracts.
Sink your teeth into our Cannabis Leaves: Ultimate Guide to discover more about cannabis leaves.
In marijuana, the sites that produce buds are known as colas, where bud clusters grow together with little space between them.
The apical bud, or large central cola, is found at the plant’s highest peak, but smaller colas can occur along similar sites on branches further down the stem.
Marijuana colas appear as one complete unit, but they’re actually made up of many small parts of a marijuana plant, including the bract and calyxes.
Calyx and bract
The pear-shaped calyxes, formed in the nodes, guard the female reproductive organs and eventually form the buds. They can appear in several colors, shapes, and sizes, depending on the strain.
When the plant is pollinated, the calyxes essentially turn into an ovary, enabling the seeds to grow.
The green bracts, which resemble tears, surround the female reproductive system. They contain trichomes which produce more cannabinoids than any other parts of the marijuana plant.
The calyx is encased in the bracts and is undetectable without a powerful magnification device.
Pistil and stigma
In marijuana plant anatomy, the pistils are the reproductive component of the marijuana flower. The stigmas are linear hair-like structures found protruding from the pistil.
The Stigmas aim to gather pollen from the male plants for the fertilization process to begin.
The pistil's stigmas initially are white but progressively grow darker. As the plant matures, they may become brows, red, orange, or yellow. They‘re essential parts of the reproductive anatomy of a cannabis plant, but stigmas don’t add to the bud’s flavor or potency.
Trichomes are one of the smallest parts of a marijuana plant. These transparent lands are found on the surface of marijuana flowers and leaves and look like mushrooms.
Trichomes ooze a rich resin containing cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Depending on the strain, the amount of phytochemicals produced by the trichomes differs.
The resin helps pollen stick to the flowers, protects the buds from insects, and against UV light. This shows that even the smallest parts of a marijuana plant play an important role.
Trichomes also play an important role in helping growers identify when to harvest their buds. When their color turns mostly milky, and some turn an amber color, it’s time to harvest.
Now that you know the ins and outs of the cannabis plant anatomy, go out there and conjure the weed-growing world with your newfound knowledge.
If you’d like to discover more about the cannabis plant anatomy, delve into our article: what is the difference between genotype and phenotype.