The cannabis plant is a complex and beautiful piece of nature: it contains the ability to grow in a wide variety of climates and regions and brings a host of benefits to consumers. There are also several parts of a cannabis plant to consider depending on where your interest lies as a consumer – or if you just enjoy nerding out on plant-based compounds.
Whether you’re a grower, retailer, consumer, or some combination of the three, it’s important to be able to recognize the different parts of a marijuana plant.
From cannabis buds and pistils to trichomes and fan leaves, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with each aspect of the plant so you know exactly what’s going into your products, and which parts of the plant should be salvaged and nurtured versus permanently discarded.
In regards to the parts of a cannabis plant, the cannabis seed is where it all starts. Produced in female cannabis plants and carrying the genetics of male and female, cannabis seeds are the source for what you’re trying to bring to life.
The seeds are the star of the first stage of the cannabis plant’s life cycle: germination. Seeds must germinate in the growing source – usually soil – to sprout. Once successful, your germinated seed will grow a tap root, which is the main root that anchors the growth of your plant.
This part of the plant is just as important as the seed, as the roots will support your plant’s growth, and their health will determine how successfully that growth is executed.
Roots pull water and oxygen into your cannabis plant, ensuring it grows strong and healthy. This is why it’s so important to keep your roots in check. Whether that looks like adding nutrients, beneficial fungus, or simply staying on top of the water and light cycles, figure out what works best for your roots and your plant will thank you later.
The cotyledon leaves are magic for growers to witness, as they signify the initial takeoff of your plant. These are the first cannabis leaves to sprout from your tap root after germination: a sign of success and that your plant is well on its way to healthy growth. They’re usually expressed as vibrant green leaves that are small but mighty.
As your plant grows, it will eventually develop nodes. A node is a point where a branch grows off the main stem, or where a branch grows off another branch. Buds and fan leaves might grow off nodes, but not always.
This is the point where you can determine between male vs. female cannabis plants – or, if you’re lucky, the elusive hermaphrodite cannabis plants, which express both sex’s organs.
The cannabis stem is pretty self-explanatory: same as any other plant under the sun, a cannabis plant’s stem gives structure and stability to every part of the plant. Supporting all of the lateral branches, the stem guides the growth of your plant, and can even be manipulated via trimming to grow more or less, depending on your needs.
Cannabis fan leaves are without a doubt the part of the plant you’re most familiar with, whether you’re new to the industry or not. Often utilized as the stereotypical symbol for cannabis, the fan leaf is the large, often seven-pronged leaf with serrated edges that captures the light your plant needs to thrive.
Despite the worldwide recognition of the fan leaf, these leaves contain little-to-no cannabinoid content and are often discarded when it’s time to trim and harvest.
Sugar leaves are smaller, covered in resin, and are the base that cannabis buds form around. These weed leaves are often saved as “trim” during harvest and utilized for pre-rolls, extracts, and other cannabis-infused products.
Male vs Female Cannabis Plants
Male cannabis plants express themselves differently than female cannabis plants, and it’s important to be able to make the distinction – especially if you’re hoping to consume what you’re growing. Here’s a quick breakdown on the differences between male and female cannabis plants.
Female cannabis plants are the prize of the industry, as they are the ones that grow the buds we love to roll up and smoke. Female plants are pollinated by the males. They then go on to produce seeds, which carry on male and female genetics to create a new generation.
Determining whether or not a plant is female is quite simple once you know what to look for. A female plant will contain stigmas, cola, bract, and calyx.
Stigmas are the small, orange hairy-looking sprouts that grow from the plant’s pistils, signifying a plant’s maturity. The cola is the point where the buds merge and grow together tightly, while the bract is a tear-shaped nodule containing high concentrations of trichomes and the calyx is a translucent layer that lives at the flower’s base.
In lieu of buds, male cannabis plants grow pollen sacs. While they’re definitely important in the breeding process, they’re usually discarded as they contain no valuable plant content for consumers.
To determine if a plant is male, simply check for its sex organs at the node. Male organs resemble a small ball, which eventually develops into pollen sacs.
Trichomes are one of the most essential parts of the cannabis plant, as they contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and other sought-after compounds to meet consumer interest.
These frost-like resinous glands are found on the cannabis flowers and leaves. Not only do they contain all of the active plant compounds, but they act as a protectant against predators and the elements.
Plants That Look Like Cannabis
It’s important to be able to determine the difference between male and female plants, and even more important to know about plants that look like cannabis so you don’t make the mistake of trying to harvest them.
Such plants include:
- Texas star hibiscus
- Coral plant
- Cranberry Hibiscus
- Tagetes minuta
- Chaste tree
- Kenaf plants
Make sure to know your cannabis and happy growing!