Cannabis Seed Anatomy

In this series, we hope to explain all the pertinent Cannabis plant facts at-a-glance. Start educating yourself on the Cannabis plant. Everything you need to know about the anatomy of cannabis plants. Anatomy of a cannabis seed In a previous blog post we explained how to distinguish superior cannabis seeds from their poorer quality counterparts. Selecting quality, viable seeds is the first

Breaking Down the Cannabis Plant

We wanted to start our blog with some Cannabis plant basics. In this series, we hope to explain all the pertinent Cannabis plant facts at-a-glance. There is so much information and so much science out there and we aim to guide you through it all. In today’s information age, it’s hard to know where to start with educating yourself on the Cannabis plant. With our collective decades of experience, we decided it’s best to start from the beginning; the plant itself.

Cannabis is like every other plant. Its growth cycle starts from a seed, grows and matures over time, and ultimately flowers and then repeats the cycle until it dies. The flowers are the most desirable part of the growth process and it is no different for Cannabis. Once a cannabis plant flowers, those flowers produce resin glands that contain cannabinoids and terpenes. These flowers are what is being harvested and ultimately used or processed into different medicine and other consumable items. What we call flower, pop culture calls “bud,” “weed,” “ganja,” “pot,” etc.

Parts Of the Cannabis Plant

Flower

The flowers contain the CBD and terpenes that cause you to get high and give people a number of other benefits, interacting with the endocannabinoid system. Flowers only grow on the female plants. This is what is dried out and ground before being smoked.

The cola on the cannabis plant is a cluster of buds growing closely together, almost in a bunch. Small colas can be found up and down the low branches, but the main cola almost always sits at the top of the marijuana plant.

Pistil

The pistil is where the reproductive parts of the flower sit. They contain a lot of thin strands that look a bit like hair, called stigmas. They collect the pollen that is carried from male plants. The stigmas that can be found within are white when the plant is young but eventually turn yellow through the weed plant stages.

The pistil is all about the reproductive system of marijuana.

Bracts

The bracts are what can be found around the female’s reproductive area. They are green, with leaves in a sort of “tear shape”. They have a number of resin glands, that actually hold the highest number of cannabinoids within the marijuana plant.

Calyx

Inside the bracts, on the female cannabis plant, is the calyx. This is a see-through layer that protects the ovule. You can’t see it with the naked eye.

Trichomes

Trichomes are small but form an important part of marijuana anatomy. They make a crystal-like covering for the buds of the cannabis. Trichomes actually come from glands on the leaves, stems, and calyx of the female or male cannabis plant.

Trichomes protect the plant from anything in the wild that could harm them. They secrete terpenes and both CBD and THC.

The node is where a branch grows from the stem of the cannabis plant. Or where one branch stems off and creates another. Some nodes contain buds, but not all of them.

The nodes play an important role in the sexing of a cannabis plant and telling a male cannabis plant from a female cannabis plant. More on that later.

Fan leaves

If you see clothing or accessories with a cannabis leaf on them as decoration, this will be from the fan leaves. They actually just capture light and don’t have a lot of resin within them. On a cannabis Sativa plant, the leaves tend to be further apart and more sparse.

Sugar leaves

Sugar leaves are where the resin is usually held. They’re small leaves where the buds form, and you can use them in a variety of cannabis products including pre-rolls, or to make THC and CBD extracts.

This is a term you’re probably familiar with. The stem is the same part of a cannabis plant as any other plant, and it gives structure and stability to the other parts of the marijuana plant.

The top of the stem can be cut off to encourage weed plant stages where the marijuana plant grows more branches and more buds.

How to tell male from female cannabis plants

To check the sex of a cannabis plant, you need some understanding of marijuana anatomy.

You should check in between the nodes. These are the parts of the marijuana plant where the branches spring off from a stem. On male plants, pollen sacs can be found here. On a female, stigma develops so they can catch the pollen.

You can see pre-flowers from around the fourth week of cannabis growth. In week six, it should definitely be clear what sex the plants are.

For a male marijuana plant, you’ll find small sacs growing. On females, you will find bracts on the cannabis plants. This is where the hairs that catch pollen will eventually start to grow.

How to propagate cannabis plants

There are numerous ways to propagate cannabis plants so that more will grow in the future.

Cloning

Cloning is not as daunting as it sounds. You don’t have to do it in the lab. This is where you take a cutting from a cannabis Indica or cannabis Sativa plant and put it in the ideal growing conditions in soil or hydroponics.

It’s relatively simple and reliable. It also means that you know what type of cannabis plant is going to grow, and you will have taken cuttings from a healthy “mother”. Cannabis clones are going to take all you liked about the mother plant and create another generation that grows in the same way.

Clones are delicate, and you need to get good at understanding an active vegetating cannabis plant so that you can make a clone, there is definitely a skill involved in picking the cutting, making the cutting itself, and replanting it. You probably won’t get it 100% right the first time around.

Seeds

Seeds don’t need you to grow from an initial plant, you can buy seeds and plant them just like you would any other plant, fruit, or vegetable. It takes a little longer for them to grow this way.

Seeds don’t always germinate, so there is a real art to growing your own marijuana using seeds.

One good thing about seeds is the fact that they haven’t been exposed to diseases or a bad growing environment. You can also buy feminized seeds if you want, which guarantee a certain percentage of female cannabis plants.

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Another positive thing about seeds is that they can easily be shipped and transported, and you can buy a number of varieties of cannabis. You might even be able to germinate your own strands.

Whether you choose cannabis clones or growing from seeds, it doesn’t matter, as long as you make a point of becoming good at it. A lot of manufacturers prefer to use clones as it gives a much more consistent result, and allows you to know the properties of the plant that will grow.

Cannabis Plants Anatomy: From Seeds To Buds

Many consumers have seen a cannabis flower and maybe leaf but have never seen a plant grow from seed.

When growing cannabis, it’s essential you become familiar with the anatomy of a cannabis plant to know what they need and prevent problems.

It’s crucial you know the parts of a cannabis plant such as roots, nodes, calyxes, and trichomes, and what they’re used for to be able to maintain a healthy garden.

1. Anatomy of female vs male plants

Cannabis plants are dioecious, this means they have separate sexes, so the plants can be male or female.

In cannabis, the female plant produces high levels of cannabinoids and develops flowers (buds) while the male plant produces low levels and develops pollen sacs.

When both of them interact, the pollen fertilizes flowers, producing seeds which are used for breeding and cannabis cultivation.

It’s essential you know which one you need to grow to achieve the desired results, so in this article, we’ll explain the main differences and the anatomy of a cannabis plant.

2. Seeds and seedlings

A seed is the first thing you need to start growing your own cannabis, a cannabis seed has a hard shell to protect the embryo, this embryo is what will develop into a seedling when germinated.

When exposed to the right temperature and moisture, you will see a seedling (baby plant) start to develop, this seedling comes out of the medium with a small pair of green rounded leaves named cotyledons.

The cotyledons already contain chlorophyll which allows the tiny leaves to perform photosynthesis but it’s only in the early vegetative stage that you will see the first pair of serrated leaves develop and this is when the plant will start to absorb energy and nutrients, and direct it to the growth of foliage and stems.

3. Roots

After 3-5 days of exposing the seed to germination conditions, you will see a white “tail” coming out of the seed, this “tail” will start to grow longer and thicker as soon as the seed is planted and will eventually become your plant’s taproot, which is the main root from where rootlets sprout.

Once the taproot grows to a considerable size, several lateral roots will start to emerge from it, forming a network of roots in the soil, this root network is responsible for absorbing water and nutrients which are vital for your plant’s growth.

4. Fan leaves

After the cotyledons have appeared, they will be exposed to sunlight. This is important because the cotyledons use photosynthesis to absorb sunlight and produce energy for the plant to grow. After a couple of days, the first serrated leaves will appear, and as the plant grows, bigger foliage will appear and each time they will have more apexes, which are the fingers of a cannabis fan leaf.

Depending on the genetics, the foliage can have five, seven, nine, or more fingers but either way, independent of the number of apexes, the fan leaves use sun, water, and C02 to produce sugars.

Also, the leaves are different depending on the genetics, for example, Indica leaves are usually wider with more fingers while Sativa leaves are thinners and have more fingers, there are also autoflowers that start with leaves similar to Ruderalis leaves and it can get complicated to differentiate so here’s a table to help you figure it out easier.

Cannabis leaf characteristics
Species Leaf characteristics
Sativa Skinnier with up to 13 “fingers”.
Indica Fat and wide leaves with up to 9 “fingers”.
Ruderalis Short and compact, developing 3-5 “fingers.

These sugars are a cannabis plant’s source of energy and it fuels growth and all the biological processes it needs.

Have in mind that even though the foliage is a part of a cannabis plant, they have low levels of cannabinoids so their purpose is to absorb sunlight, store water, and also protect the buds from sunburn but are not usually smoked.

5. Sugar leaves

Sugar leaves are regular leaves but unlike fan leaves, they’re not too big and usually grow in between the buds. This foliage can sometimes have trichomes on them but will depend on the trichome production of each specific strain.

These leaves contain less resin that buds and are usually not consumed but depending on the quality of the genetics, these leaves can be used to make edibles, oils, and extracts.

6. Pre-sex structures

The pre-sex structures appear on the internodes in the pre-flowering stage of the cannabis plant, if your plant turns out to be a male, you’ll see small balls appearing which are pollen sacs in the early stages.

These pollen sacs will eventually develop and open up, releasing the pollen needed to produce seeds, now, if you see white hairs (stigmas) instead of pollen sacs, your plant is definitely a female.

If you’re a home grower, you should “sex” your plants before they are completely mature, this will prevent the male plants from pollinating the female plants, have in mind that fertilized flowers will produce seeds which decreases the amount of cannabinoids and overall yield.

Now, if you’re a breeder or just want to experiment with cannabis breeding, you can have a breeding chamber so you can pollinate your plants in a controlled space and prevent cross-pollination because pollen is extremely light and can travel on your hair, clothes, and even by the wind.

7. Branches and stems

As said above, leaves absorb sunlight, and as new leaf growth appears, your plant will consequently get more light and the stem and branches will get thicker and thicker, developing more internodes (and more internodal spacing) on both sides of the stem.

The main part of a cannabis plant’s anatomy is the stem, the stem provides support to the foliage, branches, and flowers (basically the whole plant), inside the stem, there is a vascular system that consists of the Xylem and Phloem.

The Xylem transports water and the nutrients dissolved in water while the Phloem is responsible for transporting sugars, proteins, and other organic molecules in plants.

Sometimes plants can develop mutations, these mutations are genetic mutations so they cannot be fixed, and although some mutations can result in odd growth such as irregular branching and leaf growth, they can still produce good quality flowers, despite sometimes the yields being affected.

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8. Nodes

Nodes are the point where branches come off from the stem, in the vegetative stage of a cannabis plant they’re parallel to each other but when your plant begins flowering the appearance of nodes can become irregular, now this isn’t a problem at all, it’s just a characteristic of some cannabis strain and is usually a trait that can help you identify a certain plant’s species.

Have in mind that nowadays most cannabis strains are hybrids (a combination of Indica and Sativa genetics) so this won’t always be 100% correct but usually, Indicas tend to have nodes that are closer together while Sativa’s nodes are usually more spaced out.

These nodes are essential because they are where the buds or pollen sacs will start to develop and it’s where the first signs of your plant’s sex appear.

9. Flowers (buds)

The buds (flowers) are the most important part for growers but also for the cannabis plant, the flowers play several roles such as attracting pollinators and producing seed (once they’re fertilized) to perpetuate the species.

Nowadays you can find feminized seeds which means the seeds will result in 100% female plants but in nature, cannabis plants are dioecious which means the plants will be male or female, as said before.

The pre-flowering stage is vital in differentiating whether the plant is a male or a female because it’s when a plant will show the first signs of its sex.

The flowers that form on the top of the stem are known as the cola, typically, a plant has one main cola but growers have come up with several methods of creating multiple main colas with plant training techniques (such as LST and HST) that help increase yields.

The main cola is known as the apical bud or main cola and it’s where most of the buds gather together to form the main bud, you’ll also see small clusters of flowers between the foliage in the internodes but, compared to the main cola, the side colas are smaller so this is why growers use both LST and HST.

These two plant training methods end up changing the structure of the plant by exposing the flowering sites to more light and airflow, allowing the buds to grow bigger while also improving their quality.

When talking about flowers, there’s a distinction between female and male flowers. Male plants usually develop 2-3 weeks earlier than female flowers and, as said above, do not develop buds but they also form colas that consist of pollen sac clusters.

10. Pistils and stigmas

The pistils and stigmas are the reproductive parts of the female flowers, most cannabis consumers know the stigmas as pistils but that is wrong because the pistils are the part where the stigmas (white hairs) grow from.

These hair-like parts are responsible for collecting pollen grains from the male flowers and consequently, produce seeds.

When a cannabis plant is fully mature, the stigmas can change color several times, usually starting with white hues, then yellow, orange, or red, and lastly, brown.

Now, have in mind that the stigmas do not affect the potency or taste because they do not store any cannabinoids and don’t have trichomes so they won’t influence the quality and effect of your buds.

11. Bracts

The bracts, which are usually called calyxes by mistake, are what actually form the buds on a cannabis plant, they are pear-shaped nodules that develop between the sugar leaves but depending on the strain, they can appear in several colors, shapes, and sizes.

When the stigmas get pollinated, the bracts essentially turn into an ovary (seed incubator) which allows the seeds to grow and ripen but ends up affecting the yields and can affect the resin quantity on your buds, that’s why “sinsemilla” or feminized seeds are preferred by growers and consumers.

A non-pollinated flower is usually trichome-rich because your harvest will have more trichomes and they are responsible for producing and storing terpenes and cannabinoids.

12. Trichomes

Trichomes are the tiny crystals found all over the buds and surrounding foliage and are considered the most important part for cannabis consumers, these mushroom-shaped glands are clear and sticky, and form a thick layer on the buds.

These mushroom-shaped glands known as trichomes can be found in different types and sizes, they are:

  • Capitate-stalked trichomes 100 µm;
  • Cystholitic trichomes 50 µm.
  • Unicellular non-glandular trichomes 20 µm;
  • Capitate sessile trichomes 20 µm;
  • Complex bulbous trichomes 10 µm and;
  • Simple bulbous trichomes 10 µm;

All “recreational strains” are THC-rich, depending on the strain, the trichome production may differ, resulting in more or fewer trichomes on your plants, but either way, all cannabis plants will produce trichomes.

For home growers, the trichomes are the standard practice to know exactly when to harvest but in nature, the compounds produce by the cannabis plant provide defense mechanisms, such as terpenes, which smell helps keep away predators.

Also, the sticky trichomes protect the buds from insects and against UV light, and although we don’t usually think about this when growing indoors, all the parts of a cannabis plant have an important role when cannabis plants grow in nature.

13. The Life Cycle of Cannabis Plants

Now that you know everything you need about the anatomy of cannabis plants, let’s understand a bit more about the life cycle of cannabis plants. Cannabis plants can take anywhere from 8 to 32 weeks to grow and mature, and during this time it goes through four stages, they are:

  • Germination stage;
  • Seedling stage;
  • Vegetative stage;
  • Flowering stage.

And it’s essential for you to understand these stages to grow healthy plants as each stage requires different light spectrums, light cycles, nutrients, and growing conditions.

The Germination Stage

Just like with any other plant, cannabis plants start from seeds. Cannabis seeds are dormant until exposed to warmth and moisture. This means that if you are looking to germinate cannabis seeds or any other type of seed, you will have to hydrate it and place it in good conditions.

After planted, seeds can take anywhere from 3 to 10 days to germinate and seeds contain enough food for 2-3 weeks, which means there’s no need to water with a nutrient solution until the seedling has come out of the soil. Once the seedling comes out of the soil, you’ll see two small rounded leaves which are called cotyledons, and this is what marks the beginning of the seedling stage.

The Seedling Stage

The seedling stage of cannabis plants can take anywhere from 1- 3 weeks, and sometimes more depending on the strain and growing conditions. During the seedling stage, plants focus on developing roots and foliage, this means that the roots are still small and fragile so be careful to not overfeed or overwater them. Once you’re in the seedling stage, make sure to provide 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness, and remember to keep an eye on them as they’re extremely susceptible to pests and diseases.

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The Vegetative Stage

After a couple of weeks in the vegetative stage, your plants will start needing more food, light, and water as the roots and foliage start to grow exponentially. During the vegetative stage, you have to make sure you’re feeding your plant higher levels of nitrogen and less phosphorus and potassium as nitrogen is needed to develop foliage. If you’re growing indoors, the general rule is to flip to 12/12 (which triggers flowering) once the plant is ⅓ or ½ of the size you want them to be by harvest.

The Flowering Stage

Once you flip to 12/12 (or when autumn comes outdoors), your plants will start flowering. The flowering stage can take anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks or even more, depending on the strain. This stage starts with the appearance of pre-flowers which will eventually fatten up and turn into those delicious sticky flowers you’ve been waiting for so long. Obviously, this is just a quick rundown and there are a lot of things to keep in mind, other than the light cycle but understanding the life cycle and anatomy of cannabis plants will allow you to anticipate problems before they happen.

14. In conclusion

Cannabis plants are millennial plants that have developed and perfected their structure throughout the years, even though we don’t see it like that, all the parts of a cannabis plant are essential for them to grow and perpetuate their species.

Feel free to leave tips and more important information to help educate fellow growers, leave a comment in the comment section below!

Anatomy of a cannabis seed

In a previous blog post we explained how to distinguish superior cannabis seeds from their poorer quality counterparts. Selecting quality, viable seeds is the first crucial step for a cultivator growing healthy plants that produce a high yield.

Very few of us however are aware of the anatomy of these seeds, or the role each component plays in the growth of the plant, yet cannabis seeds are fascinating organisms which deserve detailed attention.

Radicle

The radicle is the first growth that will emerge from the seed during the process of germination. Known as the ‘primary root’, or the ‘embryonic root’, it grows downwards into the soil in order to start absorbing the water, minerals and other nutrients the plant requires for growth.

If the radicle begins to decay, the seedling will die off before emerging above the soil. This is known as ‘dampening off’ and is visible on the radicle as dark spots.

Root Cap

The root cap is shaped like a thimble or dome, and sits on the end of the radicle. It’s comprised of multi-layered tissue similar to that of the shoot apex.

The root cap performs two primary functions: first, it is responsible for anchoring the plant by ensuring that the root continually grows downwards into the soil (if the root cap is removed without damaging the radicle, the root will grow in an irregular direction which may not be conducive to plant stability). Second, the root cap is responsible for protecting the tip of the radicle from damage as it pushes its way down through the soil.

Cotyledons

Known as the ‘embryonic leaf’ in seed-bearing plants, these are the first small leaves which start to emerge. Emergence from the seed takes place within twenty-four hours of the radicle entering the soil.

Cannabis seeds contain two cotyledons, placing them within the dicotyledon “dicot” category of flowering plants (plants whose seeds contain only one cotyledon are referred to as “monocots”). “Dicot” seedlings contain cotyledons which are photosynthetic, thereby driving the growth of the seedling as soon as they emerge from the soil.

These cotyledons are the first visible sign of growth (due to their being above ground) and they contain the stored nutrient reserves of the seed. Cotyledons are responsible for encouraging leaf growth during the early stages of the plant’s life. As such, the first true leaves will emerge from within the cotyledons. As these true leaves become established and the cotyledons are no longer required, they will turn yellow and die.

The cotyledons are vital for the plant to be able to breed.

Shoot Apex

As mentioned earlier, the shoot apex is made of similar material to the root cap. It is also a similar shape. However, in contrast to the root cap, the shoot apex is comparatively long.

The shoot apex is the growing tip of the plant, and is protected by young leaves.

Primary Leaves

As the name implies, these are the first true leaves to emerge after the cotyledons. They emerge from the top of the initial long, thin stem attached to the shoot apex. These leaves enable the plant to continuously seek the sunlight it requires to further develop.

Primary leaves emerge prior to cell division within the stem which then results in secondary growth.

Calyx

This is the first part of the flower to form. If looking at more orthodox, colourful flowers, the calyx is identifiable as the tight green bundle of growth (“sepals”) directly underneath the petals which hold the flower together.

The calyx contains the reproductive organs of the plant, called the “pistils” and the “trichomes”, and is designed to protect them. The pistils are where the long hairs (called “stigmas”) emerge from, while the trichomes are the resin glands.

Female calyx resemble small seeds. Once they are ready for pollination they will burst open to expose white pistils. Male plants form pollen sacs which usually drop low. Once mature, these sacs will burst open and release pollen into the air, thereby pollinating the females.

Perianth

The petals of a flower form the “corolla”. The corolla and the calyx combined comprise the perianth.

The perianth is the non-reproductive part of the structure, designed with the sole purpose of protecting the plant’s reproductive organs.

Closing Thoughts

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at our piece on the anatomy of the cannabis plant. Understanding anatomy of both seed and plant will help you nurture a seedling into an established plant that produces a good quality harvest, and make growing an increasingly rewarding process.

For those of you that are interested in buying cannabis seeds, view our selection for sale here and start your very own collection!