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Understanding Male, Female, And Hermaphrodite Cannabis

When you grow cannabis plants, they will either turn out as females, males, or hermaphrodites, meaning a hybrid of the two sexes. Knowing the difference between the three is vital to maintaining a strong growing operation, whether you’re planning on crossbreeding strains, maximising the yield of your female plants, or studying each of the types.

A guide to differentiating between male, female, and hermaphrodite cannabis plants.

  • 1. Why does it matter that cannabis is dioecious?
  • 2. Male vs female cannabis: What’s the difference?
  • 3. Hermaphrodites: When cannabis plants become monoecious
  • 4. How to identify different sexes of cannabis plants
  • 4.a. Identifying male cannabis plants
  • 4.b. Identifying female cannabis plants
  • 4.c. Identifying hermaphrodite cannabis plants
  • 5. Types of hermaphrodite cannabis plants
  • 6. How to avoid hermaphrodite plants in your grow room
  • 7. What type of cannabis seeds are good for breeding?
  • 1. Why does it matter that cannabis is dioecious?
  • 2. Male vs female cannabis: What’s the difference?
  • 3. Hermaphrodites: When cannabis plants become monoecious
  • 4. How to identify different sexes of cannabis plants
  • 4.a. Identifying male cannabis plants
  • 4.b. Identifying female cannabis plants
  • 4.c. Identifying hermaphrodite cannabis plants
  • 5. Types of hermaphrodite cannabis plants
  • 6. How to avoid hermaphrodite plants in your grow room
  • 7. What type of cannabis seeds are good for breeding?

From psychoactive cannabinoids to aromatic terpenes, cannabis features many traits that make it unique within the plant kingdom. However, the uniqueness of the plant doesn’t stop at the phytochemicals it produces.

See, the vast majority of plant species are monoecious, a term meaning they possess both male and female reproductive organs. These include edible plants, such as corn and squashes, that can readily fertilise their own flowers using their own pollen.

Cannabis belongs to a minority of species that are dioecious in nature, meaning they produce separate male and female plants. Specifically, it should be noted that only 7% of all angiosperms (flowering plant species) possess this rare and interesting trait.

WHY DOES IT MATTER THAT CANNABIS IS DIOECIOUS?

Cannabis growers and breeders use this trait to their advantage, since it allows them to separate male and female plants. This enables them to prevent the flowers from becoming fertilised and going to seed, which results in better quality flowers, known as sinsemilla.

It also means cannabis growers have more control when it comes to crossing specific males and females together. They can choose two healthy and vigorous specimens, place them close together, and produce progeny that express certain traits.

Let’s take a deeper look into male and female cannabis plants. From there, we’ll see what causes some specimens to develop both male and female reproductive organs.

MALE VS FEMALE CANNABIS: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Male and female plants look identical during the seedling and vegetative phases. But, as they begin to transition into the flowering phase, plants finally begin to reveal their sex. During this time, females produce resinous buds loaded with cannabinoids, and males form sacs filled with pollen.

Female cannabis plants are the main focus of casual growers looking to harvest a personal stash. But, depending on their genetics, female plants can look drastically different from one another. Some remain small, producing dense canopies and significant lateral growth. Others grow in excess of 3m, produce massive harvests, and look more like trees than regular garden plants.

Despite their differences, all female plants share one thing in common: they produce flowers. These flowers, colloquially known as buds, possess small glandular structures called trichomes that produce cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.

Male plants, in contrast, don’t produce flowers. This makes them less valuable for growers seeking only buds. However, they do produce pollen sacs. These small vessels create the genetic material required to fertilise female flowers and create hybrids. This makes the males extremely important for breeding new cannabis strains.

It should also be noted that male pollen sacs and female flowers develop at the same point on the plant. Both structures emerge from nodes, the point at which branches meet the main stem. So, when you see buds starting to form on some plants, start looking for pollen sacs too.

HERMAPHRODITES: WHEN CANNABIS PLANTS BECOME MONOECIOUS

Cannabis, like those who love it, doesn’t always stick to the rules, though. Sometimes, this dioecious plant species goes against the grain and develops both male and female reproductive organs. These specimens are known as hermaphrodites. Either genetic or environmental factors, or both, can cause plants to develop this unusual trait. Having both buds and pollen sacs, they end up developing the ability to pollinate and reproduce with themselves.

Of course, growers want to avoid this phenomenon if they’re aiming for the best flowers possible. We’ll dive deeper into what causes hermaphroditism and how to avoid it below.

HOW TO IDENTIFY DIFFERENT SEXES OF CANNABIS PLANTS

The ability to determine plant sex as early as possible is a critical skill for cannabis growers. As you develop this eye for identifying plant sex, you will be able to prevent any accidental pollination.

  • The goal: find the males and move them out of your grow room or garden as quickly as possible. The sex of a plant becomes fairly obvious during the early flowering stage, but time is of the essence in that regard. The quicker you can identify and remove male plants, the more you reduce the chances of accidental fertilisation.

IDENTIFYING MALE CANNABIS PLANTS

Growers identify plant sex by identifying pre-flowers, which are small structures that form at the nodes during late vegetation.

During the early flowering stage, take a stroll around your grow room or garden with a magnifying glass or jeweller’s loupe. Inspect a few nodes on each plant to see how far along into the flowering process they are. At this stage, you won’t see any obvious flowers or pollen sacs. Instead, you’re looking for young pre-flowers. Although these tiny structures look similar, they have distinct features that allow growers to tell them apart.

Male pre-flowers look like tiny green eggs or “balls”. These young pollen sacs will look smooth and won’t possess any fine hairs, or any distinct point. Later into the flowering stage, pollen sacs begin to form larger and denser clusters. They’ll become easy to identify with the naked eye by this point. However, pollen sacs usually begin to disperse their contents around 2–3 weeks after forming. Be sure to remove them from your space with haste if you don’t plan on crossing your plants.

IDENTIFYING FEMALE CANNABIS PLANTS

Female pre-flowers also develop at the nodes. You can distinguish them based on one obvious visual characteristic: hairs. Female pre-flowers feature tear-drop shaped calyxes with small hairs protruding from the tip. These small hairs, known as pistils, are the sex organs of female cannabis flowers.

These protruding structures are designed to capture pollen, which leads to fertilisation. They stick out away from the flower to capture pollen from the air, and to await being brushed up against by pollen-covered insects.

Within a matter of weeks, these small pre-flowers swell into dense nuggets and begin churning out cannabinoid and terpene-rich resin. Since you the removed males and prevented pollination, your flowers will continuously produce resin until the end of the growing cycle.

IDENTIFYING HERMAPHRODITE CANNABIS PLANTS

Several factors can cause female plants to start to develop pollen sacs—or exposed stamens—alongside their flowers. This trait means that plants don’t need to rely on a nearby male to burst their sacs and fertilise them. As we’ll discuss in a bit, this is actually a savvy survival mechanism and a display of nature’s genius. However, hermaphrodites aren’t desirable in the grow room or garden. Now, let’s discuss both types and how to avoid the issues they cause.

TYPES OF HERMAPHRODITE CANNABIS PLANTS

Hermaphrodite cannabis plants come in two different forms: true hermaphrodites and “bananas”.

The former features distinctly male and female reproductive organs. Upon close inspection, you’ll notice pollen sacs occupying some nodes, and female flowers residing at others. When the pollen sacs rupture, the pollen will displace into the flowers, and the plant will effectively breed with itself. From there, it’ll go to seed and produce the subsequent generation.

“Banana” hermaphrodites get their name from their physical characteristics. Instead of producing separate organs, they develop a bare pollen-producing stamen within the female flower. This naked appendage drops pollen directly onto buds to ensure self-reproduction. These stamens share a similar shape and colour to a certain tropical fruit, hence their name.

HOW TO AVOID HERMAPHRODITE PLANTS IN YOUR GROW ROOM

Hermaphroditism stems from two major driving factors: stress and genetics. In regards to stress, hermaphroditism serves as a survival mechanism. If a plant experiences damage, heat, disease, or nutrient deficiencies, they start to freak out. Essentially, plants get the impression that their time is up. In a last-ditch attempt to reproduce, they decide to stop waiting around for a male and get the job done themselves.

To avoid this issue, try to maintain a stable environment in your grow room. Use a thermo-hygrometer to monitor temperature and humidity, keep your light schedule strict, and ensure your plants get all the nutrients they require.

Even if you have all of these bases covered, plants can still pollinate themselves due to poor genetics. Plants with a bad genetic history and too much genetic variation are prone to becoming hermaphrodites. For this reason, it’s important to shop with reputable companies that offer high-quality seeds with stable genetics.

WHAT TYPE OF CANNABIS SEEDS ARE USED FOR BREEDING?

If you want to try breeding, you’re going to need regular cannabis seeds, and Royal Queen Seeds offers a premium range. In contrast to feminized seeds that produce only female specimens, regular seeds offer a 50% chance of the plant being male or female.

These seeds provide breeders with an army of males and females to experiment with. Cross the very best specimens together to create your own unique strains that match your taste. However, if you’re growing for nothing but buds, you can still use them for their stable and trusty genetics. As you may know, regular seeds provide excellent mother plants to produce clones and amazing yields. You’ll have to spot male plants, but the payoff will be more than worth it.

Cannabis plants can be male, female, or hermaphrodites. Knowing the difference can make or break your cannabis operation. Find out their differences inside!

What To Do With A Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plant?

Many things can affect your grow of the cannabis plant. Feminized seeds can save you the time and expenses of sexing the plant resulting in shorter grow times and less materials used. One thing that can affect your grow (especially with feminized cannabis plants) is a hermaphrodite cannabis plant. What are hermaphrodites?

Hermaphrodite Definition: noun (1) an organism (plant or animal) having both male and female reproductive organs. (2) An organism having both male and female organs. Therefore, is capable of producing both male and female gametes. Sometimes the cannabis plant will produce male organs on a female plant. This can infrequently happen with your feminized cannabis seeds. Most feminized seeds will not become hermaphrodites.

More likely than not, you will not get any hermaphrodites cannabis plant from your feminized seeds.

The two things that can cause hermaphrodites in the cannabis plant are an environmental stress or a genetic tendency. Some strains of feminized cannabis plants have a genetic tendency to be hermaphroditic and some strains have an extremely rare amount of occurrences.

Seed from a reputable breeder will have a rare amount of genetically caused hermaphrodites. If you have multiple hermaphrodites in your garden then it is most likely an environmental issue that caused them to get hermaphroditic. If you have just one hermaphrodite it is most likely caused by genetics. Some strains have a tendency toward being hermas. Doing some research on the strains you plan to purchase will help make sure you don’t pick one of those strains. There are many strains of the cannabis plant with extremely stable genetics.

What things can you do to lower the chances of having a hermaphrodite in your cannabis plants?

Several things can cause your cannabis plant to get shocked and become hermaphroditic, such as light leak during the flowering stages of the light cycle. Severe variations in the PH levels or fertilizer can also cause the plants to create male sex organs. Variations in temperature may cause the problem. Watering incorrectly can shock your plants as well as the introduction of hormones improperly or at the wrong time. Growing past the recommended harvest time can also cause hermaphrodites. If you are going to change something in the grow process it is usually best to do it slowly if you are growing indoors this is much easier. Outdoor grows should not have any problems with hermaphrodites but the climate cannot be controlled as exactly as indoors.

In this video from Jorge Cervantes you can see the release of male pollen:

What should I do if I get a hermaphrodite cannabis plant or plants?

The male sex organ of the cannabis plant looks like little bananas. If you find sites on your branches that have little bananas on them, the first thing you should do when you find male sex organs on your cannabis plant is to isolate the plant away from the rest of the female cannabis plants. An isolation tent or another room away from the other females is a good ways to segregate the hermas. Make sure to always tend to the hermaphrodite cannabis plants last because you do not want to bring the pollen back in to the room with your female plants. You can just get rid of the plant but that is a waste of time and resources. Pulling the male sex organs off with tweezers is a good option. It is also prudent to take the affected bud or branch entirely off. Often the sex organs “bananas” do not open on feminized cannabis plants but you should treat them as if they are open and take care not to bring that pollen back in to the females. It takes ten to fifteen days for the cannabis plant to develop the male flowers, so you will have to monitor the plants for at least that long in order to remove all of the male sex organs. The pollen is released if the banana like pod opens, so be careful to dispose of them quickly.

Male cannabis plant losing pollen.

Hermaphrodite can occur when you wait too long to harvest so how do you know when it is time to harvest your cannabis plant?

Trichromes are the small glands on the cannabis plant and can tell you when to harvest your plants. When using a 60X by 100X illuminated pocket microscope the trichromes will go from clear to milky and then amber. You can also take a good digital photo and enlarge it until you see the trichromes. Some digital cameras have a macro setting, which would do the trick. You can harvest when 50% or more of the trichromes are milky or translucent. Some people like to wait until the trichromes become amber in color. Some sativas are better if harvested when you get to the milky stage; it has more of a heady effect than a physical one. If you wait until the glands turn amber it will have more of a sedate, physical high. This could make a Sativa lose some of its qualities. Some of the blueberry and blackberry strains have purple glands but mostly they will be amber in the last stage. Mostly you would want a mainly amber hue on Indicas or Sativa/Indica hybrids. Waiting too long can cause the cannabis plant to go in to “survival mode” and generate male organs in order to pollinate itself.

Hermaphrodites are used to make feminized cannabis seeds

Feminized cannabis seeds are often produced by introducing a hermaphrodite to a number of female plants. This is usually achieved by using hormones to invoke one or more of the females to generate male organs. Make sure to check out our video section if you want know how to make your own feminised cannabis seeds. The resulting seeds will be predominantly female or feminized seed. Feminized seed is an extremely economical choice for growing cannabis plants. Feminized seeds will have a 85% to 99.9% chance of being female. Non-feminized seeds will have a 50% to 70% chance of being female. In most cases you will not have any hermaphrodites. If you do end up with hermaphrodites, it is most likely from some environmental shock. Shorter grow times and less maintenance are a great reason to use feminized seeds. Feminized seeds can streamline your grow process by not wasting time determining sex and does not waste resources on male plants. A stable grow process without wild fluctuations is the best plan for maximum yields of your cannabis plants and will almost guarantee you do not get hermaphrodite.

Many things can affect your grow of the cannabis plant. Feminized seeds can save you the time and expenses of sexing the plant resulting in shorter grow times