Parts of the cannabis plant
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- Types of weed plants
- How to tell male from female marijuana plants
- How to propagate cannabis plants
Cannabis grows in a variety of climates around the world and can be used in many applications: rope, biofuel, paper, and many medical and recreational uses. The plant is part of the Cannabaceae family, which also includes hops. It is further classified as Cannabis sativa L . Each part of the plant serves a purpose and while the whole of a cannabis plant is certainly greater than the sum of its parts, knowing its parts can inform your experience and appreciation of it. Below are descriptions of each of the plant’s parts and the functions they perform.
Each part of the cannabis plant serves a purpose.
The flowers of the female marijuana plant can be identified by their small teardrop structures, which consist of pistils attached to bracts. Cannabis flowers are usually covered with a frosty-looking coating of trichomes, with a heavier density of trichomes making for a more desirable flower.
The main part of the flower, at the end of a female plant’s stem is composed of many small floral clusters. In general, the bigger, heavier, and more densely covered in trichomes a cola is, the better quality it will be, although some cultivars will naturally grow flowers that are more loosely structured and airy.
The small leaves that surround the reproductive cells of a female weed plant. When a female plant is exposed to pollen from a male marijuana plant, the bracts surround and shield the seed pod.
Marijuana trichomes are hairlike appendages found on the surface of the cannabis plant. Trichomes protect the plant from external stressors and contain resinous glands that create flavonoids, cannabinoids and terpenes — the chemical compounds that give the marijuana plant its unique features and effects. Trichomes give cannabis buds a crystal-like sheen and make them sticky feeling.
Within the glandular trichomes, there are three main types: bulbous, capitate-sessile and capitate-stalked.
Non-glandular trichomes are called cystoliths. Bulbous trichomes are tiny bulbs that are sparsely located throughout the entire plant, but are so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Capitate-sessile trichomes are more abundant than bulbous trichomes, found on the underside of the sugar leaves and fan leaves, but are usually only visible through a microscope. Capitate-stalked trichomes are shaped like mushrooms and contain a large trichome head at the top of the stalk. These are the trichomes that can be easily seen on the cannabis flower surface.
The point at which the stem and leaf intersect. Nodes can hold one or more leaves or offshoots. As explained below, nodes are important to be familiar with, as they are where cannabis plants begin to grow either pollen sacs (male cannabis plants) or pistils (female cannabis plants). Understanding the sex of a marijuana plant is crucial to the final product, since only female plants produce flowers and since non-pollinated flowers are far superior than pollinated buds when it comes to consumption.
Leaves are important components of a weed plant, and there are actually a couple types of marijuana leaves. The large, protruding leaves that appear along the length of the plant are called fan leaves. Theses leaves are essential to the living plant’s photosynthesis, but are always removed from the finished, harvested product.
As opposed to fan leaves, sugar leaves are small leaves found throughout cannabis colas’ cupping buds that are typically trimmed off the flower after harvest. They are called “sugar leaves” because of the high volume of trichomes found on them, which makes it look like the leaves are covered in sugar. Sugar leaf trim can be used to make edibles or concentrates.
The main support structure of the marijuana plant, the stem transports fluids, nutrients, and information from the roots to the rest of the weed plant. The stem provides a foundation to give fan leaves access to the light they need to facilitate growth and carries the weight of heavy colas.
Pistils vs. stigmas
There is often a lot of confusion surrounding pistils and stigmas, with many people confusing one of the other. Here’s a quick breakdown on the difference between the two important cannabis plant components.
What is a pistil?
The pistil is the primary piece of the female flower’s reproductive system, comprising a single ovule with two protruding stigmas.
What are stigmas?
The thin hairs that extend from a female’s bract to catch male pollen. They are commonly confused with pistils. Knowing how to identify stigmas is an important part of growing weed, as these are the telltale signs that a plant is female and will therefore produce the cannabinoid-rich flowers you’re trying to harvest.
Cannabis grows in a variety of climates around the world and can be used in many applications: rope, biofuel, paper, and many medical and recreational uses. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Types of weed plants
If you want to stay in touch with the origins of your favorite cannabis products, knowing the ins and outs of the plant at the industry’s core is a good place to start. And that includes knowing not only the specific parts of a cannabis plant, but also the different types and strains of weed that exist.
Along with understanding the various parts of a marijuana plant, you should also know about the different types of cannabis. While there are long-held claims about the effects that sativas, indicas, and hybrids offer, current research suggests that the effects of cannabis are determined by a person’s endocannabinoid system and the plant-specific cannabinoid profile.
Despite that, cannabis is typically classified in the following four categories:
- Indica: Indica-leaning weed plants tend to produce dense, fat, heavy buds during the flowering stage. These strains are typically believed to give consumers a “body high” instead of a more cerebral high.
- Sativa: Sativa plants tend to produce buds that are airy and more formed than indica plants. Sativa strains of the weed plant are often said to offer users a more cerebral, energetic, “buzzy” highs.
- Hybrid: As a blend of sativa and indica, hybrid strains are generally believed to give you a more balanced high.
- Hemp: Hemp plants are part of the cannabis family, but they differ from a regular weed plant in that they produce only trace amounts of THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects of the marijuana plant. In the U.S., the 2018 Farm Bill specified hemp as a cannabis plant containing up to 0.3% THC. However, hemp plants produce a number of other important cannabinoids, most notably cannabidiol (CBD), and their fibers are used to produce a range of textiles.
To break it down even further, there are numerous strains within each of the more general categories indica, sativa, and hybrid. Understanding and becoming familiar with these various strains is what will really enable you to target — on a specific level — the type of experience you have when consuming weed.
How to tell male from female marijuana plants
Typically, you will be able to distinguish between male and female cannabis plants when the plant is about six weeks old. To figure out the sex of a marijuana plant , look at the plant’s nodes, where the leaves and branches connect to the main stem.
Male plants will produce pollen sacs that at first look like little tiny balls and then grow into larger clusters of oblong-shaped sacs. Conversely, a female weed plant will produce pistils, which in their early stages look like thin hairs and then eventually start growing into more structured ovules and stigmas.
To figure out the sex of a marijuana plant, look at the plant’s nodes, where the leaves and branches connect to the main stem. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
There is one very important reason why it’s crucial to be able to distinguish male from female plants: Only female plants produce flowers. Because male plants produce pollen sacs, they do not generate any of the buds that people actually harvest and consume. From the perspective of growing weed for human consumption, male plants are really only good for propagating brand new baby plants from seed.
With the exception of consciously choosing to reproduce plants through pollination (as opposed to cloning a female plant), growers must carefully keep male plants away from female plants.
Hermaphrodite plants are a rare monecious plant, meaning it develops both male and female sex organs. Hermaphrodites are primarily formed if a female weed plant is exposed to extreme conditions during key stages of growth. Flowers from hermaphrodite plants will be full of seeds, making them very poor quality for consumption. To avoid this, growers must be experts at spotting both hermaphrodite and male plants early and then getting rid of them before they ruin nearby female plants.
Many breeders produce seeds that are feminized as a way to avoid male genetics. These feminized seeds only carry female genetics, and in most cases, is guaranteed to produce female plants. Another option is to grow auto-flowering strains, which are genetically engineered to automatically flower after a brief vegetative period of two to four weeks.
How to propagate cannabis plants
Knowing the parts of a marijuana plant is necessary for propagating cannabis plants. Propagation refers to the process of using one plant to create new plants. In general, cannabis growers do this in one of two ways:
- Cloning : Cloning is a popular method, as it allows you to get multiple baby plants from a single adult plant, without having to buy seeds or go through the longer process of germinating, planting, and growing a weed plant from seed. To clone a marijuana plant, carefully cut a branch away from the stem right at the node. From there, place the cutting into a growing medium, typically either suspended in water or inserted into a starter plug. When the cutting develops roots you can then transplant it into a larger container or the ground, depending on where you’re going to be growing the plant.
- Seeds: Growing from seed requires you to start from scratch, and is ideally suited to growers who are novices, growers who want to produce a new type or strain than what they’re already growing, and growers who don’t have a plant they want to replicate exactly. To grow a weed plant from seed, place a seed in some sort of starting medium such as rockwool or peat pellets and keep it moist until it sprouts. As the sprout develops leaves and roots, it will start requiring more and more light. When a decent little ball of roots has formed, transplant the baby marijuana plant to a larger container or the ground and proceed to feed, water, and ventilate it until the weed plant reaches maturity.
The cannabis plant has many different parts to it. Learn about the cola, calyx, trichomes and more.
Cannabis Plant Anatomy: Nodes And Internodes
The importance of knowing how to read the signs your cannabis plants are sending you the grower is invaluable. We focus on nodes and internodes to assist you interpreting those marijuana messages.
In the wild, the cannabis lifecycle begins when a seed germinates and begins to burrow into the soil with a root. A stem will develop, and a sprout with a pair of leaves will emerge. During the seedling stage, the baby plant is literally finding its feet. Only as the infant plant begins to transition to vegetative growth does the cannabis grower begins to notice nodes and internode spacing. More so, as the vegetative stage progresses.
In ordinary decent grower terms, nodes are the intersection or joint between branches and the main stem or between a branch and new secondary shoots. While an internode is simply the gap between nodes. So far so simple. However, thoroughly understanding the nodes and internodes and knowing what to look for can be enormously advantageous to the cannabis grower.
WHAT CAN NODES AND INTERNODES TELL THE GROWER?
INDICA VS SATIVA
Indica cannabis plants are characterised by their short stature and densely branching structure. This is because they develop more nodes with tight internode spacing. In contrast, sativa cannabis plants are far taller and less branchy. Stretching is common to sativa varieties. Typically, plants develop fewer nodes with large internodal spaces between sets of branches. Of course, hybrids will exhibit a mix of both indica and sativa traits. Some will lean towards the indica side, others to the sativa side.
DETERMINE PLANT SEX
Usually, after weeks 3-6 of vegetative growth, cannabis plants will begin to display pre-flowers. For the grower with a keen eye and knows what to look for, this is invaluable information – especially if you happen to be cropping regular seeds with the potential for 50% males.
Pre-flowers emerge from the nodes of both male and female cannabis plants. Close eye-ball inspection of the higher nodes close to the top of the main stem is the easiest way to identify emerging pre-flowers. Essentially, you are looking for two very fine white hairs protruding from a tiny growth on the node. These hairs are really pistils emerging from a calyx just like what happens later in bloom with the flowers.
On the other hand, if you see a bump that resembles a cluster of grapes, this is a red flag for a male in the grow-op. Moreover, in rare cases or if the plants have been stressed, some may display both male and female pre-flowers. Intersex plants are commonly referred to as “hermies” by growers, short for hermaphrodite. Just like males, they too must be removed to ensure a pure sinsemilla harvest. The diligent grower regularly checks for growth on the nodes even if he/she is cultivating from feminized seeds, just in case.
TEMPERATURE AND LIGHT
Stretchy growth and large internodal spacing are not always due to genetics. Wide temperature fluctuations and lights either too weak or too far away from plants can cause plant stretching. Cold nights and hot days will induce stretchy growth. To keep internode spacing to a minimum and avoid branches snapping later it’s critical to maintain consistent environmental control of the grow-op. Outdoors, this is more challenging, and plants may need to be taken inside at night if temperatures plummet.
APPLYING YOUR KNOWLEDGE
TRIMMING AND PRUNING
In order to prune for yield or trim plants for a tidy, you need to make the right cuts in the right places at the right time. A clean cut is one made close to the node with a sterile scissors. The the most common pruning techniques to increase yield are Topping and Fimming; make sure you apply these high yield pruning practices during vegetative growth. During bloom, trimming should be kept to a minimum to avoid stressing plants.
Both the Topping and Fimming methods involve removing a portion of the apical bud or main stem. Topping is a clean cut made to the tip, entirely removing it. Fimming is not so clean and tidy, and pinching is probably more appropriate than using a scissors. Simply pinch off 75% of the main growing tip between your fingers. Whichever method you choose to apply, the number of colas will be increased as the shoots emerging from the nodes below the cut will become the new main colas.
Taking a cutting or cloning your marijuana is the best way to preserve winning grow-op genetics. Generally, the oldest most mature branches make for the most successful clones. These are to be found closer to the bottom of the plant rather than the top. Plants grow up so that the newest freshest tips are towards the top and rarely root well when clipped for clones.
Cuttings are mostly taken during vegetative growth. Although, monster cropping requires taking cuttings from plants 4 weeks into the bloom cycle and re-vegging the cuts. Regardless, the method is the same and growers enjoy the greatest success cloning from the bottom up.
It’s important to know your marijuana inside out. In this blog we examine the role nodes and internodes play in cannabis cultivation.