Male cannabis plants: parts and purposes
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- Differences between male and female cannabis plants
- Parts of a male cannabis plants
- Purpose of male cannabis plants
While some growers dismiss male cannabis plants as useless, these plants have many benefits to offer. This guide will explain the differences between male and female cannabis plants, detail the parts of male plants, and lay out the various purposes of male plants.
Differences between male and female cannabis plants
The most striking difference between male and female cannabis plants is that only female plants produce buds. The bud is often regarded as the crown jewel of the marijuana plant since these large, resin-rich flowers can be dried, cured, and ultimately enjoyed.
However, male plants do produce flowers which help visibly distinguish the plant’s gender. The flowers on male plants are characterized by small, bell-shaped clusters that dangle and open to release fertilizing pollen. In contrast, female marijuana plants produce teardrop-shaped flowers that will yield buds at harvest time.
In addition to unusable buds, the male plant produces lower levels of potentially therapeutic cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This difference serves as a double whammy for many cannabis lovers, as male plants are consequently lower in both therapeutic properties and psychoactive effects. Lower levels of cannabinoids also means less intense flavors and aromas.
Parts of a male cannabis plants
Let’s start from the top of the plant and work our way down. In descending order, a male marijuana plant exhibits the following parts:
Nodes: Signifying a crucial aspect of the male plant’s anatomy, the nodes are where the pollen sacs form and bear seeds. Nodes grow in opposite pairs on seedlings and divide the stem at the point where lateral branches begin. When the plant matures before harvest time, the nodes will grow alternately and signify that flowering has begun.
Stem: Alternately called the stalk, the stem is usually hollow and provides the base for leaves to grow. As a connector to the leaves, the stem’s purpose is to transfer water, minerals, and other nutrients throughout the plant.
Fan leaves: Each plant may have between five and nine of these large, protruding leaves. The purpose of fan leaves is to support photosynthesis, the process by which light energy converts to chemical energy. Growers often trim excess fan leaves to facilitate better airflow to the plant as well as to incorporate into marijuana recipes. Fan leaves make key ingredients in cannabis edibles and can be equally useful infusions and extracts. Raw cannabis juice is the newest craze in the weed world and fan leaves can be blended into these superfood beverages.
Parts that are notably absent from male plants include the cola, pistil, and calyx, all of which are exclusive to female cannabis plants and produce trichomes that can be cured and smoked. There are a few other differences between male and female cannabis plant parts. According to Somoza, “In the preflower stage, males will develop small round balls at the node where pollen will form. Females will develop very small hairlike stigmas protruding from rounded bracts.”
Each part of the plant serves a distinct purpose that benefits the whole and contributes to a healthy harvest.
Purpose of male cannabis plants
While too many male cannabis plants in a confined area can infringe upon female plants’ growth and lead to seeded, non-smokable flower, male plants are essential pollen producers that play an integral role in cannabis breeding. Without male plants, there would be no female plants and vice-versa.
Like all “fathers,” male cannabis plants pass genes on to their offspring. For cannabis progeny, these traits may include resistance to mold and pests, adaptation to different climates, successful growth rates, and general health. Males are especially useful for growers who breed autoflowering cannabis strains, such as Royal Cookies Automatic and Amnesia Haze Automatic.
Diversifying the genetic pool is one more reason male cannabis plants are good for pot farmers. Steven Somoza, who has more than eight years of cannabis cultivation experience at Hydroponics, Inc., says, “Male cannabis plants play a key role for genetic diversity of cannabis. Skilled breeders tediously and patiently cross-pollinate their gardens in pursuit of exciting new strains.” Cannatonic, 3 Kings, and White Widow are a few examples of the countless hybrid strains created from cross-pollination. Such cultivars may be genetically stronger than purebred cannabis varieties since they inherit the best qualities from each parent.
Not all cannabis growers will want to tap into the male’s cross-pollinating powers, however. As Somoza added, “Cross-pollination is undesirable for cannabis flower growers. We’ve heard of outdoor farms having their crops destroyed by a neighboring farm’s pollen due to drift. As a grower, it’s important and responsible to be able to sex your plant, especially when introducing new genetics to your farm.” In fact, pollen can travel far and wide in search of a female to fertilize, so it’s necessary to keep a watchful eye on male marijuana plants and space them accordingly.
While they can have drawbacks, male plants serve an indispensable purpose in the cannabis life cycle and in the continued evolution of their species.
The primary purpose of a male plant is to perpetuate the cannabis life cycle. However, male plants have other possible uses, such as:
Make hemp fiber: Male cannabis plants produce softer fibers than females. Fibers from male plants make ideal base materials for clothing, napkins, tablecloths, sheets, and even light blankets.
Produce hash and other concentrates: Just because males have lower levels of cannabinoids doesn’t mean they’re completely devoid of these potent compounds. There are enough cannabinoids in male leaves, pollen sacs, and stems to create cannabis concentrates.
Enrich a garden: Beyond cannabis cultivation, male cannabis plants are useful in flower and vegetable gardens. The terpenes in male plants, though not as abundant as in female plants, exude natural fragrances that can repel pests. These powerful terpenes are common ingredients in industrial insect repellents and pesticides. The long taproots of male plants can also be helpful in enhancing soil quality. Taproots burrow deep in the ground and break apart weak soil, which allows for more nutrients and moisture to penetrate the soil. During rainy periods, taproots hold soil in place, which maintains nutrients that might otherwise be lost in runoff. Male plants can also be added to the compost bin to enrich next season’s garden.
There is no doubt that male cannabis plants offer an array of benefits to cultivators, gardeners, and consumers. As scientists learn more about cannabis, they may discover new ways in which male plants are beneficial. For now, cannabis enthusiasts can value male plants for a variety of uses — so long as they think beyond the bud.
Male cannabis plants have many benefits to offer. This guide will explain the differences between male and female cannabis plants, detail the parts of male plants, and lay out the various purposes of male plants.
4 ways to make use of male cannabis plants
Unlike most flowering plants, cannabis is unique in that it requires both a male and female plant to reproduce. While hermaphroditic (self-pollinating) cannabis does exist, the plant most commonly expresses male- or female-specific sex organs.
Female cannabis plants produce the large, resinous buds that are dried, cured, and consumed. For this reason, females are typically the only plants you’ll find in someone’s cannabis garden.
Male plants are commonly regarded as useless and discarded. While pollination by males is essential for producing more cannabis plants (unless working from clones), it’s a process that is generally best left to breeders so growers can focus on producing consumable seedless buds called sinsemilla.
Do male plants truly belong in a compost bin, or could they serve a more beneficial purpose to gardeners? Surprisingly, there are more uses for male plants than one might think.
The obvious function of male cannabis plants is for breeding seeds. When pollinating females, males provide half of the genetic makeup inherited by seeds. Because of this, it’s important to look into the genetics of the male plants. Their shape, rate of growth, pest and mold resistance, and climate resilience can all be passed on to increase the quality of future generations.
2. Hemp fiber
When it comes to hemp fiber, the male cannabis plants produce a softer material while females are responsible for producing a coarse, stronger fiber. The soft fiber from the male plants make them more desirable for products like clothing, tablecloths, and other household items.
3. Concentrate production
It may come as a surprise that male plants can be psychoactive in nature—though much less potent than females. The plants do not produce buds, but small amounts of cannabinoids can be found in the leaves, stems, and sacs, which can be extracted to produce hash or other oils.
4. Garden enhancement
Cannabis plants offer more benefits in the garden beyond bud production. Both male and female cannabis plants produce aromatic oils called terpenes, which are associated with pest and disease control. Since males also produce terpenes, you may consider including your males in a vegetable or flower garden (as long as they’re well separated from any female cannabis plants). Dried material from cannabis plants have also been used to produce terpene-rich oils that are applied to repel insects and pests as natural bug sprays.
Additionally, cannabis plants are deep rooting plants with long taproots. Taproots are known for their ability to dive deep into the ground and break apart low-quality soil, allowing for moisture and nutrients to infiltrate and improve the soil quality. These taproots also help keep the soil in place, thereby preventing nutrient runoff and loss of soil during heavy rains.
Humans are largely focused on female cannabis plants, and rightly so. But it’s important to acknowledge and cherish the characteristics of the male cannabis plants as well. Females may produce the buds we know and love, but by limiting diversity of the males, we could be losing out on potential benefits we do not yet understand. Specific males could have compounds we are unaware of that might play significant roles in how females develop, or how cannabis as a whole develops in the future.
If attempting to capitalize on any of the above benefits without the intent to breed, keep in mind that cannabis pollen is extremely good at traveling long distances, determined to find a female. It helps to have a solid understanding of how pollen works and travels before you embark on any of these alternative uses so as not to accidentally pollinate your own plants or a neighbor’s.
Explore ways to utilize male cannabis plants, from extraction possibilities to fiber production.