Where Do Cannabis Seeds Come From

From the Asian steppes where Cannabis sativa plants first evolved, to prehistoric hunters and gatherers, ancient China, Viking ships and finally the Americas, a new report outlines marijuana’s history Marijuana Cultivation/Producing Seeds Producing Seeds [ edit | edit source ] Sooner or later every grower is going to want to produce marijuana seeds. Developing a new stable strain is beyond Knowing the anatomy of a marijuana plant is important for any grower. Learn to identify the different parts of a cannabis plant from the experts at Leafly.

Marijuana’s History: How One Plant Spread Through the World

From the sites where prehistoric hunters and gatherers lived, to ancient China and Viking ships, cannabis has been used across the world for ages, and a new report presents the drug’s colorful history.

In the report, author Barney Warf describes how cannabis use originated thousands of years ago in Asia, and has since found its way to many regions of the world, eventually spreading to the Americas and the United States.

“For the most part, it was widely used for medicine and spiritual purposes,” during pre-modern times, said Warf, a professor of geography at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. For example, the Vikings and medieval Germans used cannabis for relieving pain during childbirth and for toothaches, he said.

“The idea that this is an evil drug is a very recent construction,” and the fact that it is illegal is a “historical anomaly,” Warf said. Marijuana has been legal in many regions of the world for most of its history.

Where did pot come from?

It is important to distinguish between the two familiar subspecies of the cannabis plant, Warf said. Cannabis sativa, known as marijuana, has psychoactive properties. The other plant is Cannabis sativa L. (The L was included in the name in honor of the botanist Carl Linnaeus.) This subspecies is known as hemp; it is a nonpsychoactive form of cannabis, and is used in manufacturing products such as oil, cloth and fuel. [11 Odd Facts About Marijuana]

A second psychoactive species of the plant, Cannabis indica, was identified by the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and a third, uncommon one, Cannabis ruderalis, was named in 1924 by Russian botanist D.E. Janischevisky.

Cannabis plants are believed to have evolved on the steppes of Central Asia, specifically in the regions that are now Mongolia and southern Siberia, according to Warf. The history of cannabis use goes back as far as 12,000 years, which places the plant among humanity’s oldest cultivated crops, according to information in the book “Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years” (Springer, 1980).

“It likely flourished in the nutrient-rich dump sites of prehistoric hunters and gatherers,” Warf wrote in his study.

Burned cannabis seeds have also been found in kurgan burial mounds in Siberia dating back to 3,000 B.C., and some of the tombs of noble people buried in Xinjiang region of China and Siberia around 2500 B.C. have included large quantities of mummified psychoactive marijuana.

Both hemp and psychoactive marijuana were used widely in ancient China, Warf wrote. The first record of the drug’s medicinal use dates to 4000 B.C. The herb was used, for instance, as an anesthetic during surgery, and stories say it was even used by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2737 B.C. (However, whether Shen Nung was a real or a mythical figure has been debated, as the first emperor of a unified China was born much later than the supposed Shen Nung.)

From China, coastal farmers brought pot to Korea about 2000 B.C. or earlier, according to the book “The Archeology of Korea” (Cambridge University Press, 1993). Cannabis came to the South Asian subcontinent between 2000 B.C. and 1000 B.C., when the region was invaded by the Aryans — a group that spoke an archaic Indo-European language. The drug became widely used in India, where it was celebrated as one of “five kingdoms of herbs . which release us from anxiety” in one of the ancient Sanskrit Vedic poems whose name translate into “Science of Charms.”

From Asia to Europe

Cannabis came to the Middle East between 2000 B.C. and 1400 B.C., and it was probably used there by the Scythians, a nomadic Indo-European group. The Scythians also likely carried the drug into southeast Russia and Ukraine, as they occupied both territories for years, according to Warf’s report. Germanic tribes brought the drug into Germany, and marijuana went from there to Britain during the 5th century with the Anglo-Saxon invasions. [See map of marijuana’s spread throughout the world.]

This map shows how marijuana spread throughout the world, from its origins on the steppes of Central Asia. (Image credit: Barney Warf, University of Kansas )

“Cannabis seeds have also been found in the remains of Viking ships dating to the mid-ninth century,” Warf wrote in the study.

Over the next centuries, cannabis migrated to various regions of the world, traveling through Africa, reaching South America in the 19th century and being carried north afterwards, eventually reaching North America.

How did marijuana get to the United States?

After this really long “trip” throughout the pre-modern and modern worlds, cannabis finally came to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. It arrived in the southwest United States from Mexico, with immigrants fleeing that country during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911.

“Many early prejudices against marijuana were thinly veiled racist fears of its smokers, often promulgated by reactionary newspapers,” Warf wrote in his report. “Mexicans were frequently blamed for smoking marijuana, property crimes, seducing children and engaging in murderous sprees.”

Americans laws never recognized the difference between Cannabis sativa L. and Cannabis sativa. The plant was first outlawed in Utah in 1915, and by 1931 it was illegal in 29 states, according to the report.

In 1930, Harry Aslinger became the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) and undertook multiple efforts to make marijuana illegal in all states. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act put cannabis under the regulation of the Drug Enforcement Agency, criminalizing possession of the plant throughout the country.

“Today, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, along with heroin and LSD, indicating it has high potential for abuse and addiction, no accepted medical uses and no safe level of use,” Warf wrote.

Marijuana Cultivation/Producing Seeds

Producing Seeds [ edit | edit source ]

Sooner or later every grower is going to want to produce marijuana seeds. Developing a new stable strain is beyond the scope of this discussion and requires the ability to grow hundreds or even thousands of breeding plants. However, just about any grower can manage to preserve some genetics by growing f2 seeds where they have crossed a male and female of the same strain, or can produce a simple cross which would be referred to as strain1xstrain2 for instance white widow crossed with ak-47 would be referred to as a WW x AK-47. You can produce some excellent seed and excellent marijuana this way.

To Feminise or not to Feminise [ edit | edit source ]

There are numerous myths surrounding feminized seeds. Feminizing seeds are a bit more work than simply crossing two plants naturally. However it will save you a lot of time in the end. If you make fem seeds properly then there is no increased chance of hermaphrodites and all seeds will be female. This means no wasted time and effort growing males and it means that all your viable seeds produce useful plants. Since roughly half of normal seeds are male this effectively doubles the number of seeds you have.

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Feminized seeds are bred to contain no male chromosomes, which will be able to produce the crop of resinous buds sought by most growers. For gardeners who require a quick and easy cultivation process, feminized seeds are the ideal choice. Some medicinal cannabis users may be deterred from growing their own supply because of the perceived difficulty of growing or of identifying the different genders and removing males early in the blooming period. Feminized seed-strains offer a simple solution to these issues, as there is no need to spend time in the first weeks of flowering checking for male plants.

Other times you will have no choice but to produce feminized seed because it will be a female plants genetics that you want to preserve and you won’t have any males. Perhaps you received these genetics via clone or didn’t keep males.

The new thing on the market for commercial Cannabis cultivation are auto-flowering feminized strains. By crossing of the cannabis ruderalis with Sativa and Indica strains many cultivators have created interesting hybrids which boast benefits from both sides of these families.

The first ‘auto-flowering cannabis seed’ which came on the market a few years ago was the Lowryder #1. This was a hybrid between a Cannabis ruderalis, a William’s Wonder and a Northern Lights #2. This strain was marketed by ‘The Joint Doctor’ and was honestly speaking not very impressive. The genetics of the ruderalis was still highly present which caused for a very low yield and little psychoactive effect. Not very attractive.

Auto-flowering cannabis and the easily distributed seed have opened a whole new market in the world of the online grow-shop, making it easy for home growers with shortage of space to grow rewarding cannabis plants in many different varieties. To grow plants indoors, a growing medium (e.g. soil or growing Potting soil, irrigation (water), fertilizer (nutrients), light and atmosphere need to be supplied to the plant.

Auto-flowers have been rising in popularity fast and there are now auto flower growers communities. These Web properties allow users to get information on how to grow these non photo-sensitive plants and what are the best practices when producing and germinating auto-flower seeds.

Selecting Suitable Parents [ edit | edit source ]

There are a number of important characteristics when selecting parents. First are you making fem seeds? If you are then both parents will be female. This makes things easier. If not then the best you can do is select a male with characteristics in common with the females you hope to achieve from the seed.

Obviously potency, yield, and psychoactive effects are critical to the selection process. But some other important traits are size, odor, taste, resistance to mold and contaminants, early finishing and consistency.

Collecting and Storing Pollen [ edit | edit source ]

In order to collect pollen you simply put down newspaper around the base of the plant. The pollen will fall from the plant onto the newspaper. You can then put this newspaper into a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator or freeze it. Pollen will keep for a few months in the refrigerator and can be used on the next crop. Filtering the pollen through a silkscreen, drying, and freezing can extend viability for decades. At least one reader indicates success using pollen treated in this manner and stored at -30 c for 17 years. The chance of viability does decrease with time, even in the freezer, so the more fresh the pollen the better. Wrapping the pollen in a layer of aluminum foil and then a layer of plastic should help to protect it from freezer burn. Additionally, oxygen evacuation such as with a heavy gas like nitrogen or vacuum sealing should provide additional assurance of preservation.

Pollinating a Plant [ edit | edit source ]

To pollinate a plant you can brush the pollen on a flower with a cotton swab or you can take the plastic bag, then wrap the flower inside it and shake, trapping the pollen inside for easier transportation. In this way you can selectively pollinate plants and even individual buds and branches.

Male Isolation [ edit | edit source ]

A male plant or a plant with male flowers will pollinate your entire crop rendering it seedy. You probably don’t want THAT many seeds so how can you avoid it? Moving the male to another room might work but if that other room shares an air path via ducting or air conditioning then pollen may still find its way. One technique is to construct a male isolation chamber.

A male isolation chamber is simply a transparent container such as a large plastic storage tub turned on its side (available at your local megamart). Get a good sized PC fan that can be powered with pretty much any 12v wall adapter, by splicing together the + (yellow or red on fan, usually dotted on power adapter) and the – wires (black on fan, usually dotted power adapter) just twist with the like wire on the other device and then seal up the connection with electric tape. Then take a filtrate filter and cut out squares that fit the back of the pc fan so that the fan pulls (rather than pushes) air through the filter. Tape several layers of filter to the back of the pc fan so all the air goes through the filter. Now cut a large hole in the top of the plastic container and mount the pc fan over top of it so it pulls air out the box. You can use silicon sealant, latex, whatever you’ve got that gives a good tight seal.

This can be used as is, or you can cut a small intake in the bottom to improve airflow. Pollen won’t be able to escape the intake as long as the fan is moving but you might put filter paper over the intake to protect against fan failures. You can also use grommets to seal holes and run tubing into the chamber in order to water hydroponically from a reservoir outside the chamber. Otherwise you will need to remove the whole chamber to a safe location in order to water the plant or maintain a reservoir kept inside the chamber.

Making Feminized Seed [ edit | edit source ]

To make feminized seed you must induce male flowers in a female plant. There is all sorts of information on the Internet about doing this with light stress (light interruptions during flowering) and other forms of stress. The best of the stress techniques is to simply keep the plant in the flowering stage well past ripeness and it will produce a flower (with seed).

Stress techniques will work but whatever genetic weakness caused the plants to produce a male flower under stress will be carried on to the seeds. This means the resulting seeds have a known tendency to produce hermaphrodites. Fortunately, environmental stress is not the only way to produce male flowers in a female plant.

The ideal way to produce feminized seed through hormonal alteration of the plant. By adding or inhibiting plant hormones you can cause the plant to produce male flowers. Because you did not select a plant that produces male flowers under stress there is no genetic predisposition to hermaphroditism in the seed vs plants bred between a male and female parent. There are actually a few ways to do this, the easiest I will list here.

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Colloidal Silver (CS) [ edit | edit source ]

This is the least expensive and most privacy conscious way to produce fem seed. CS has gotten a bad name because there is so much bad information spread around about its production and concentrations. It doesn’t help that there are those who believe in drinking low concentration colloidal silver for good health and there is information mixed in about how to produce that low concentration food grade product. Follow the information here and you will consistently produce effective CS and know how to apply it to get consistent results.

Simply construct a generator using a 9-12 v power supply (DC output, if it says AC then its no good) that can deliver at least 250ma (most wall wart type power supplies work, batteries are not recommended since their output varies over time). The supply will have a positive and negative lead, attach silver to each lead (contrary to Internet rumors, you aren’t drinking this so cheap 925(92.5%) Stirling silver is more than pure enough. You can expose the leads by clipping off the round plug at the end and splitting the wires, one will be positive and the other negative just like any old battery. Submerge both leads about 2-3 inches apart in a glass of distilled water (roughly 8 oz). Let this run for 8-24 hrs (until the liquid reads 12-15 ppm) and when you return the liquid will be a purple or silver hue and there may be some precipitate on the bottom.

This liquid is called colloidal silver. It is nothing more or less than fine particles of silver suspended in water so it is a completely natural solution. It is safe to handle without any special precautions. [ citation needed ] The silver inhibits female flowering hormones in cannabis and so the result is that male flowering hormone dominates and male flowers are produced.

To use the silver, spray on a plant or branch three days prior to switching the lights to 12/12 and continue spraying every three days until you see the first male flowers. Repeated applications after the first flowers appear may result in more male flowers and therefore more pollen. As the plant matures it will produce pollen that can be collected and used to pollinate any female flower (including flowers on the same plant).

Silver Thiosulfate (STS) [ edit | edit source ]

Silver Thiosulfate is a substance that has similar principle, application and results of CS, but is more difficult to make. STS is more difficult to acquire, but it can still be obtained directly from a chemical supply company. STS is not an expensive or controlled substance.

Gibberellic Acid (GA3) [ edit | edit source ]

This is probably the most popular way to produce feminized seed, but at the same time the least effective. GA3 is a plant hormone that also causes the plant to stretch uncontrollably. It can be purchased readily in powdered form, a quick search reveals numerous sources on e-bay for as little as $15. Simply add to water to reach 100ppm concentration and spray the plant daily for 10 days during flowering and male flowers will be produced.

Marijuana plant anatomy and life cycles

The cannabis plant has several structures, many of which we can find on any ordinary flowering plant species. Cannabis grows on long skinny stems with its large, iconic fan leaves extending out from areas called nodes.

Cannabis really stands out in its flowers—or buds—where unique and intricate formations occur: fiery orange hairs, sugary crystals, and chunky buds enveloped by tiny leaves.

The life cycle of a marijuana plant

There are 4 stages in the life cycle of a marijuana plant:

  • Germination (3-10 days): When the seed sprouts and pops out of the soil
  • Seedling (2-3 weeks): After germination, when the plant develops its first cotyledon leaves
  • Vegetative (3-16 weeks): The immature or juvenile stage, when a cannabis plant grows its stalks, branches, stems, and fan leaves
  • Flowering (8-11 weeks): When a weed plant starts producing buds

Parts of the cannabis plant

Cannabis seeds

Seeds are produced in female cannabis plants and carry the genetics of a male and female. Seeds need to germinate to sprout and will grow a taproot, which will become the main root that anchors the plant.

Cotyledon leaves

These are the first leaves to grow from the seed after germination. They usually come in pairs, and seeing them is a sign of successful germination and that your plant is on its way to growing healthy and strong.

Cannabis roots

The roots grow down from the main stalk of the plant into the soil. When growing from a seed, the main root is called the “taproot.” Roots are the lifelines of a cannabis plant, pulling water and oxygen into the plant so it can grow healthy and strong.

Mycorrhizae, a beneficial fungus, can be added to soil to improve root systems.

Marijuana plant stem

The main stem, or stalk, of a cannabis plant grows straight up from the root system and supports all lateral branches. The stem gives a plant structure and stability.

Often, growers will top, or cut off, the stem after about five nodes, which forces the plant to grow out laterally more, creating more bud sites.

Branches

Branches grow out of the main stem and support fan leaves and buds. Growers often train a cannabis plant by topping branches to create more bud sites.

A node is a point at which a branch grows off of the main stem, or one branch from another branch. Fan leaves and buds can grow on some nodes, but not necessarily all.

When determining the sex of a cannabis plant, pre-flowers, or the beginnings of male and female sex organs, will appear at the nodes.

The space between nodes is called “internodal spacing” and will give you a sense of whether a plant will grow tall or short.

Check out Johanna’s full video series on how to grow weed on Leafly’s YouTube .

Fan leaves

Fan leaves are the large, iconic leaves of the cannabis plant. They capture light for the plant and typically have little-to-no resin and are usually discarded when trimming.

Sugar leaves

Sugar leaves are the small, resin-coated leaves that buds form around. Sugar leaves are usually saved as “trim” during harvest and can be used for pre-rolls, extracts, and other cannabis products.

Flowers

Also known as “buds,” the flowers of a cannabis plant are the fruits of your labor. They contain the cannabinoids and terpenes that get you high or offer health benefits. Flowers only grow on female cannabis plants and must be dried before consumption.

A cola, also called a “bud site,” refers to a cluster of buds that grow tightly together. While smaller colas occur along the budding sites of lower branches, the main cola—sometimes called the apical bud—forms at the top of the plant.

Bract and calyx

A bract is what encapsulates the female’s reproductive parts. They appear as green tear-shaped “leaves,” and are heavily covered in resin glands which produce the highest concentration of cannabinoids of all plant parts.

Enclosed by these bracts and imperceptible to the naked eye, the calyx refers to a translucent layer over the ovule at a flower’s base.

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Stigma and pistil

The pistil contains the reproductive parts of a flower, and the vibrant, hair-like strands of the pistil are called stigmas. Stigmas serve to collect pollen from males.

The stigmas of the pistil begin with a white coloration and progressively darken to yellow, orange, red, or brown over the course of the plant’s maturation. They play an important role in reproduction, but stigmas bring very little to the flower’s potency and taste.

Trichomes

Despite their minute size, it’s hard to miss the blanket of crystal resin on a cannabis bud. This resin is secreted through translucent, mushroom-shaped glands on the leaves, stems, and calyxes.

Plants originally developed trichomes to protect against predators and the elements. These clear bulbous globes ooze aromatic oils called terpenes as well as therapeutic cannabinoids like THC and CBD. The basis of hash production depends on these trichomes and their potent sugar-like resin.

Male vs. female marijuana plants

Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning it can be male or female, and the male and female reproductive organs appear on different plants. What’s in your stash jar now are the flowers of a female marijuana plant.

Female plants produce the resin-secreting flower that is trimmed down into the buds you smoke, and males produce pollen sacs near the base of the leaves. Male plants pollinate females to initiate seed production, but the buds we consume come from seedless female plants—these are called “sinsemilla,” meaning “seedless.”

Growers can ensure the sex of their plants by growing clones or the genetically identical clippings from a parent strain. Feminized seeds are also made available through a special breeding process.

How to determine the sex of a marijuana plant

Cannabis plants show their sex by what grows in between their nodes, where leaves and branches extend from the stalk. Pollen sacs will develop on a male plant to spread seeds and stigma will develop on a female to catch pollen. You can see these differences weeks before they actually start serving their purposes in the reproduction cycle. These are known as “pre-flowers.”

Pre-flowers begin to develop four weeks into growth, but they may take a little longer depending on how quickly the sprouting phase occurs. By the sixth week, you should be able to find the pre-flowers and confidently determine the sex of your plant.

Examine the nodes of the plant and look for either the early growth of small sacs on a male, or two bracts on a female, which will eventually produce the hair-like stigma.

Female marijuana plants

Females are the prizes of cannabis plants—they are the ones that grow the buds that we all know and love. Anytime you see a picture of a cannabis plant with buds, you are looking at a female plant.

Female cannabis plants receive pollen from males to produce seeds, which will carry on the genetics of both plants to the next generation.

However, cannabis is primarily cultivated for buds, not seeds, so the practice of growing sinsemilla, or “seedless” cannabis, is prevalent today: Females and males are grown separately, or males are even discarded, to prevent pollination. This allows female plants to focus their energies on bud production instead of seed production.

Males and females are usually only pollinated when crossbreeding plants or creating new strains.

Early signs of a female cannabis plant

A few weeks into the flowering stage, sex organs will appear on a cannabis plant at a node, between the main stem and a branch. The female reproductive organs look like an oval with white hairs coming out of them, which are pistils.

If you’re not quite sure, let the plant grow for another week or so and check again.

Male marijuana plants

Male cannabis plants grow pollen sacs instead of buds. Male plants are usually discarded because you don’t want them to pollinate the females, which will produce seeds—no one wants to smoke buds with seeds in it.

Males are important in the breeding process, but that is generally best left to expert breeders. 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.

Early signs of a male cannabis plant

To spot a male weed plant, check the sex organs at a node, between the main stem and a branch. The male organs will look like a round ball—these will develop into pollen sacs.

If you’re not sure if it’s a male or female yet, wait a week or so and check again. At this early stage there isn’t much risk of a male pollenating your crop.

What can I do with male cannabis plants?

Male plants can also be used for:

  • Hemp fiber—males produce a softer material, while females produce a coarser, stronger fiber. The soft fiber from males is more desirable for products like clothing, tablecloths, and other household items.
  • Concentrate production—males do have some THC and can be psychoactive, but much less so than females. Small amounts of cannabinoids can be found in the leaves, stems, and sacs, which can be extracted to produce hash and other oils.

What are hermaphrodite cannabis plants?

The rare hermaphroditic plant contains both female and male sex organs. These plants can sometimes self-pollinate, but this is typically bad as it will create buds with seeds and also pass on hermaphroditic genes.

“Herming out,” as some call it, is something that generally happens when a plant becomes excessively stressed. Some stressors include:

  • Plant damage
  • Bad weather
  • Disease

There are two types of hermaphrodite cannabis plants:

  • A plant that develops both buds and pollen sacs
  • A plant that produces anthers, commonly referred to as “bananas” due to their appearance

While both result in pollen production, true hermaphrodite cannabis plants produce sacs that need to rupture; anthers are exposed, pollen-producing stamen.

Because this occurs when cannabis is under stress, it’s important to monitor plants after they have been exposed to stressors: indoors, high temperatures or light leaks are often the cause; outdoors, a snapped branch might be repaired and then turn into a hermaphrodite.

The other primary cause of hermaphrodite plants lies in its genetics—a plant with poor genetics or a history of hermaphroditic development should be avoided to protect your garden. If you notice any pollen sacs or anthers at any point, remove the plant from your garden immediately to prevent pollination of female plants.

Marijuana plant anatomy FAQ

What are the first leaves called on a cannabis plant?

Flowering plants, including cannabis, have baby cotyledon leaves which appear shortly after the seed germinates, or sprouts. These embryonic leaves help the plant get started.

How soon can you tell if a cannabis plant is male or female?

Sex organs will appear on a plant within 2-3 weeks of flowering.

When do male cannabis plants pollinate female plants?

Male pollen sacs usually open up and spread pollen via the air 4-6 weeks after they begin flowering.

How does weed grow buds?

When cannabis plants experience a reduction in light, either after the summer solstice when growing outdoors, or manually when growing indoors, they will begin the flowering stage, when buds are produced. Flowering typically takes 7-11 weeks, depending on the strain.