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The Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant–A Guide about the Stages of Cannabis Growth for Curious Consumers

The Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant–A Guide about the Stages of Cannabis Growth for Curious Consumers

Have you ever sat in keen curiosity about the marijuana plant? Perhaps you are considering growing cannabis and need to understand this medicinal piece of fauna more completely. What makes it psychoactive? What are these things people call “crystals”? Your curiosity will be quenched in this comprehensive guide to the anatomy of the cannabis plant. 

At first glance-what cannabis plants look like.

While you may want to imbue magical qualities to this plant, at the end of the day, it is a plant. It has many of the same non-mysterious qualities that other plants do. Cannabis is grown on long stems with leaves that fan out from the node of the branch. 

While most marijuana plants look the same to the naked eye, the flowers, also known as buds, make each plant unique. And it is the uniqueness and some of the basic biology we will cover in this cannabis anatomy guide. 

Seeds: It all starts here.

Like everything in life, it starts with a seed. The seeds, as you would imagine, are produced by the female plant. And that seed carries genetic codes for both male and female plants. Of course, these seeds need to germinate, sprout, grow roots, and flower; if cared for properly, they will.

Cotyledon leaves: A sign of successful germination. 

When the cannabis seed is germinated, it sprouts tiny little leaves called cotyledon leaves. When you see these leaves, it is a sign that your germination has been successful. 

Roots: The taproot takes hold.

From the seed, the roots or taproot will begin to grow into the nourishing soil below. This root system is where the plant will pull its nourishment from the ground to grow into a healthy marijuana plant. 

Stems: The plant begins to sprout.

Once the central taproot has taken hold, the cannabis plant will continue to build its anatomy by sprouting a stalk or a stem from which leaves and flowers will grow. This stem will grow straight upwards from the root. Like pruning rose bushes, some growers may start pruning at the nodes once the plant is tall enough to encourage it to flourish outwards instead of upward. 

Branches: The support system of cannabis plants. 

From the stem, the branches of the cannabis plant begin to grow outward. These branches will sprout the iconic fan leaves people associate with the marijuana plant. 

Nodes: What are those? 

A node is the small part of a branch that sprouts a new stem. Think of it as a joint connecting one bone to the others in your body. Spacing between nodes can be a good telltale of how tall or short a plant will be. It is also an indicator of the sex of the plant. 

Cannabis Leaves: The telltale leaves of the cannabis plant.

When the leaves begin to grow in the cannabis plant, the plant becomes identifiable to the untrained eye. You know these leaves. They are on weed paraphernalia pretty much everywhere. They function to capture light and photosynthesize it into food for the plant. But, given that they have very little resin, they are often discarded when harvesting the plant. 

Sugar leaves: Now it gets interesting.

Sugar leaves are tiny, resin-encrusted leaves are what the buds (or cannabis flowers) grow around. These little sugar leaves are often saved as a part of “trim” and used in other cannabis products such as extracts. 

Flowers: It’s time for the cannabis plant to bloom.

The flowers of the cannabis plant are commonly known as buds. And it is an exciting flower indeed. All of the cannabinoids and terpenes that provide the psychoactive effects and medicinal properties come from this part of the female cannabis plant. 

Cannabis Cola: A cluster of buds.  

The term cola refers to a cluster of buds. These buds often are found growing tightly together at the top of the plant. While smaller colas can be found around other budding sites. 

Bract: An act of protection. 

Bracts are tiny tear-shaped leaves that house and protect the female parts of the plant, making them a crucial part of the cannabis plant anatomy. But there are other reasons why they are so important. These little leaves are dripping with resin glands, and these glands have a very high concentration of cannabinoids. It has the highest concentration of all the plant’s parts. 

Pistils and Stigmas: The reproductive organs of cannabis anatomy.

Pistils: If you remember from grade school biology, the pistil is one of the plant’s reproductive parts. 

Stigmas: The stigmas are fine hairs on the pistil that collect the pollen from the male part of the plants. As the plant matures, the stigmas begin to turn colors from white in very young plants to red or brown as it ages. 

Trichomes: The beauty and power of crystals.

When you hear people talking of “crystals” of the cannabis plant, they are referring to trichomes. This blanket of crystal resin occurs on the flower (bud) itself. These trichomes are secreted through glands, often mushroom-shaped, on the leaves, calyxes, and stems of the marijuana plant. 

These trichomes are more than just pretty to look at, however. These clear, crystalline parts of the cannabis plant excrete terpenes and contain the cannabinoids. Terpenes are aromatic oils that give the cannabis plant its flavor, scent, and medicinal qualities. The trichomes are also home to the therapeutic cannabinoids THC and CBD.

What’s the difference between a male and female cannabis plant? 

Now that you have the basics of the anatomy of a marijuana plant let’s talk about sex. 

The cannabis plant can be male or female, each holding different reproductive organs. But the plant that flowers into resinous buds which can be smoked or ingested is always the female plant. 

The male plant produces pollen sacs found at the base of the leaves. The males then pollinate the female plants to initiate seed production. 

It is important to note that female and male marijuana plants are grown separately so the female can focus more on producing beautiful and potent flowers (buds). Otherwise, the female plant may use more energy to produce seeds. And that is not what a cultivator wants. 

What are male cannabis plants used for?

Let’s not discount the male plant just because he doesn’t make pretty flowers. He is instrumental as well. 

Hemp: The male cannabis plant produces a softer material, while the female plant is more fibrous and grainy. This textural difference is why the male marijuana plant makes fibers for clothing and other textile items so desirable.  

Concentrates: While male plants do not have high concentrations of THC, small amounts of cannabinoids can be found in the stems, sacs, and leaves. These cannabinoids can be extracted to make hash and other cannabis oils. 

What is the life cycle of the cannabis plant?

Like most plants, there are four stages—Germination, seedling, vegetative, and flowering. Let’s break these down a bit further to include the timeline of cannabis specifically.

Germination: 3-10 days. The seed will sprout from the soil.

Seeding: 2-3 weeks. After germinating the seed, it will grow into a seedling with its very first cotyledon leaves. 

Vegetative: 3-16 weeks. This vegetative phase is the primary growth stage of the plant, where stems, leaves, and stalks begin to form and flourish.  

Flowering: 8-11 weeks. Flowering is when the cannabis plant begins to produce buds. 

Mature plants can fully mature for four to eight months, depending on the growing method and the grower’s goals. 

Need to know more about marijuana delivery in Michigan? Talk to a virtual budtender today. 

HighHello offers their Michigan based weed delivery service members a monthly session with a virtual budtender. Take advantage of this personalized service; subscribe today!

Not yet a member but looking for additional marijuana resources? Visit our Green Room for other in-depth resources. 

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