When you pull up to your local cannabis dispensary and walk in the door, wafting in the glorious scent of various strains, you’re probably not thinking about the intricate details of the marijuana plant. You might not even know what a cola, calyx, and pistil are, and that’s ok. But, in case you had any interest in delving deeper into the anatomy and lifecycle of cannabis, today is your lucky day because we’re here to break down the details.
Just like humans, the cannabis plant is divided into male and female, also called dioecious. While some are hermaphroditic, for the most part, a male and female have to come together to create new baby cannabis flowers, just like us. But, for our consumption, the female flower is the one to covet as it carries the desirable amount of THC, so we’ll focus more on the lady bits.
While having male and female plants sounds like a good thing, to growers, it’s bad news bears in bulk. That’s because the male plant’s goal is to pollinate the female plant and then she will put all her energy into producing seeds instead of THC-packed resin. For this reason, growers do their best to weed out most males.
Now let’s get to the anatomy!
The flower is the part we know and love as it contains the highest concentration of THC. They grow toward the top of the plant and, as you probably know, are also referred to as buds.
Also know as the apical or terminal bud, this part of the plant denotes the cluster mass of flowers at the top of a cannabis plant. Thankfully, growers are actually able to manipulate plants to increase cola to produce greater yield. This is a win-win for all!
These are the resin glands found on a flower’s leaves and calyces. They kind of look like tiny translucent crystals, but are more similar to a crystallized mushroom if you have the chance to view trichomes with a microscope.
This is the essence of hashish, kief, BHO (Butane Hash Oil), and more, so some cannabis strains are developed specifically for a high trichome count. That’s because it contains the “miracle molecules”, cannabinoids and terpenes.
Just like in others flowers, this is a portion of the flower that encloses and protects the ovule and pistils. It is part of the bud itself. This is where the highest amount of trichomes are found, which is why it’s the part of the flower you care most about, knowingly or not, if you smoke or vape.
The pistils, or hairs, are the part of the plant that seems to poke out from inside each of the calyx. When they first peak out, they are white, but quickly transform to orange, red, or brown. This part of the plant is only found in a female and it’s the main function is to capture pollen from the male. This is also known for its high THC concentration.
The fan leaf is without a doubt the part of the plant that’s most recognizable. However, it does have an actual function. Aside from being the poster child for cannabis, it is focused on photosynthesis, the process of using energy from the sun to feed the plant. Most often, you will see fan leaves featuring five leaves; but there are also plants with seven and even nine leaves, which is most common among sativa strains.
This is a smaller leaf that grows within the flower. It’s usually covered in trichomes and trimmed when flowers are harvested. They are, however, used when making edibles because of the trichome coating.
The seed is hidden within the calyx, as described above. In addition to planting a seed to grow a new cannabis plant, oil can also be extracted. In a sativa plant, this will generate THC cannabis oil, while an indica is more commonly referred to as hemp oil, which has high CBD and low THC content.
Just like all flowers, stems provides structural support and stores nutrients. They are not known to contain THC as that’s directed solely to the flower, but it can be repurposed for its fiber.
A node, like all flowers, is where a leaf branches off from a stalk.
You now have an understanding of the various parts of the plant, so let’s get more into the lifecycle.
When the plant is first sprouting, the first two leaves are not the typical marijuana leaves you’d expect to see. Instead, they have smooth edges. It’s the next two that have the classic points associated with cannabis. The baby stage lasts 1 to 3 weeks at which time it will grow 4 to 8 leaves.
Next, the plant will begin growing more notes where more branches with more leaves will sprout. During this time, the plant needs fresh warm, dry air and lots of nitrogen-rich nutrients as it’s working to grow from an 8-inch baby to a 3-foot tree in a short 3 to 6 weeks. For this reason, it also needs long summer sunlight hours or 18+ hours of fluorescent light per day to produce the required amount of photosynthesis. If daylight or fluorescent hours are cut, the plant will not grow quite as tall.
It takes 1 to 5 months for a cannabis plant to enter the pre-flower phase. This is when the sex is presented. If male plants are recognized (green sacs near the node), a grower will either kill this plant or separate it from the females so, as explained above, the females can concentrate on producing THC instead of seeds. This needs to be done before the sac opens, spilling its pollen.
At some point, it’s required to decrease light time from 18 to 12 hours, at which point potassium and phosphorus nutrients should be added. If everything went as planned, you will both see and smell trichome-filled cola growing from you plant within 8 to 10 weeks after light is reduced.
Finally, the plant is ready for harvest and distribute to you local cannabis dispensary. You’ll know it’s ready when the pistils in the cola buds turn from white to the orange, red, or brown.
Congratulations, after months of work, you can now get high!
Thankfully, your cannabis dispensary works closely with growers to provide you the best and most diverse strains. Just like many plants, growing cannabis takes a lot of time and dedication to achieve the desired results.