The Anatomy Of The Cannabisplant

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Added 24 May 2021


As with many industries nowadays, the end consumer usually does not get to see where the product he wishes to consume, originally comes from, and when it comes to cannabis, this is no different. Most of its users have seen the flowers we all love to get high from, but have never seen a plant grown from seedling to when ready to be harvested. For anybody who has an interest in growing, should have a basic knowledge of the anatomy of the cannabis plant in order to be able to prevent problems and recognizing issues when they occur. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the difference between male and female, and all the parts of the plant's anatomy.

Dioecy and male vs female

The first term that we will be discussing is dioecy, and this is a characteristic of a plant species that has distinct male and female individuals, and cannabis plants are dioecious types of plants, in other words, you have male and female plants, each with their own genital characteristics. Dioecious reproduction is biparental reproduction and this means both sexes have to interact with each other in order to reproduce a new generation of plants. And for most growers, it is very important to know that only the female plants produce the flowers aka the buds. The male plants produce pollen sacks and when these interact with the flowers of the female plant the females will start producing seeds for the next generation, in natural circumstances, there will be a 50/50 male/female division and most growers out there go for feminized seeds because these produce a 99% female offspring.

To be able to tell the difference, you need to have a clear understanding of how both sexes look like and both of them grow a "pre-flower" and when we look at these in detail, we can tell the difference straight away :

  • Male : The "pre-flower" of the male plant will have more of a ball shape to it and is in fact a "pollen sack", these will continue to have this shape until it grows so big and so full of pollen that it will eventually burst so the pollen can go free with the wind, in hopes of being caught by the female flower to be able to reproduce an offspring. Make sure to prevent this at all times or get rid of them ASAP when you are looking to grow nice buds.
  • Female : The "pre-flower" of the female plant grows in a more of a point shape and is actually called "calyx" and out of that grows something called pistils, and the good thing is that these are very easy to recognize because they are very light-colored to white in many cases, and have a fuzzy appearance.

Now in some rare cases, you can find a hermaphrodite plant, this is one that shows traits of male and female plants and is sometimes just a genetical issue ( especially with low-quality strains ) or an effect because of lack of care and the fact that the plant most likely had to endure too much stress at a certain point in its lifetime. And in fact, there are two types of them :

  1. The first develop both flowering buds and actual male pollen sacs
  2. The second type make stamens that are pollen-producing that are mostly called "bananas"

The plant structure

  • Seed/Seedling stage
    If you are not starting from a clone, then there is no other choice than to start from seeds. The seed itself is a hard protective shell that protects the embryo inside. The shell itself contains the right nutrients for when the right circumstances appear ( the right temperature and moisture ) to let the seedling start its journey once it germinates. The seedling will shed its shell by itself once it took in all the nutrients from it and will show its first green rounded little leaves called cotyledons.
  • Roots
    When starting from a seed, after about 3-6 days it will open up a bit and you will see a sort of a white tail coming out. This in fact is the primary taproot, basically the main root of the entire plant. This root will grow straight down quite rapidly once it gets hold, so it is important to take in mind to not use shallow pots or very compact soil, this will give the root a better chance of development. Once this root reaches a considerable size it will start to grow out lateral roots and in the period of just a few weeks, this will create a whole network. It is important to acknowledge that this system is the most important factor when it comes to taking in water and nutrients and this is vital to keep healthy!
  • Stem, branches, nodes
    Every cannabis plant has a similar structure starting from a root system that works its way up through the soil and then there is the main stem, that supports the entire plant. The stem branches out every few centimeters and these points are called nodes. It is here where the sexes appear so it is important to know that this is the place to keep an eye on when determining the sexes. When it comes to Indica and Sativa plants there is also a difference in height between the nodes of the plant. With a Sativa, there will be more space between the nodes than an Indica but because there are so many hybrids out there this is not always the case.
  • Leaves
    Now we already mentioned the cotyledons, the first leaves to appear after germination, and very shortly after this, you will start to see the first serrated leaves. The first pair is tiny but as the plant grows bigger, these will grow accordingly and will have more apexes aka fingers on a leaf, these are the fan leaves and are the biggest ones on the entire plant and they can create quite the foliage. The fan leaves of an Indica and Sativa are similar looking to the untrained eye but different in a few ways. Indica leaves are more thicker-looking than Sativa but a Sativa leaf can produce more fingers than an Indica! When it comes to their purpose, this is always the same : producing sugars for the plant by using the sun, water, and C02.
    Sugarleaves are much smaller than fan leaves and they are the ones usually found within the flowers. Most growers try cutting these out as much as possible when harvesting because of the low potency but these contain small to decent amounts of trichomes and are absolutely perfect for making edibles and such! 
  • Flowers
    The part that is most precious and the biggest reason why cannabis is grown in such large numbers across the world are the flowers of the female plant. Their natural reason for being there is to be an attraction for pollinators and to bear seeds when pollinated. The top flower of the plant is called the main cola or apical bud and there are more than a few techniques in creating a plant with more than one main cola because these are always the biggest ones and most potent. A cola aka flower aka bud itself has more than a few parts and pieces to it. 
    The flower contains mostly calyxes and these calyxes are covered with trichomes, these trichomes are the number one thing to observe on how ripe your plant is from harvest and are full of cannabinoids. From the calyxes, we can see the pistils growing and over time these will change color, and depending on the strain and the growers timing these can go from white to yellowish, brown, or red.


Cannabis is one of those plants that really stands out just because of its flower and its modern-day perception. The iconic plant with its "skinny" stems, that is the backbone of a whole culture that crosses the globe. It is always a good thing to have the basic knowledge about it in order to create a good harvest and we can only hope this piece of writing can help you to understand that and grow better. And let us not forget, all these parts of the plant can serve a purpose to make something out of them, from the roots to the flowers!

Feel free to drop a line down below in the comment section!


Male vs. Female Marijuana: How to Figure Out the Gender of Your Plant - Georgia Smith ( 2020 )

Cannabis Plants Anatomy, From Seeds To Buds - Enzo Schillaci ( 2020 )

This article was updated May 2021


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Good stuff to know 🤜🤛
Thanks for the info :)
This site is great. Not only can you track and follow grows, but the educational aspect is fantastic. I wont be a newbie for long.