What are Hermaphrodites and How to Avoid Them?

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Added 25 March 2022

If you've grown a plant or two or know anything about cannabis, you've probably heard of male and female cannabis plants. 

As implied, cannabis plants can be male or female, and their particular sex allows them to perform various functions related to their buds and reproduction.

And while learning about your plant's sex takes you back to your biology lessons in school, you must still learn about them. Why?

Because sometimes, your plant may turn into a hermaphrodite, i.e., it can house the organs of both male and female sexes.

However, you won't see these organs by simply looking at the seeds. Cannabis plants exhibit their sex later when they transition from the vegetative to the flowering phase.  

During this time, if they exhibit both male and female organs, you need to act quickly. Hermaphrodite cannabis is something nobody wants in their garden, and we'll explain why in just a minute.

In this article, you'll learn everything about hermaphrodite cannabis and how you can avoid them.

What Exactly is a Hermaphrodite Cannabis?

hermie cannabis

Image credit - HerbalEdu

Hermaphroditism, or hermies, is a common problem many new growers face globally. This is a notorious problem as it can not only affect the plant itself but also other cannabis plants in your garden.

Hermies are usually caused due to various factors like stress, deficiencies, or environmental factors, which signal the plant to produce both male and female sex traits.

Why Are Hermies Bad?

When you grow cannabis, you must prevent the female plants from being pollinated because cannabinoid-rich buds only grow to their fullest if they don't get fertilized.

However, if the plant is pollinated, the buds turn out to be small and are full of seeds. Typically, it occurs because the plant directs its energy to produce seeds instead of cannabinoids, resin, and terpenes on the buds.

In addition, if your plant turns hermaphrodite, it can pollinate itself and other plants in the room, affecting your overall yield. Your precious buds will have unwanted seeds and a significant decline in flavor and potency.

How to Identify Hermies in Cannabis?

cannabis flowers and pollen sacs

Image credit - HerbalEdu

To identify hermaphroditism in your plant, you must first learn to identify female and male cannabis plants.

Identifying Female Cannabis 

female cannabis plant

Female plants are the ones that produce our beloved buds brimming with flavor, aroma, THC, and CBD. 

To identify female plants, you need to look at the nodes on the branches. Female plants sprout bracts on this area covered in pistils — tiny white hairs. Pistils grow when the calyxes emerge, serving as the sac that protects the seeds.

However, the calyx only bears the seeds when pollinated. Otherwise, they grow into buds that we use to smoke. 

Identifying Male Cannabis

male cannabis

Male cannabis plants are easier to spot. They also produce pollen that pollinates the female plants. To identify males, look at the nodes and small balls. These small balls are pollen sacs that release the pollen into the air when they bloom. Once released, the pollen travels via air to other plants.

Identifying Hermaphrodite Plants

cannabis hermie

If you notice your plant has traits from both male and female sexes — pistils and pollen sacs — it is a hermaphrodite plant. Additionally, the plant will also look like a strange hybrid of sorts. 

Since this plant shares both male and female traits, it can self-pollinate, producing buds with seeds instead of ones you can smoke and enjoy.

What Causes Hermaphroditism in Cannabis?

Hermaphroditism can be caused due to several reasons in cannabis, but it mainly occurs due to human or environmental factors. Below are some of the most common causes of hermaphrodite cannabis.

Manipulated Seeds

If the seeds are sourced from a hermaphrodite plant or a plant that is a cross between two incompatible strains, they can grow into hermaphrodite plants as well. Also, some strains are genetically more prone to turn into hermaphrodites. This is because, sometimes, hermaphroditism can be hereditary.

Delayed Harvest

seeds on cannabis plant

On the other hand, if you delay the harvest of your plant, i.e., keep your plant for too long in the flowering phase, your plant can turn into a hermaphrodite because the sex traits show up during the flowering stage, where your female plant produces the pistils. 

However, if it is in the flowering stage for too long, the plant will look for pollen to grow seeds. It's just the survival strategy of the plant kicking in where it decides to develop its own pollen sacs. 

Many breeders also use this technique to produce seeds, so it just goes without saying that you need to harvest the buds at the right time to prevent hermies. 

Wrong Nutrient or Grow Medium

In many cases, hermaphroditism can also occur due to incorrect nutrients or grow medium that stresses or shocks the plant, where it might grow both traits. Therefore, it's necessary to use the right growing medium and a proper mix of nutrients to prevent hermies. 

Environmental Stressors

Many cannabis plants also turn hermaphrodites due to environmental stressors like incorrect temperature and relative humidity, abrupt light cycles, or wrong training methods. 

Such unstable conditions put the plant in survival mode, leading it to produce hormones that grow both male and female traits. 

How to Prevent Hermaphroditism in Cannabis?

If you want to enjoy potent, flavorful buds post-harvest, you must avoid hermaphroditism in your plant. Otherwise, you will end up with less potent buds (or no buds at all). 

But, don't worry, here are some ways you can avoid that from happening.

Source Seeds from a Reputable Seed Bank

First things first, always get the right seeds. Reputable seed banks have all the information about the seeds on their product page, along with reviews from other growers. Go through that to ensure you are getting what you want. 

Avoid manipulated seeds or those from hermaphrodite plants. Also, some strains are more likely to turn hermaphrodites — avoid those, too. Finally, purchase feminized seeds as they only grow female plants unless you're interested in breeding. 

Regular seeds may save you some money, but they produce both male and female plants, and you end up wasting money with all the males. In addition, you prevent pollination risks by purchasing only feminized seeds. 

Do Thorough Research

Your next step to avoid hermaphroditism in your plants is to research the strain you are growing and know as much as possible. You can participate in your local growing forums and groups to discuss the strains and widen your knowledge about growing cannabis.

Provide the Right Care

Lastly, avoid stressing out the plant. Provide it with proper care as per instructions. Give it enough light during the day, ideal temperatures and relative humidity, adequate water with the right nutrients and fertilizers.

And avoid training or pruning your plant too often. Using too many training methods stresses the plant, so only do it when needed. Also, defoliate only at the right time. 

Don't Wait Too Long for Harvest

As mentioned earlier, if your plant is kept under flowering for a long time, it can turn into a hermaphrodite. So, do not delay the harvest too much to prevent your plant from going into survival mode and pollinating itself.

What to Do With a Hermaphrodite Plant?

Has your plant turned hermaphrodite? Don't worry. It's not the end of the world. There are some things you can still do:

Keep the Seeds

If you just want to keep the seeds and see how it goes, you can just let the plant grow on its own and harvest the seeds. Keep the hermaphrodite plant away from other plants to protect them if you do this. However, keep in mind that the resulting plants from those seeds will have higher chances of turning into hermies. 

Always segregate your female and hermaphrodite plants and do so carefully. Even a mild shake can rupture the pollen sacs and release the pollen into the air.

Take Off the Pollen Sacs

cannabis pollen

Pollen sacs growing on the plant don't mean it's too late. So, you can simply cut the pollen sacs off before they release the pollen and pollinate the plants. But, be super careful when pulling off the pollen because they can easily break open and pollinate other plants.

Harvest Early

On the other hand, you can cut your losses by harvesting the buds early before they get pollinated. You can still smoke prematurely harvested buds, but they won't be as potent or flavorful as they would have been. But something is better than nothing, isn't it?

Create Cannabis Concentrates

Hermaphrodite pollen may or may not contain THC — there isn't enough data to arrive at conclusions. However, you've got nothing to lose now that you've already got some pollen. Thus, you can take the pollen sacs off and use the pollen to make cannabis concentrates like hash, moon rocks, and tinctures. And you can enjoy the concentrate in various ways, from mixing it into your brownies to using it as an ointment.

Kill the Plant

If you want to deal with it quickly — and you should — you can remove the plant from your grow room carefully to keep your other plants safe from pollination.

Summary: What are Hermaphrodites and How to Avoid Them?

Hermaphrodite plants are essentially cross between male and female plants, and they are notorious in the growing community for ruining countless yields. They release the pollen into the air, pollinating other plants in the garden, compromising the buds' flavor and potency.

However, it is easy to look for and avoid. First, look for pollen sacs and pistils on your plants — that's a sign your plant has turned hermaphrodite. 

To prevent it from happening to your plants, keep the growing environment controlled at the right levels, provide your plant with adequate nutrients and water, and keep an eye out for any signs of hermies. Lastly, do not delay the harvest.


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I have to disagree with the entire underlying premise of this article. There is no such thing as a 'cross between male & female plants'. There are 5 categories of Phytohormones, from which sex expression is regulated. This is why chemicals work to influence (NOT change) the sex of seeds...aka 'feminization'. Sex is like a secondary color on the color wheel....say 'purple'. Add more red, less blue...its not the same purple. When blue is nearly gone, you say hey 'that's red!'...when red is gone, hey 'that's blue!' --but SEX is just the *current* ratio of phytohormone expression. This accounts for late 'bananas' being thrown, and even rare example of both male & female flowers on the same plant. ***please consider researching and re-writing this article*** thanks!