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What Is Cannabis Pollen And How To Use It

Created by
JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 24 November 2020

What Is Cannabis Pollen And How To Use It

Cannabis pollen is usually seen unfavourably in most grow rooms. However, pollen is a fundamental part of the evolution of the cannabis species and without it, we would not have the pleasure of sampling all the wonderful strains that exist today. This article explores the male cannabis plant and how you can use its pollen to create seeds, or even to breed your own strains.

Male Cannabis Flowers

Male Cannabis Plant

The male cannabis plant can be recognised through some distinct characteristics. Most notable are its flowers, which develop as small pollen sacs around the nodes and tips of the branches.

A cannabis plant can either be male or female (dioecious) or contain genes that produce reproductive organs from both genders (monoecious). Mixed gender plants are often commonly referred to as hermaphrodites.

Both dioecious and monoecious cannabis plants have the ability to develop male cannabis flowers. Like for many living things on this planet, the goal is to reproduce. A male cannabis flower will do what it can to mate with a female. To put it clearly, this is called sexual reproduction. On the other hand, asexual reproduction is achieved through cloning and refers to producing more plants from a single plant without the use of pollen.

What Is Cannabis Pollen?

Male And Female Cannabis Reproductive Organs

Both male and female cannabis plants develop flowers, yet only the males produce pollen sacs (unless the plant is a hermaphrodite). Once a male cannabis flower matures and blooms, it releases pollen. Pollen can easily be transferred to other female plant by air, and seeing as it is very light, even the smallest breeze is enough to spread it far and wide.

Cannabis pollen contains all the genetic information for the development of new seeds. When the male pollen lands on a female reproductive organ (pistils), the female plant is fertilized and starts to produce seeds, which grow inside its flowers. The resulting seeds are a genetically unique representation of both parents.

Pollen In Cannabis Breeding

Breeding Plants With Desirable Traits

Pollen spreading is the cannabis plant's natural way of survival. The female plant recognises when the pollen comes from a cannabis species and won't be fertilized unless it is so.

Growers have learnt to work with pollen in a controlled environment, allowing them to harness specific traits in both the male and female cannabis plant.

Pollen is the key to producing new seeds and breeders need male flowers to create stable genetics with strong traits. If a male and female cannabis plant of the same strain are bred together, the seeds produced will be a more stable version of its parents.

When a male and female from different strains are combined, the first batch of seeds may not be consistent in their inherited traits and need to be bred further in order to 'lock in' those desired qualities. Breeders use different methods to achieve this, but it usually involves breeding multiple generations of seeds so certain recessive genes become dominant.

How To Use Cannabis Pollen

Handling Pollen Requires Care To Avoid Spreading It

Cannabis pollen needs handling with extreme care. We must be aware not to spread pollen all over the place as there is a high risk of fertilizing a female plant even with a single grain. The best way to work with pollen is to do it in a separate space away from any female cannabis plants. This allows us to collect and store the pollen safely.

When working with pollen, get into the habit of:

  • Turning off ventilation and fans
  • Wearing disposable gloves
  • Changing/washing your clothes after handling

Collection

Open Pollen Sacs On Male Cannabis Plant

Collecting pollen from male cannabis plants can be done in two ways.

The first is to carefully remove male pollen sacs as they begin to open, let them dry on a piece of grease-proof paper or foil, and place them in a ziplock bag. Shake the bag to encourage the pollen to fall out of the male flower. The left over plant material can then be removed with tweezers.

The second method is to put the ziplock bag directly over the site on the male plant that has opening pollen sacs, close the bag around the stem, and give the branch a shake or flick to collect the pollen in the bag.

Tip: Switch off any fans and ventilation while working with pollen to avoid spreading it unnecessarily.

Storage

Collecting Cannabis Pollen

The most important factor to watch out for when storing cannabis pollen is moisture. If moisture enters the storage container, the pollen will germinate and be rendered useless.

Cooking flour can be added to the bag of pollen to help protect and preserve the pollen grains. The flour will absorb any moisture that may be present in the bag. Adding flour means you can also store the pollen for up to a year in the freezer, just make sure you keep the bag sealed in a proper freezer bag or container.

If you're worried about moisture being present in the collected pollen, you can always leave it out to dry for a day or two before storing. This should be done in a space where no draught or breeze could sweep away the pollen.

  1. Turns off all fans and close windows
  2. Spread the pollen on a piece of grease proof oven paper or foil
  3. Set temperature between 20-24°C with RH (relative humidity) at 50-55%
  4. Let it sit in the dark for 24-48 hours until dry.
  5. Collect with a clean brush and store in an airtight container.

Application

Applying Cannabis Pollen To Female Flowers

Once your pollen is safely stored, it can be used to pollinate your female plants. Growers who just want a few extra seeds can choose to fertilise a single branch on the female plant. This is done by taking a brush and dabbing it in the bag of pollen, then lightly brushing the selected branches.

It takes a few hours for a female plant to be fully fertilized, so if you want to make sure no further pollination takes place, simply mist the buds to kill of any extra pollen that might drift to other flowers when you switch the fans back on.

If you're looking to produce a lot of seeds, then you may decide to pollinate a whole female plant in a separate room. Working with pollen is best done away from your main flowering room.

Cannabis Pollen: Tips

Cannabis Hermaphrodite

It is also possible to force a female cannabis plant to produce male flowers, from which the pollen can be collected and used to pollinate other females. Females fertilized from a male flower developed on a female plant (hermaphrodite) means the offspring have an almost 100% chance of being female.

Pollen collecting by HerbalEdu from GrowDiaries.

This process involves using a solution called colloidal silver, which is applied to a cannabis plant in the early stages of flowering to encourage it turn hermaphrodite. If you're interested in producing seeds, feel free to take a quick look at our guide, which discusses colloidal silver and other methods of feminization.

Conclusion

There is much more to discuss on the topic of cannabis pollen and the production of seeds, however, we hope this article gave you some insight into how this function of the cannabis plant works. This very interesting aspect of cultivation is often overlooked because most growers (understandably) do not want seeds in their bud. Therefore, pollen only really becomes useful for those with the intention to breed or produce seeds.

External References

The Cream of the Crop: Biology, Breeding and Applications of Cannabis sativa. - Schilling, Susanne & Dowling, Caroline & Shi, Jiaqi & Ryan, Louise & Hunt, David & Oreilly, Eve & Perry, Antoinette & Kinnane, Oliver & McCabe, Paul & Melzer, Rainer. (2020)

Hermaphroditism in Marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.) Inflorescences – Impact on Floral Morphology, Seed Formation, Progeny Sex Ratios, and Genetic Variation. Frontiers in Plant Science. - Punja, Zamir & Holmes, Janesse. (2020).

This article was updated November 2020.






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