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If you would like to grow cannabis for medicinal or recreational use, you must understand its anatomy to simplify your growing process. Like any other plant, a cannabis plant has a complex, and if your anatomy is not a cannabis farmer, having a deep understanding of the plant will help you understand the many terms associated with it. There is an interesting story behind the cannabis buds you roll up for a blunt or the CBD oil you use to help you relax. Below are the different parts of the cannabis plant and their roles.


Cannabis seeds

We have three types of cannabis seeds, namely regular, auto-flowering, and feminized seeds. Cannabis is an annual plant, meaning that when you plant the seeds, they germinate, grow, mature into a full cannabis plant, and then die after harvesting. The next season, you must plant new seeds and repeat the process. Note that cannabis plants are dioecious, meaning that they can either be male or female plants. The male plants produce pollen grains to pollinate the female plants and produce seeds. The female plant has the most sought-after cannabis buds.

Cannabis flowers

Before they open, cannabis plant flowers look like a green banana or a light yellow-like color. The female flowers take the shape of a teardrop before they open up. The male cannabis plant flowers are not usually rich in CBD or THC, so their flowers are not useful to humans. The female flowers develop into cannabis buds that cannabis users love in weed. When you hear people talk about cannabis buds, they always refer to the female cannabis plant flowers, also called the calyx.

The calyx is usually what weed users smoke or the part extracted to manufacture CBD oils. When the grower fertilizes the calyx, it develops into a pocket-like where seeds grow. But when it is not fertilized, the calyx gives way to trichomes.


Trichomes in a female cannabis plant refer to secretive glands that hold cannabinoids and terpenes. That is the reason an unfertilized female cannabis plant has the most CBD, THC, and terpenes. In the cannabis plant, the trichomes appear as globe-like resin glands that form a crystal coating on the calyx. They contain high levels of cannabinoids in the form of CBD and THC and hundreds more. The trichomes produce and secrete terpenes as well.


Terpenes refer to the oils that give cannabis its unique smell. Cannabis oils exist because of cannabis terpenes. The terpenes work in unison with the cannabinoids in the plant to result in the entourage effect, which is what causes the high impact on medicinal marijuana. However, each terpene has its properties and benefits.


As mentioned earlier, the cannabis plant has hundreds of cannabinoids, but CBD and THC are the most popular ones. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) brings about the psychoactive effects of cannabis. In contrast, CBD (cannabidiol) doesn’t have any psychoactive effects but produces medicinal effects such as pain relief. All the cannabinoids in a cannabis plant work together to create unique cannabis strains that affect users differently.


The white hairs that grow on the calyx are the pistils. They begin with a white color but gradually turn orange, red, or brown as the plant nears harvesting time or matures. As a grower, you may notice that they bend in different directions as the plant grows. Usually, they are looking for fertilization from male plant pollen. The pistils do not contain any trichomes. That means they do not have terpenes or cannabinoids, so they do not determine how rich the plant is in those compounds. The pistils are only found in female plants. The male cannabis plants have stamen.


The stamen in male plants produces pollen sacs that fertilize/pollinate the female cannabis plant’s pistils. The pollens are usually green or yellow. In some cases, you will encounter a female plant with pollen sacs called a hermaphrodite. If you do not want the rest of your female cannabis plants to be fertilized, you should always remove the intersex cannabis plants.


The cannabis plant’s stem supports the leaves and flowers. The stem is useful in supplying water and nutrients to the leaves and flowers of the plant. It gradually grows thick to form nodes where the leaves sprout. The stem’s tip has the cola where the flowers sprout, but this is found only in female cannabis plants. The grower can use gardening techniques to increase the number of colas to produce a bounty harvest. In most Sativa plants, branching occurs from the stems to form additional leaves or nodes.


When a cannabis plant develops its first leaves, they contain a single leaflet with serrated edges and a pointy tip. As the plant grows, more leaves sprout from the stem with more paired leaflets. Cannabis leaves always have from 5-9 leaflets or more in some strains. For instance, cannabis Sativa seed strains from Homegrown Cannabis Co. will often have more leaves. Photosynthesis occurs on the leaves, and the plant continues to grow.

Cannabis leaves contain delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, which gives way to the psychoactive form THC. Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol is psychoactive. It doesn’t get the user high but has therapeutic effects. The cannabis leaves are useful in making extracts and edibles, and you can differentiate the cannabis strain from the distinctive characteristics of the leaves. Cannabis sativa has long, straight, and slender leaves. Cannabis indica leaves are short and broad, while the cannabis ruderalis has leaves that look like those of a young cannabis Sativa plant.


Now, we are at the cannabis plant’s root level. The roots continuously absorb nutrients and water from the soil and feed them to the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant roots begin as a single taproot, develop secondary roots, and later become a fibrous mass of roots. The roots of cannabis plants play a vital role throughout the germination process. The plant’s xylem gradually pumps water from the root to keep the plant hydrated and healthy.


Generally, the physical characteristics of cannabis plants will differ depending on the cannabis strain and seed type. However, the basic anatomy of the cannabis plant is the same. Understanding the basic features of the cannabis plant is helpful to know how the plant works.

Todd R. Brain

Beeraholic. Zombie fan. Amateur web evangelist. Troublemaker. Travel practitioner. General coffee expert. What gets me going now is managing jump ropes in Africa. Had a brief career working with Magic 8-Balls in Libya. Garnered an industry award while analyzing banjos in Prescott, AZ. Had moderate success promoting action figures in Pensacola, FL. Prior to my current job I was merchandising fatback in the aftermarket. Practiced in the art of importing gravy for no pay.