The Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant

The cannabis plant is one of the oldest plants on earth, and various cultures have used it for millennia. The plant’s history is fascinating, but it is also good to understand what exactly a cannabis plant looks like in order to appreciate its utility. This blog post will cover the anatomy of the cannabis plant so you can better understand how different parts work together and why they are necessary for this incredible medicinal herb.

The Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant


Cannabis seeds the core to the anatomy of the cannabis plant. They are developed in female plants and contain the DNA of a male and a female. To sprout, seeds need to germinate and develop a taproot, which will become the main root that anchors the plant.

Cotyledon leaves

The first leaves to appear on a seedling after germination are these. They are usually paired, and seeing them means your seed has appropriately germinated and will grow healthy and robust.


The root system grows from the plant’s main stem into the ground. The main root of a seedling is known as the “taproot.” Roots are the lifelines of a cannabis plant, and they pull the water and oxygen the plant needs to thrive. Mycorrhizae, a helpful fungus, can be added to the soil to better root systems.


The main stem, also known as the stalk, of a cannabis plant arises straight from the root system and supports all lateral branches. The stem provides a plant with structure and stability. After about five nodes, growers will frequently top the stem to force the plant to develop laterally further, resulting in more bud sites.


Branches develop from the main stem and support fan leaves and buds. To produce additional bud sites, growers train cannabis plants by topping branches.


A node is a location on a plant where one branch branches off of another. Some nodes may contain fan leaves and buds, but not all. Preflowers, or the beginnings of male and female sex organs, can be seen at nodes in the development of cannabis plants. The distance between nodes is known as “internodal spacing” it provides a hint about how tall a plant will grow.

Fan leaves

The enormous, iconic leaves of the cannabis plant are known as fan leaves. They reflect light for the plant and hence have little to no resin and are regularly removed during trimming.

Sugar leaves

These leaves are the tiny, resin-coated leaves that buds develop around. Sugar leaves are often kept as “trim” during harvest and create pre-rolls, extracts, and other cannabis goods.


The buds of a cannabis plant are what we see in the dispensary. They include cannabinoids and terpenes, making you high or offering health advantages. Flowers are only created by female cannabis plants and must be dried before consumption.


A cluster of buds known as a “bud site” is also referred to as a “cola.” The main cola also called the apical bud, develops at the top of the plant, while smaller colas may be seen along with the budding sites of lower branches.

Bract and calyx

A bract encapsulates the female reproductive organs. They have green tear-shaped leaves and are blanketed in resin glands, which produce the most concentrated cannabinoids of all plant parts. The calyx, covered by these bracts and unnoticed by the naked eye, refers to a translucent layer surrounding the base’s ovule.

Stigma and pistil

The pistil is the reproductive part, and the bright, hair-like strands on its tip are known as stamens. The color of the pistil’s stigmas begins white and gradually darkens to yellow, orange, red, or brown throughout growth. The stigmas gather pollen. They are essential in reproduction, but stigmas contribute little to the flower’s effectiveness and taste.


Despite their tiny size, the blanket of crystal resin on a cannabis bud is impossible to overlook. Translucent, mushroom-shaped glands on the leaves, stems, and calyxes secrete this resin. Plants designed trichomes to deter animals and the weather from harming them. These clear globes ooze aromatic oils called terpenes and therapeutic cannabinoids like THC and CBD. These trichomes, as well as their powerful sugar-like resin, influence the formation of hash.

Male vs. female marijuana plants

Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning it can be male or female, and the male and female reproductive organs appear on different plants. The flowers of the female plant are what you currently have in your home.

Female plants produce the resin-secreting flower that is trimmed down into the buds that are smokable, while males create pollen sacs near the base of the leaves. Male plants pollinate females to begin seed development, but sinsemilla buds—those produced from female plants without seeds—are what we consume.

Growers might use clones and the genetically identical clippings from a parent strain to ensure the sex of their plants. Feminized seeds can also be created through a unique breeding technique.

How to determine the sex of a marijuana plant

Cannabis plants show their sex by growing between their nodes, where leaves and branches extend from the stalk. Pollen sacs will develop on a male plant to spread seeds, and stigma will develop on a female to catch pollen. You can see these differences weeks before they start serving their purposes in the reproduction cycle. These are known as “pre-flowers.”

Pre-flowers begin to develop after four weeks. However, they may take a little longer depending on how quickly the sprouting phase occurs. By the sixth week, you should be able to find the pre-flowers and determine the sex of your plant.

Examine the plant’s nodes and look for the early growth of tiny sacs on a male or two bracts on a female, eventually producing the hair-like stigma.

Female marijuana plants

Females are notorious in cannabis plants, as they are the ones that produce the buds that we all adore. When you see a photo of a cannabis plant with buds, it is a female plant you’re looking at. After absorbing pollen from males, females produce seeds to carry on both plants’ DNA into the following generation.

However, because cannabis is primarily grown for buds rather than seeds, the practice of producing sinsemilla, or “seedless,” cannabis is still widespread today: to prevent pollination, females, and males are grown separately or even thrown away. This allows female plants to channel their efforts into bud development rather than seed production.

When two different types of the same species are crossed, males and females are generally only fertilized when creating new strains or crossing over plants.

Male marijuana plants

Instead of buds, female cannabis plants produce pollen sacs. Because you do not want male plants to fertilize the females, which would result in seeds—no one wants to smoke seeds—males are generally discarded. In the breeding process, males are essential, but they should usually be left to professionals. Males contribute half of the genetic makeup passed on to seeds while pollinating females.

Because of this, it is critical to analyze the male plants’ genetics. Their form, growth rate, pest and mold resistance, and climate resilience can all be passed on to future generations to improve their quality.

Males are often used to make soft fiber hemp materials like clothing or table cloths. In contrast, females create a rougher, more durable fiber. Male plants can also produce hemp oil and hash from the leaves, stems, and sacs. THC is present in males but in much lower quantities.

Now that we all understand the anatomy of the cannabis plant, it is no surprise that cannabis plants are fascinating. Not only do they have an exciting history, but they also come in many different shapes and sizes–some of which may be pretty surprising! They can grow up to 6 feet tall or be short and stout. They can produce thick leaves that vary in shape from plant to plant, but our love for the magical plant stays the same regardless.

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