Cannabis Plant Anatomy: A Fascinating Guide From Seed To Cola

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cannabis plant anatomy
Author avatar By Kyle Kushman
September 23, 2022
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Marijuana crops and the physical and cerebral effects the buds induce never cease to amaze people. The fan leaf is the most recognizable weed symbol, but did you know the shrub has more captivating parts? The cannabis plant anatomy is fascinating. 

The Green Wave continues to wash over the US, renewing interest in this unique plant. From seeds to colas, you’ll discover the different parts of a weed crop and their role in its life cycle.

We also examine the genders, why their flowers differ, and how environmental conditions can change a shrub’s sex. So, how complex is weed anatomy? Let’s start by taking a closer look at the majestic marijuana plant and all its vital parts.

Cannabis plant anatomy: What are the parts of the weed plant?

Cannabis plant anatomy is fascinating for cultivators and marijuana users. Each piece of the crop has a vital function. Let’s look closer at the main parts of the weed shrub and discover their primary purpose.

diagram of cannabis plant
Overall look

Flowers

The flowers contain the majority of beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes, and compounds. The buds are then dried and cured. Weed users then grind them to smoke them and avail of the effects. Tight clusters of seedless flowers develop from unpollinated female plants.

The shape, colors, and aromas of the buds depend on the strain you’re growing. There are significant differences in male vs. female weed flowers, and we look into that later.

weed flowers

Cola

The most stunning visual part of cannabis plant anatomy is the colas. These beautiful clusters of densely-packed buds develop almost anywhere on marijuana crops. 

The main one is a single apical bud sitting on the top peak of the weed plant. The other groups of colas can produce substantial yields if you prune the lower leaves to increase light penetration.

Pink Frosty Cannabis Cola

Bract and calyx

The bract is a tear-shaped leaf sitting near a female crop’s reproductive area. It contains resin glands and produces the highest concentration of beneficial terpenes and cannabinoids of all marijuana plant parts.

The calyx is a translucent layer protecting the ovule and forms at the base of a flower. It’s not observable to the naked eye, as it’s well-hidden in the bract. 

Trichomes

Weed trichomes are the frosted coat of resin covering the buds. These tiny crystals are crucial in the anatomy of cannabis because they’re rich in cannabinoids, essential for hash production.

Trichomes form from translucent glands on stems, leaves, and the calyxes of weed crops. They also serve as a protector of the cannabis plant, defending it from predators and environmental threats.  

Weed trichomes

Stigma and pistil

An essential part of marijuana plant anatomy is the pistil. The cannabis crop’s sexual organs are located here. They contain thin, hair-like strands called stigmas that capture cannabis pollen from a male weed crop. 

The stigmas start out white but change color to yellow, orange, and even red during a plant’s life cycle. They play an essential role in the reproductive process but don’t contribute to potency, tastes, or aromas.

What are pistils on weed

Sugar leaves

Sugar leaves hold resin and look like their name suggests. They’re small, have a frosty appearance, and grow near the buds.

Sugar leaves often grow trichomes due to their proximity to the cannabis flowers. Marijuana users sometimes harvest them to extract THC and CBD for various cannabis products.

Pink weed bud

Seeds

Weed seeds are where life begins for all marijuana crops. They vary in size; healthy ones have tough, round casings with one end pointed and the other flat. Popping the shells allows you to observe the anatomy of a cannabis plant as it grows.

Marijuana seeds need moisture, oxygen, and warmth for the taproot to emerge. Germination takes 1–5 days, and it takes a few weeks for seedlings to move onto the vegetative stage. 

weed seeds

Fan leaves

The green-fingered cannabis leaf is a recognizable symbol of the 420 culture. The fan leaves on a cannabis plant can contain trace amounts of THC and CBD. They’re the parts of a weed crop responsible for capturing sunlight.

Fan leaves have large 3–13 veined leaflets and change color during the plant’s life cycle. Some strains’ foliage display rich purple hues in cooler nighttime temperatures. They’re also a great indicator of how healthy your weed crops are.  

Kyle Kushman with Cannabis Leaf

Branches

Branches support cannabis leaves and flowers. Cultivators control their plant’s height and growth by pruning them. Topping the limbs allows marijuana crops to create more bud sites and increase yields.

Node

The node is a point of connection where a branch meets a stem or another limb. It plays a vital role in weed plant anatomy because it’s where you can determine a cannabis crop’s gender. Look for signs of male pollen sacs developing at the nodes.

male cannabis plant

Stem

One of the most critical parts of a cannabis plant is the stem. The stalk supports the weight of the marijuana shrub’s lateral branches. It provides stability and gives structure to other parts of the weed crops, and it’s divided by nodes. 

It transports moisture and nutrients from the roots to the fan leaves because it contains the vascular system. The stalk also carries sugars and starches around the plant for storage or use. 

holding cannabis stem

Root

The cannabis root system is the foundation of your plant and provides it with water and essential nutrients. The taproot emerges first from the marijuana seed and grows downward in the soil, searching for nutrients.

The roots develop into a web-like pyramid structure in the soil. They also store carbohydrates for when the crop enters its flowering stage, along with starches and sugars. Keeping the roots healthy will allow your weed plants to grow strong and produce big, beautiful flowers.

Cannabis roots
Cannabis roots

Identifying male and female weed plants in cannabis anatomy

Marijuana plants typically have two genders—male and female. Most growers prefer cultivating feminized crops as these produce the THC and CBD buds we love to consume. Male shrubs are ideal for crossbreeding and creating new strains.

There’s also a chance the anatomy of a cannabis plant can change during the growth period. These marijuana shrubs are hermaphrodites or ‘hermies’ and contain male and female sex organs. Let’s look closer at three different types of cannabis crops.

The differences between male and female cannabis plant
The difference between male and female weed plant

Female weed plants

Feminized marijuana seeds have a 99% chance of developing into female photoperiod plants. They grow and enter their vegetation and flowering stages depending on the amount of light they receive.

Female weed crops yield resin-soaked buds jam-packed with cannabinoid content, including THC and CBD. The flowers also emit mouth-watering aromas, depending on the variant.

The buds are one of the most vital parts of a weed plant to cannabis users. Look for long, pear-shaped calyxes before the flowering stage, as they’re usually the first sign of the female gender.   

Female hairs starting to show on the cannabis plant
Moby Dick Feminized

Male weed plants

Male cannabis plants produce pollen sacs for impregnating nearby female shrubs. They’re handy for creating new strains and play a vital role in marijuana breeding. Regular cannabis seeds have a 50/50 chance of growing into male or female crops.

These usually showcase their pre-flowers (stamens) sooner than females. They’re round in appearance, resembling a small soccer ball at the tip of a stick. These eventually develop into pollen sacs, ready to pollinate your ladies.  

Familiarizing yourself with male marijuana plant parts is essential, especially if you buy regular weed seeds. Quarantine the male crops as early as possible to reduce the risk of accidental pollination if that’s not your goal. 

 male cannabis plant flowering

Hermaphrodite weed plant

A hermaphrodite cannabis plant develops male and female traits during cultivation. The cannabis anatomy can change during growth due to light and heat stress or poor genetics.

Bananas or ‘nanners’ can sprout from cannabis flowers during the early and late flowering phases. They’re long, yellow growths representing the male stamen. They can pollinate female plants anytime, resulting in buds full of seeds.

There are steps you can take to avoid the possibility of developing a hermaphrodite. Research different strains as some variants are more prone to growing nanners. Avoid high heat and humidity, and don’t leave plants too close to your grow lights. 

Cannabis hermaphrodite
Cannabis hermaphrodite

Marijuana plant anatomy FAQs 

The diagram of a cannabis plant may show you all the essential pieces but won’t answer all your questions. Here are some common FAQs about weed parts.

What part of weed is used to smoke?

You can consume all parts of a weed plant, but the most common piece is the bud when dried and cured. Only female crops produce flowers, so purchase feminized or autoflower seeds for marijuana harvesting and consumption.

Which part of the cannabis plant contains the resin?

Resin looks like tiny shimmering crystals dusted on a cannabis plant. They can appear anywhere on a marijuana crop but are more concentrated in the buds and surrounding sugar leaves.

What part of weed gets you high?

The main psychoactive compound in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). High quantities of THC are present in female flowers and surrounding leaves. The levels of this cannabinoid vary and depend on the strain you’re growing. 

marijuana anatomy

What part of the weed plant makes seeds?

Male plants develop pollen sacs that pollinate nearby female crops. Impregnated female shrubs will then divert their energy into producing seeds in their flowers.

What part of the cannabis plant contains CBD?

Hemp plant anatomy tells us cannabidiol (CBD) is most prominent in the buds and leaves of a marijuana crop. Cannabis users extract the CBD-rich resin from the flowers to create oils and other topicals.

What part of the cannabis plant contains THC?

THC is present throughout the cannabis plant, but it’s more prominent in a female crop’s sugar leaves, trichomes, and buds.


About the Author: Kyle Kushman

Kyle Kushman is a legend in the cannabis community. He is the modern-day polymath of pot: cultivator, breeder, activist, writer, and educator. After winning no less than 13 Cannabis Cups, there’s nothing this guy doesn’t know about indoor growing – he’s been there, done it, and is still doing it to this day!