In the plant kingdom, the gender of plants is not limited to male and female. There are some that wield both biological sexes. These are the hermaphrodites.
While fairly common among floras, having a bi-gender cannabis can be devastating as it can turn a first-rate harvest into a stash of inferior, seeded buds. Despite this, hermaphroditism does not automatically spell disaster. With sufficient knowledge, keen eyes, and gentle yet firm hands, it can be avoided.
Genders Of Cannabis Plants
Cannabis falls under the “dioecious” category, or plants that display its gender, like humans and animals do. It also means that a female cannabis needs the pollen from a male to reproduce. Sometimes, though, weeds with both male and female sexes spring up, and are referred to as hermaphrodites.
Gender is paramount in cannabis cultivation as only female plants can produce buds. These highly coveted flowers have the highest concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes. Hence, it is also the most valuable and utilized part of the plant. Meanwhile, males and hermaphrodites are often discarded as soon as this gender (or mixed-gender for that matter) is ascertained.
In most cases, cannabis seeds have a 1:1 ratio of male and female, which means half of the seeds will not be viable for growing buds. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing the gender until the seeds are popped and grown for a couple of weeks. While 1-week old seedlings can go through genetic testing, this isn’t a feasible option to most, making waiting the best route.
Male plants only produce pollen sacs – no buds. It is worth noting, however, that some of these he-plants – approximately 70% – may yield a trace amount of THC through the trichomes on sepals and spots near the pollens. The quantity and, in turn, strength, though, is much less than that of female flowers. Furthermore, there is no way to determine early on whether a male cannabis will generate resin or not. As such, the cost and effort outweigh any possible gain.
For the most part, males manifest its gender 3 to 4 weeks from germination. Pollen sacs start as round bumps. At this stage, it is too soon to tell if a tiny lump is a male or female pre-flower. Once the projection grows out a stem, though, it is a guaranteed male.
It is advisable to dispose of the males right away once recognized (unless intending to breed) as it will pollinate the females. Apart from concentrating on the remaining ladies, growing a new batch of seeds can also make up for the reduced headcount.
Because of its ability to produce buds, female plants are much preferred. The high demand is the reason why breeders focus on feminized seeds, or genetically modified ovules designed to only develop into females.
Females first reveal its gender through “pre-flowers” 4 to 6 weeks from germination. Between the nodes and the stem (a.k.a., bud sites), pointy, teardrop or pear-shaped calyxes will come into view. Soon, one or two wispy white hairs responsible for catching pollens will emerge from these tiny structures, confirming that it is, indeed, female.
Flowers will form as the plant matures. If not pollinated, these develop into buds known as “Sensimilla” On the other hand, fertilized florets will remain significantly smaller and less potent, producing seeds that are hard to remove and harsh to smoke.
In some instances, cannabis plants demonstrate the characteristics of both genders. Such tendency is a species’ natural way of ensuring survival. Also referred to as hermies, these mixed-sex plants are further classified into two types – the true hermaphrodites and the nanner producers. Both varieties can self-pollinate and fertilize other females, resulting in a mediocre harvest of seeded buds. Hence, knowing how to identify early on or preventing its occurrence is crucial if looking to cultivate cannabis for consumption.
Acquiring seeds from a hermaphrodite mother plant will most likely generate plants with the same attributes. Some particular strains also have hermaphroditic tendencies such as the Thai Sativa. These offspring are called “true” hermaphrodites. When grown in excellent conditions, it may not always display its bi-gender qualities. However, even the slightest stress can trigger the transformation resulting in the formation of male and female reproductive systems on different locations.
Female cannabis plants that end up exhibiting male qualities during the flowering stage are called “nanners.” The bi-gender earned its rather hip moniker due to the banana-like appearance of its small growths. These yellow or lime green protrusions crop up among buds, often growing in groups like a bunch of bananas. Unlike regular male pollen sacs, these outgrowths can fertilize as soon as they emerge.
Contrary to true hermaphrodites, genetics only exercise minor influence while environmental factors take precedence in setting off this type of gynandromorph. That being the case, any cannabis plant is deemed susceptible to evolving into a hermaphrodite when exposed to stress-inducing irregularities or poor health.
Arising as last-ditch effort to ensure the preservation of its genetics, a female transforms itself in an attempt to self-pollinate and produce seeds. Environmental stressors that can bring about hermaphroditism include:
- Excessive heat
- Prolonged flowering
- Physical shock due to excessive pruning and fractures
- Pest and pathogen infestation
- Diseases such as nutrient deficiency and nutrient burn
- Inappropriate amount of moisture
- Improper use of potent pesticides
- Inconsistent light schedules or light leaks during lights out time
- Too much light (light burn)
How To Avoid Hermaphrodites
As mentioned, cannabis plants, whether with hermie genetics or not, run the risk of becoming hermaphrodites when exposed to various environmental stressors. To avoid the onset of mixed-sex flora, it is critical to secure the following:
- Grow strains with trusted genetics
- Provide correct amounts of macro and micronutrients
- Maintain optimal growing conditions
- Keep the grow area and all the equipment clean
- Monitor the plants daily for any signs of infestation or illnesses
- Do not delay harvest
Apart from guaranteeing the listed must-dos, nothing beats having sufficient knowledge in cannabis cultivation and handling hermaphrodites. Should an uninvited bi-gender turn up, know that it can happen even to most experienced and deal with the setback promptly as to avert pollination.
How To Handle Hermaphrodites
If a hermaphrodite develops, do not fret as not all is lost. With quick thinking and careful hands, salvaging the situation, although not easy, is not impossible.
- Merge understanding about biological sexes with best grow practices. Learning about the male, female, and hermaphrodite cannabis plants must start even before sallying forth a cultivation journey. By knowing the factors that instigate and dissuade this tendency, a favorable grow condition can be provided.
- Check for male flowers as soon as flowering starts. One of the standard courses of measure in cannabis cultivation for consumption is awaiting the surfacing of pre-flowers. As mentioned, once a plant has been identified as a male, it must be removed from the grow area without delay to prevent accidental pollination.
- Isolate the Hermaphrodites. Once he-plants are out of the picture, it is now time to spot plants with bi-gender features. Segregate hermaphrodites in an isolation area intended especially for treating its kind. It must be a contained space away from the females as not to risk fertilization.
- Treat or eradicate. Deciding what to do with the hermaphrodites depend on the number of male flowers each specimen has. It is best to dispose a plant with a considerable quantity of male outgrowths. However, if the number is low, it could be remedied with a pair of tweezers with these steps here:
- Sterilize the tweezers with alcohol or peroxide.
- Using the tweezers, carefully remove the outgrowths.
- Spray and sterilize them with water to avoid possible pollination.
- Check for any new male flowers daily.
- Watch out for nanners. Banana protrusions are unpredictable, and it can appear even in the most ideal settings. Sadly, it could also start fertilizing females. A few nanners would not cause much damage. However, if there are plenty, consider an early harvest to cut losses and prevent the flowers from forming seeds.
Attainable With Great Effort
In the world of cannabis, hermaphroditism is a natural phenomenon. While bud-producing female plants are the most desirable, it is unavoidable to wind up with males and bi-gender ones. Ergo, it is most advantageous to have adequate knowledge about all biological sexes.
Hermaphrodite plants pose certain dangers, such as the fortuitous pollination of buds and the diminished quality of the harvest, among others. Fortunately, although the risks are unpleasant, minimizing the threat and damage is attainable. Simply bring together cultivation mastery, quick but reasonable judgment, and careful hands.