Plants are not only a source of food but also a critical part of the ecosystem that sustains life on earth. As celebrated as they are, the cannabis species may be the only exemption and persecuted – mercilessly. What do we know about marijuana plants? In a nutshell, you could say that without these much-misunderstood species, there would be no fun, no relief, and no hope.
What Is Marijuana?
Marijuana, or cannabis, is an annual flowering plant belonging to the Cannabaceae family. Mainly, there are three species:
- Cannabis sativa
- Cannabis indica
- Cannabis ruderalis
Sativa strains are associated with euphoric, energizing cerebral high. Meanwhile, Indica strains are mostly sedating and relaxing. Among the people who consume cannabis, not everyone has even heard of Ruderalis as it does not have much recreational value. They are, however, invaluable to breeders who cross it with other strains to create auto-flowering hybrids.
Marijuana Plant Growth
Plants, much like animals and humans, need sustenance. They differ in the way nutrients are gathered and utilized. Instead of ingesting food, marijuana plants use sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide in a process called photosynthesis to process nutrients absorbed by their roots.
How do the plants, then, grow?
Cannabis plants grow by way of two processes.
- Cell division is when the cell divides and thereby creates a copy of itself. Mostly, it occurs in the tips of the roots, the fringes of leaf nodes, and the crown. You can see the physical manifestation of this process as the plant grows taller.
- Cell elongation occurs after a cell divides into two. These cells would grow larger by absorbing water from the xylem.
By providing the right nutrients and ensuring favorable conditions, a healthy, thriving plant could grow as much as 3 inches daily.
When new cells are created, they are not confined to a specific function. Instead, how they grow into is dependent on the needs of the plant. Generally, cells can be classified into three primary groups of tissues.
1. Ground Tissues
This type of cell – called parenchyma – constitutes the majority of marijuana plants. These ground cells are, for all intents and purposes, the functional parts with the exemption of stomata and veins.
2. Vascular Tissues
Xylem is the tissue responsible for transporting water and nutrients absorbed by the roots to different parts of the plant. Phloem, on the other hand, carries the product of photosynthesis to the stems, roots, and other non-photosynthesizing parts. New cells can turn to either of the two vascular tissues, depending on the necessity during growth.
3. Dermal Tissues
Cells can also grow to form the external layer of plants. The dermal tissue, much like our skin, protects against pests, diseases, and atmospheric conditions such as extreme heat or cold.
Dermal tissues comprise cell walls and the waxy outer layers. It also includes the locking door mechanism called stomata, which allows marijuana plants to absorb carbon dioxide and transpire, in which moisture and gas exchange occurs.
The Root System
The earliest hint of new life, after germinating the seed, is the emergence of the taproot. It is the first organ of the plant that comes in contact with the growing medium. Over the next days and throughout the growth cycle, the plant develops fibrous roots to burrow into the medium. In some cases, it may also grow adventitious roots from the stem above the substrate, which then grows down and into the ground.
Not all plants can grow these three types of roots. Marijuana can, and that is why they are highly adaptable to cloning.
The root system can be so extensive to the point that it matches the size of the plant above-ground. It can also be limited, such as in the case of container planting or hydroponics. In either system of growing, marijuana plants can thrive so long as it receives enough nutrients, water, and light.
Healthy root tips are white in color and covered by tiny hairs. As the plant releases moisture into the air through the stomata in the leaves, negative pressure is created. Beneath the ground, the suction effect causes the roots to absorb moisture as well as nutrients from the substrate.
Think of the stems, much like a highway, where water and nutrients pass through. The node is where the leaves meet the stem, and the internode is the rest of the stem in-between the nodes. It is the number of internodes and length that determines the size of the plant. Once the flowering stage starts, the internodes stop growing in size as the plant focuses more of its energy towards developing buds.
Eventually, the stems will have to carry the weight of the buds produced. In the outdoors, the natural breeze causes a slight movement, which stimulates the plant to thicken the stems in response. This is duplicated in an indoor garden by strategically placing small oscillating fans.
The Role of Leaves
Marijuana leaves act like solar panels, where chloroplast cells gather and store light as ATP. It consists of three parts:
On the underside of the leaves, the stomata open and close at different times to allow transpiration – moisture and gas exchange. Using water absorbed by the roots and carbon dioxide gathered from the air, chlorophylls convert light into energy in the form of sugar. Once this is produced, xylem tissues transport water and sugar through the veins to different parts of the plant.
One way to assess the health of marijuana plants is to observe the nodes.
- 1st node will always produce single-fingered leaves.
- 2nd node will grow three-fingered leaves.
- 3rd and succeeding nodes, the plant will produce five-fingered leaves.
When you provide optimal growing conditions, the plant will produce more five-fingered leaves, which boosts its growth. Maintaining the correct temperature and humidity ranges also optimize the intake of carbon dioxide, thus enhancing the process of photosynthesis.
The Precious Flowers
Cannabis plants, being dioecious, can be male or female. Males would have stamen, composed of thin tube-like filament capped by a pollen-covered anther. Females, on the other hand, would have pistils with pillar-like stalk ending in a stigma, which is feathered and sticky to help catch pollens.
Reproduction occurs when the male plant releases pollen. Usually carried by the wind – especially in indoor gardening – the pollen could pollinate the females, causing them to produce seeds.
Aside from reproductive function, the flowers also contain cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, terpenes, and flavonoids. These compounds can also be found in other parts of the plants, but their concentration is insignificant.
For consumption, females should never be allowed to produce seeds. Males, already lacking in desired cannabinoids, should be taken away. They can be grown in a separate location or discarded to prevent accidental pollination.
Unfertilized females do not have to spend their energy on producing seeds. Instead, they could focus on growing more calyxes as well as create more trichomes – the resin glands that produce high levels of THC and CBD.
Fun, Relief, and Hope
Marijuana plants have been around for a long time. Archeological evidence and sacred texts have shown that ancient people used it for different purposes. Mostly medicinal, it was also used in religious or spiritual rituals.
The presence of THC produced by the trichomes is the reason why it causes psychedelic effects. These can range from euphoric, energizing, uplifting, and creative high to sedating, numbing, relaxing body stone. Because of these effects, many people have been using cannabis for fun.
For patients suffering from debilitating conditions, marijuana is also a source of relief. In some cases, it may very well be the only choice. For example, some people who need a pain reliever might have damaged kidneys, which bars them from using opioid-based analgesics. Cannabis, in this regard, can help by alleviating the symptoms of so many conditions.
Researchers are also receiving more fundings to study the pharmacological value of marijuana and its individual constituents. Already, some indicators suggest it has potent medicinal properties. Pending more clinical trials, the anecdotal evidence keeps fanning the flame of hope that one day, it could be developed to cure many diseases.