Cannabis Plant Anatomy – A Primer

We spend a lot of time here at KYND thinking about the anatomy of the cannabis plant. For a cultivating company, that makes perfect sense. But we’d argue that anyone who enjoys consuming cannabis should have at least a passing familiarity of the plant. Just like you understand the basics about the sources of your favorite fruits and vegetables. so too should you know a bit about cannabis. It’ll make you a smarter consumer, and it may come in handy at the next trivia night. To that end, here are the basics of cannabis plant anatomy.

Let’s Keep it Simple

No need to major in botany – we’re keeping this breakdown simple. First, cannabis plants can be male, female, or hermaphrodites. And in the world of cannabis, females are the superior gender. Male plants play an important role in cannabis breeding programs, passing along desired traits like overall health, growth rate, and general hardiness. But it’s the female plants that flower so beautifully.

The plant itself has several structures – there are the stems, the nodes, and those iconic fan-shape leaves. The main stem grows vertically, serving as both a nutrient highway from the roots and the support system for beautifully symmetrical branching. Growth emerging from this main stem are called leaf nodes. Interestingly, spacing between branches (known as internode spacing) in indica-dominant plants will be tighter than in sativa plants.

Fan leaves are also symmetrical. They grow in pairs from both the main stem and leaf nodes, and they offer another clue about plant variety. Generally, long, lean leaves that are light green are a sign of a sativa variety, while dark, wide leaves mean indica. Hybrids will be a mix of the two.

Females Rule

The flowering top of a female cannabis plant is known as the cola. At first glance, the buds may resemble a tangle of small leaves and sticky resin. But close inspection reveals teeny clusters – these are the individual cannabis buds known as calyxes. They’re found in different colors, sizes, and shapes. If a plant is fertilized, the calyx becomes a protective cover for seed growth. If no fertilization occurs, the calyxes will become a dense source of trichomes. And that’s what the industry is all about – the teeny resin glands that secrete both cannabinoids and terpenes. These miniscule, translucent globes coat the flowers, giving them a magnificent glistening appearance – a kind of crystal-like frost.

The calyx in female plants also have what look like hair growing out each side. These are actually pistils. And while they’re white to begin with, they change to an orangish red as the bud ripens. Their job is to capture pollen from the male plants. If that doesn’t happen, the focus is purely on flower production.

And Now You Know

While you may never need to identify the anatomy of a living cannabis plant, it’s kind of cool to know you could. After all, the more you know about cannabis, the more you can appreciate it.

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