top of page

Cannabis Anatomy

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Cannabis Anatomy

Male vs. Female Cannabis plants

The cannabis plant is amazing in the fact that it is both dioecious and hermaphroditic in its expressions. Male and female cannabis plants are most often separate. This requires the pollination on one male plant to another female plant to create seeds. However there are populations in which the female plant also produces male flowers. We call these plants hermaphroditic. In this case the self pollinated female almost always creates a feminized seed, and therefore a female plant. Hemihedrites are often induced through stressful conditions or in the absence of male plants in order to save its lineage. In the cannabis industry hermaphrodites are often discarded in breeding as the goal is to encourage as much female flower growth as possible.

Cannabis sex organs

Male flowers contain stamens that contain the pollen. The pollen is so small (25 micrometers wide) that it is able to catch the wind and travel great distances to pollinate female plants.

Female plants have a pistillate flower that contains two stigmas which receive the male pollen. Once received the pollen then travels down the style to the ovary where the ovule begins to grow. Each pistillate contains only one ovule and produces only one seed. The Bract forms a seed pod sheath that protects the growing seed.

Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant


A Cola is a cluster of buds that form at the ends of cannabis branches. Smaller buds also form on budding sites on lower branches.

Stems and Nodes

The Stem structure of cannabis is its vascular and structural system. It supports the weight of the plant as well as transports nutrients and moisture from the root system upwards to the leaves through the xylem.

Leaves and Petioles

Leaves of the cannabis plant are palmately compound meaning that they produce from three to thirteen “finger leaves” separate from each other. Each leaf is connected to the plant with a petiole.

Cannabis Flower

Cannabis buds are often referred to as “flower” and contain pistillate flowers in mass covered in Trichomes and plant hairs. There are six different kinds of trichomes three glandular and three non-glandular. Large Cystolith hairs are the most visible of the non-glandular. These needle like hairs cover the entirety of the above ground portion of the plant, protecting it from insects and making it less palatable to herbivores. Smaller cystolith hairs also cover the exterior. Together these hairs regulate temperature, reflect radiation and reduce water loss. Glandular Trichomes structures contain the majority of the plants essential oils. CBD, THC, Terpenes etc. So much so that the total cannabinoid content can consist of up to 30% of the total weight of the flower. The three types of glandular trichomes are bulbous, capitate-sessile, and capitate stalked.


Unlike Endocannabinoids which are produced naturally in our own bodies, Phytocannibanoids come from plants and are similar in structure allowing them to bond naturally with the endocannabinoid system as well. According to Dr. Ethan Russoof GW Pharmaceuticals we have studied phytocannabanoids enough to understand that their interaction with terpenoids create an outcome greater than the sum of their parts, a phenomenon he coined the “entourage effect”. Terpenes interact with cannabinoids to alter their effects, often increasing their potency. Because there are over 200 identified compounds in the cannabis plant continued research is needed to catalog the complex effects that these cannabinoids can have on the users experience.


Tetrahydrocannabinol is the most well known of the cannabinoids due to its long term cultural use and its psychoactive and intoxicating use in humans. Its popularity is reinforced also through selective breeding of the black market prior to legalization. THC mostly effects CB1 Receptors and passes the blood brain barrier effecting motor activity, coordination, thinking, appetite, short term memory, pain perception and immune cells. THC primary use medicinally is for its pain relief. Studies have shown that its pain relieving properties exceeds the effect of Advil by twenty times, and twice that of cortisol. Much of the challenge with THC comes with its side effects. Often paranoia or anxiety in certain patients. However, the advent of pairing it with CBD for example may reduce its intoxicating side effects.


Cannabidiol is surfacing as the second most popular Cannabinoid due to its non intoxicating nature and high concentration in compliant hemp strains.

Other lesser known Cannabinoids include CBG, CBN, CBC, CBDV, and THCV. Although these compounds tend to create similar type effects their minute differences in chemical structure create very subtitle differences.


Terpenoids are very light compound responsible for the smell of many plants. For example citrus fruit has high concentrations of Limonene while pine trees contain lots of pinene. Terpenes and their effects are much more well studied than phytocannibinoids as they are easily observed in plants other than cannabis. Cannabis however displays a wide range of different terpenes in different strains. Some of the more common include; Myrcene, Pinene, Geraniol, Humulene, Linalool, and limonene. Myrcene is the most commonly known terpene in the cannabis plant. It is said to be responsible for the tranquilizing effect known in Indica dominant strains. It imparts anti-inflamitory and analgesic (pain reliving) qualities and has a very earthy smell and flavor. Myrcene occurs most commonly in mangoes. Alpha Pinene, and Beta Penine are the most commonly occurring terpene on earth. Outside cannabis it can be found in pine trees, orange peels, and herbs like basil and rosemary. Pinene has been shown to be a bronchodilator useful in combating respiratory conditions such as asthma or allergies as it helps open the bronchiole pathways in the lungs and nasal cavities. Geraniol is most often associated with floral and fruit smells. Rose oil, Geraniums, Palmarosa, and citronella all contain high concentrations of Geraniol. This terpene boasts antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as a pesticide and a bug repellant. Humulene, most prevalent in hops (humulus lupulus) and give beer its bitter, earthy and spicy notes. Studies show that it plays a role in regulating our appetites as well as having antibacterial qualities that may be useful in fighting growth in tumors. Linalool is very common in cannabis and I very pungent. It I known to fight anxiety and depression and induces sedative and relaxing sensations. Beyond that it has also been shown to reduce the cognitive impairment and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Limonene is a very appealing scent most common in fresh citrus fruit. It is a common additive to food, candles, and detergents. It has been shown that limonene plays a roll in regulating our mood and can be uplifting.


Flavonoids are a class of compounds found in many plants that are known to regulate cellular activity and fight free radicals in the body. Like Terpenes, Flavonoids are not exclusive to cannabis, they also occur naturally in flowers, fruits, and vegetables. However there are specific flavonoids that are only found in cannabis. These are known as cannaflavens. In nature one of the primary functions of flavonoids is pigmentation in plants. Specifically flowers for the purpose of attracting pollinators. It is this quality that gives cannabis its wide variability in color. Purple coloration in cannabis for instance is attributed to anthocyanidins and anthocyanins.

We often attribute terpenes with creating the distinguishing qualities of cannabis varieties, however flavonoids too play a large part in both odor and flavor.

36 views0 comments


bottom of page