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How To Identify Male and Female Cannabis Plants

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Cannabis Plant Anatomy
Cannabis Plant Anatomy With Female Sex Organs

Identifying the gender of cannabis plants early on in flowering allows the grower the flexibility to discard males before pollen is released and clone females before flowing begins. Open pollination is often undesirable as pollen can travel many miles and create unwanted seed in other growers flower. As a matter of respect its always best to take precautions both indoors and outdoors to pollinate responsibly.

The Cannabis plant is very unique as it can be both dioecious and hermaphroditic in its expressions. In the cannabis industry most all varieties of cannabis display Dioecious features. This means that an individual plant displays only male or female reproductive structures. However in some populations, and especially under stress, and lack of male pollen donors the female cannabis plant can produce male flowers rendering it Hermaphroditic. In this case the plant self pollinates and creates feminized seed, preserving its genetics for another season. Hermaphroditic cannabis plants are undesirable when producing sinsemilla (seedless flower) and has largely been bred out of commercial strains.

Cannabis reproductive structures first appear at the Axil Node at the intersection between the Petiole (leaf Stem) and the Internode (main stem). At this intersection Axillary Branches emerge as well to create side branching and tip splitting. On either side of the axillary branch there are two Stipules. The stipules play a role along side the Bract to protect emerging reproductive organs from pests and weather. On female plants the bract encapsulates the seed as it develops.

The tell tale sign of a cannabis plants sex is based on the structure within the bract. Female plants produce a pistillate flower that contains two stigmas and appear as white hairs emerging from the bract. These structures await male pollen to fertilize. The pollen then travels down the style to the ovary where the ovule begins to develop and a seed begins to form. On a Male plant flowers often appear first as little round structures that grow to unfurl into male flowers.

Identification is best done with a magnifier of some kind to inspect upper most branches and several nodes down from the apical meristem (top) where the reproductive structures are most developed. As the plant begins to mature these features will become more pronounced. Take time to familiarize yourself with the identification process and have fun!

Female Pistils Emerging From Bract
Female Pistils Emerging From Bract

Male Cannabis Flower Early Stages
Male Cannabis Flower Early Stages

As cannabis plants mature they produce an incredible number of individual flowers and pistils. So much so that the mass of pistils creates a bud. A cluster of pistillate buds covered in trichomes and plant hairs. Trichomes are produced in six identifiable shapes and sizes 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 herbivores. Smaller cystolith hairs also cover the exterior and serve a similar purpose. Together these hairs regulate temperature, reflect radiation and reduce water loss.

Glandular Trichomes possess a trichome head that contains the majority of the plant’s essential oils, CBD, THC, Terpenes and Flavonoids.

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