How much do you know about the cannabis plant – beyond the flower? We all love the flower of course, but the plant is more than simply the delicious nugs – and it takes a lot of love, expertise, and magic to get a cannabis plant to grow those trichome-laden nugs, much less get it to flower successfully and yield a good harvest. Let’s take a look at the anatomy of the plant as a whole!
For all intents and purposes, there are two ways to start growing the cannabis plant: by seed, or by getting a clone of a mother plant. This is a crucial point in the grow process, as seedlings and young plants require time and attention to ensure they are on their way to being healthy plants. A strict (and correct) light cycle is necessary, and the plants must be trained well to ensure they grow nice and strong.
One of the sure signs of a healthy cannabis plant is a strong root system. This consists of one main root with additional roots growing off that one, and yet more growing off those roots – think about it like a road that has a Y-intersection every 100 feet! These root systems are needed in order for the plant to get nutrients and resources from the substrate.
At the top of the root system is the stem. Ideally, this is strong, thick, and fairly firm. Branching off from the stem is, well, branches. Depending on the genetics of the plant and the conditions it’s growing in, the main stem can be tall with ample space between the branches, or the plant can be stocky and dense. Generally, sativa plants are taller and lankier, while indica plants tend to be short and squat in contrast.
Despite the indica/sativa classification, the size and shape of the plant do not necessarily indicate the cannabinoid or terpene profiles which is why Ajoya utilizes experience categories at retail. Learn more about that here.
The point where the stem and the branches meet is known as the node; the node has an important visual cue to let you know the sex of the plant. On a female plant, there is an extended stigma that is used to catch pollen. On the male plant, you’ll see a round sac containing pollen.
All along the branches are the leaves of the cannabis plant! This is a very familiar motif to many, as this would be the ‘weed leaf’ that is all over pop and smoker culture worldwide. These leaves are known as ‘fan leaves’; their job is to absorb light and produce nutrients for the plant through photosynthesis.
At the ends of the branches, and at some points along the branch of a healthy, flowering plant you’ll see the fruits of our labor – the flower itself! This is the part of the plant that can be referred to as ‘nugs’ and is what is actually smoked, vaped, or otherwise consumed.
Covering the flower, you’ll see what look like granules of sugar – these are known as trichomes. Trichomes under a microscope look less like sugar and more like the antenna of a snail. They have a base that reaches out from the flower, and ends with an orb – the base and orb are full of the cannabinoids and terpenes – which is what actually influences the effects the flower will have on the user! Different genetics will change the amounts, types, and ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes contained in the trichomes.
Trichomes aren’t just on the flower, though – they also emerge from the leaves, stems, and calyxes all over the plant. These help to protect the plant against external elements and predators.
Under the trichomes, you’ll find the female reproductive organs – by peeling away the bracteole, pistil, bract finally the style, the ovule is revealed. Shooting back out from style is the stigma – these are the ‘hairs’ you might be familiar with on flower. These can be quite vibrant and varied, ranging from reds to purples to greens. Despite adding a ton of visual excitement, the color and vibrancy of this stigma do little in terms of consumption.
At the ends of some of the branches, and at the top of the stem lives the cola. This is the densest flower section, and can be quite large! Some have been known to be as long and thick as a human forearm, and many can extend beyond this!
On the cola, you can find sugar leaves throughout. These are often referred to as ‘trim’ in the harvesting and post-harvest events in the production of cannabis. Due to the abundance of trichomes on these leaves, edibles, concentrates and other infused products can be derived from the sugar leaves, as well as the flower itself.
Now that you know a lot more about the anatomy of the cannabis plant, feel empowered to continue learning. There is so much more about the anatomy of the cannabis plant, and how genetics and environment can greatly influence its growth – and still, much to be discovered!