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Female vs. Male Cannabis Plants

female-vs-male-cannabis-plants

In nature, reproduction among plants comes in many different forms. One type of reproduction occurs with hermaphrodite plants, which grow flowers that all display both female and male reproductive organs. Secondly, there are monoecious plants that produce separate female and male flowers growing on the same plant. The third reproductive category of flowering plants are called dioecious plants, meaning those with flowers that are either entirely female or entirely male. This last category is the one in which cannabis falls.

Cannabis cultivators use this distinctive male vs. female characteristic to their advantage, depending on what their needs are. For example, if cultivating solely for production, a grower will keep only female cannabis plants – since only females produce trichomes containing THC and other cannabinoids. If a grower’s goal is to achieve new strain genetics, however, they’ll need to cross-pollinate two types of plants and sow the resulting seeds.

In commercial cannabis cultivation, it’s important to know the source and characteristics of the plants we grow. That’s why to ensure consistency, licensed producers like Zenabis will grow from clones and feminized seeds.

Feminized seeds are cannabis seeds that have monoecious or hermaphrodite qualities, despite being naturally dioecious. This can be induced in a few ways, most of which involve spraying the seeds with a special solution, but we won’t get into that. All you need to know is that these feminized seeds will produce plants that are nearly genetically identical to the female parent plant.

How do I find out the sex of a cannabis plant?

The easiest way to identify whether you’re dealing with a female or male cannabis plant is by its physical appearance.

For those who are home-growing for the first time, you’ll be able to see which sex your cannabis plant is weeks before they flower. This stage is called “pre-flowering.” This begins at around four weeks; by the sixth week, you should be able to easily identify the sex of your plant based on these pre-flowers. The reproductive organs of the plant will look different according to its sex: male plants have small, round nodes and pollen sacs (see above) whereas female plants have hair-like stigma which serve to trap or spread pollen.

At least initially, pre-flowers might be difficult to spot because of how small they are. Some cultivators choose to use a magnifying glass to get a better glimpse. Out of all the methods out there for determining the sex of your plant, looking at pre-flower formation is by far the most reliable. By identifying the sex of your plant early on, you can remove the male plants, thus freeing up room in your cultivation space for the females to grow larger and stronger. Additionally, it prevents males from pollinating the female plants – if seeds in your buds aren’t what you’re after.

What should I do with the male plants?

male cannabis plant

Most often, male plants are discarded, unless you’re breeding for specific genetics. But before you throw your poor males into the compost, you might be surprised to learn that they can be quite useful. For one thing, you can use the male plants for extraction purposes. Although males have a much lower cannabinoid content compared to females, they do have some in their leaves, stems, and sacs. If you’re someone who does extractions at home, you can get the most out of your cannabis plants by holding on to your males.

Another consideration is that male cannabis plants, like females, produce terpenes. Alongside their ability to give strains their unique aromatic and flavour profiles, terpenes help with pest and disease control. It might not be a bad idea to keep a male cannabis plant in your garden – granted, of course, that it is well separated from your female cannabis plants.

Can a cannabis plant become a hermaphrodite?

Yes, we told you at the opening that cannabis plants aren’t hermaphrodites. And that’s true – for the most part. While most cannabis plants are either female or male, under specific conditions they can become hermaphrodites.

Hermaphrodite cannabis plants express both sex organs, and for that reason they can self-pollinate. This tends to occur when a number of stressors are applied to the plant, such as plant damage, bad weather, disease, and various nutrient deficiencies.

It’s important to monitor your plants on a regular basis, particularly if they’ve been exposed to one or more of the above stressors. If your plant displays signs of “herming” (becoming a hermaphrodite plant), you’ll want to get rid of it to avoid pollinating your whole crop and passing on the hermaphrodite genetic trait.


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