The cannabis plant is a complex living structure that goes through several stages of life before it can be harvested for the buds we know and love. While most cannabis plants may look the same, there are actually important genetic differences that set them apart. Keep reading to find out more about the cannabis plant and how it grows!
Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant
There are four main components to a (female) cannabis plant: stems, leaves, nodes, and colas.
Stems are necessary in order to provide structure for a plant. Apart from the main stem that holds a plant upright, smaller stems grow outwards to provide structure to the leaves that develop all over the plant.
The spot where a leaf stem meets the main stem is called a node. The leaves that grow on cannabis plants do not contain anywhere near the same level of cannabinoids or terpenes, but still have a variety of uses, like being used to make hash. Last but certainly not least, a female cannabis plant will develop colas: clusters of resinous buds that grow closely together, usually near the top of the plant.
Males and Females
Unlike most flowering plants, cannabis plants are gendered. While both genders serve their purpose, only female plants are used for growing cannabis. This is because only female plants grow the resinous, trichome-covered buds that you find on dispensary shelves.
Instead of developing buds, male plants develop pollination pods that are dropped in the vicinity of female plants, allowing them to fertilize any nearby female plant. However, once female plants have been fertilized, they are no longer capable of growing the same potent and resinous pistils. As such, growers must be careful to remove any male plants from their grow room before they have a chance to alter female plant production.
Growth Stages of a Cannabis Plant
A cannabis plant goes through several growth stages before it can finally be harvested and prepared for consumption. There are four main stages in a cannabis plant’s life: germination (5–10 days), seedling (2–3 weeks), vegetative (3–16 weeks), and flowering (8–11 weeks).
During the germination phase, the seed is planted and supplied with water and light in order to get it to ‘pop’ and begin sprouting an actual plant. The seedling phase is where the tiny sprout begins to develop leaves with full blades, making it look more like an actual cannabis plant than just a sprouted seed. The vegetative phase is where the plant’s growth really takes off, growing in height and developing new stems, branches, and leaves. Last but not least comes the flowering stage where cannabis plants begin to grow the colas and resinous buds that they are prized for.
After a plant goes through every stage, it is then ready for harvesting, curing, and consumption.
The Differences Between Indica And Sativa
Not all cannabis plants are the same. While all female and all male cannabis plants have the same anatomical parts, not all plants contain the same genetics. Depending on their genetic makeup, plants are usually classified as being either sativa (or sativa-dominant hybrid) or indica (or indica-dominant hybrid).
There are several differences between indicas and sativas. For starters, sativas tend to grow much taller and lankier than indicas. Sativas can reach as high as 2 meters in length, whereas indicas prefer to remain short, bushy, and low to the ground. Despite this, most sativas actually produce fewer cannabis buds by weight than their indica counterparts.
Additionally, sativas also tend to have a longer flowering time than indica plants. While most indicas flower within 8–9 weeks, sativas can take anywhere from 10–16 months to finish their flowering stage.