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Understanding Male, Female, And Hermaphrodite Cannabis

When you grow cannabis plants, they will either turn out as females, males, or hermaphrodites, meaning a hybrid of the two sexes. Knowing the difference between the three is vital to maintaining a strong growing operation, whether you’re planning on crossbreeding strains, maximising the yield of your female plants, or studying each of the types.

A guide to differentiating between male, female, and hermaphrodite cannabis plants.

  • 1. Why does it matter that cannabis is dioecious?
  • 2. Male vs female cannabis: What’s the difference?
  • 3. Hermaphrodites: When cannabis plants become monoecious
  • 4. How to identify different sexes of cannabis plants
  • 4.a. Identifying male cannabis plants
  • 4.b. Identifying female cannabis plants
  • 4.c. Identifying hermaphrodite cannabis plants
  • 5. Types of hermaphrodite cannabis plants
  • 6. How to avoid hermaphrodite plants in your grow room
  • 7. What type of cannabis seeds are good for breeding?
  • 1. Why does it matter that cannabis is dioecious?
  • 2. Male vs female cannabis: What’s the difference?
  • 3. Hermaphrodites: When cannabis plants become monoecious
  • 4. How to identify different sexes of cannabis plants
  • 4.a. Identifying male cannabis plants
  • 4.b. Identifying female cannabis plants
  • 4.c. Identifying hermaphrodite cannabis plants
  • 5. Types of hermaphrodite cannabis plants
  • 6. How to avoid hermaphrodite plants in your grow room
  • 7. What type of cannabis seeds are good for breeding?

From psychoactive cannabinoids to aromatic terpenes, cannabis features many traits that make it unique within the plant kingdom. However, the uniqueness of the plant doesn’t stop at the phytochemicals it produces.

See, the vast majority of plant species are monoecious, a term meaning they possess both male and female reproductive organs. These include edible plants, such as corn and squashes, that can readily fertilise their own flowers using their own pollen.

Cannabis belongs to a minority of species that are dioecious in nature, meaning they produce separate male and female plants. Specifically, it should be noted that only 7% of all angiosperms (flowering plant species) possess this rare and interesting trait.

WHY DOES IT MATTER THAT CANNABIS IS DIOECIOUS?

Cannabis growers and breeders use this trait to their advantage, since it allows them to separate male and female plants. This enables them to prevent the flowers from becoming fertilised and going to seed, which results in better quality flowers, known as sinsemilla.

It also means cannabis growers have more control when it comes to crossing specific males and females together. They can choose two healthy and vigorous specimens, place them close together, and produce progeny that express certain traits.

Let’s take a deeper look into male and female cannabis plants. From there, we’ll see what causes some specimens to develop both male and female reproductive organs.

MALE VS FEMALE CANNABIS: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Male and female plants look identical during the seedling and vegetative phases. But, as they begin to transition into the flowering phase, plants finally begin to reveal their sex. During this time, females produce resinous buds loaded with cannabinoids, and males form sacs filled with pollen.

Female cannabis plants are the main focus of casual growers looking to harvest a personal stash. But, depending on their genetics, female plants can look drastically different from one another. Some remain small, producing dense canopies and significant lateral growth. Others grow in excess of 3m, produce massive harvests, and look more like trees than regular garden plants.

Despite their differences, all female plants share one thing in common: they produce flowers. These flowers, colloquially known as buds, possess small glandular structures called trichomes that produce cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.

Male plants, in contrast, don’t produce flowers. This makes them less valuable for growers seeking only buds. However, they do produce pollen sacs. These small vessels create the genetic material required to fertilise female flowers and create hybrids. This makes the males extremely important for breeding new cannabis strains.

It should also be noted that male pollen sacs and female flowers develop at the same point on the plant. Both structures emerge from nodes, the point at which branches meet the main stem. So, when you see buds starting to form on some plants, start looking for pollen sacs too.

HERMAPHRODITES: WHEN CANNABIS PLANTS BECOME MONOECIOUS

Cannabis, like those who love it, doesn’t always stick to the rules, though. Sometimes, this dioecious plant species goes against the grain and develops both male and female reproductive organs. These specimens are known as hermaphrodites. Either genetic or environmental factors, or both, can cause plants to develop this unusual trait. Having both buds and pollen sacs, they end up developing the ability to pollinate and reproduce with themselves.

Of course, growers want to avoid this phenomenon if they’re aiming for the best flowers possible. We’ll dive deeper into what causes hermaphroditism and how to avoid it below.

HOW TO IDENTIFY DIFFERENT SEXES OF CANNABIS PLANTS

The ability to determine plant sex as early as possible is a critical skill for cannabis growers. As you develop this eye for identifying plant sex, you will be able to prevent any accidental pollination.

  • The goal: find the males and move them out of your grow room or garden as quickly as possible. The sex of a plant becomes fairly obvious during the early flowering stage, but time is of the essence in that regard. The quicker you can identify and remove male plants, the more you reduce the chances of accidental fertilisation.

IDENTIFYING MALE CANNABIS PLANTS

Growers identify plant sex by identifying pre-flowers, which are small structures that form at the nodes during late vegetation.

During the early flowering stage, take a stroll around your grow room or garden with a magnifying glass or jeweller’s loupe. Inspect a few nodes on each plant to see how far along into the flowering process they are. At this stage, you won’t see any obvious flowers or pollen sacs. Instead, you’re looking for young pre-flowers. Although these tiny structures look similar, they have distinct features that allow growers to tell them apart.

Male pre-flowers look like tiny green eggs or “balls”. These young pollen sacs will look smooth and won’t possess any fine hairs, or any distinct point. Later into the flowering stage, pollen sacs begin to form larger and denser clusters. They’ll become easy to identify with the naked eye by this point. However, pollen sacs usually begin to disperse their contents around 2–3 weeks after forming. Be sure to remove them from your space with haste if you don’t plan on crossing your plants.

IDENTIFYING FEMALE CANNABIS PLANTS

Female pre-flowers also develop at the nodes. You can distinguish them based on one obvious visual characteristic: hairs. Female pre-flowers feature tear-drop shaped calyxes with small hairs protruding from the tip. These small hairs, known as pistils, are the sex organs of female cannabis flowers.

These protruding structures are designed to capture pollen, which leads to fertilisation. They stick out away from the flower to capture pollen from the air, and to await being brushed up against by pollen-covered insects.

Within a matter of weeks, these small pre-flowers swell into dense nuggets and begin churning out cannabinoid and terpene-rich resin. Since you the removed males and prevented pollination, your flowers will continuously produce resin until the end of the growing cycle.

IDENTIFYING HERMAPHRODITE CANNABIS PLANTS

Several factors can cause female plants to start to develop pollen sacs—or exposed stamens—alongside their flowers. This trait means that plants don’t need to rely on a nearby male to burst their sacs and fertilise them. As we’ll discuss in a bit, this is actually a savvy survival mechanism and a display of nature’s genius. However, hermaphrodites aren’t desirable in the grow room or garden. Now, let’s discuss both types and how to avoid the issues they cause.

TYPES OF HERMAPHRODITE CANNABIS PLANTS

Hermaphrodite cannabis plants come in two different forms: true hermaphrodites and “bananas”.

The former features distinctly male and female reproductive organs. Upon close inspection, you’ll notice pollen sacs occupying some nodes, and female flowers residing at others. When the pollen sacs rupture, the pollen will displace into the flowers, and the plant will effectively breed with itself. From there, it’ll go to seed and produce the subsequent generation.

“Banana” hermaphrodites get their name from their physical characteristics. Instead of producing separate organs, they develop a bare pollen-producing stamen within the female flower. This naked appendage drops pollen directly onto buds to ensure self-reproduction. These stamens share a similar shape and colour to a certain tropical fruit, hence their name.

HOW TO AVOID HERMAPHRODITE PLANTS IN YOUR GROW ROOM

Hermaphroditism stems from two major driving factors: stress and genetics. In regards to stress, hermaphroditism serves as a survival mechanism. If a plant experiences damage, heat, disease, or nutrient deficiencies, they start to freak out. Essentially, plants get the impression that their time is up. In a last-ditch attempt to reproduce, they decide to stop waiting around for a male and get the job done themselves.

To avoid this issue, try to maintain a stable environment in your grow room. Use a thermo-hygrometer to monitor temperature and humidity, keep your light schedule strict, and ensure your plants get all the nutrients they require.

Even if you have all of these bases covered, plants can still pollinate themselves due to poor genetics. Plants with a bad genetic history and too much genetic variation are prone to becoming hermaphrodites. For this reason, it’s important to shop with reputable companies that offer high-quality seeds with stable genetics.

WHAT TYPE OF CANNABIS SEEDS ARE USED FOR BREEDING?

If you want to try breeding, you’re going to need regular cannabis seeds, and Royal Queen Seeds offers a premium range. In contrast to feminized seeds that produce only female specimens, regular seeds offer a 50% chance of the plant being male or female.

These seeds provide breeders with an army of males and females to experiment with. Cross the very best specimens together to create your own unique strains that match your taste. However, if you’re growing for nothing but buds, you can still use them for their stable and trusty genetics. As you may know, regular seeds provide excellent mother plants to produce clones and amazing yields. You’ll have to spot male plants, but the payoff will be more than worth it.

Cannabis plants can be male, female, or hermaphrodites. Knowing the difference can make or break your cannabis operation. Find out their differences inside!

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Female plants take a bit longer than males to show signs of gender after flowering. The plants begin to develop a few wispy white hairs where the buds will soon grow. These flowers begin to form between the stalk and stem. Female pistils are always white (never green).

Cannabis Plants: Male, female and hermaphrodite

Determining the gender of your cannabis plants is the first step to a successful grow. Female plants are the only ones that produce bud cannabis. While it is fairly easy to spot the gender difference, cannabis does come with a curveball. Plants can also be hermaphrodites. And female plants can switch to this state during growing stress.

Cannabis plants are not gender neutral. There are female plants, from which the actual bud flower comes. Male plants produce the pollen. However, the cannabis plant is a bit odd in this respect. Female plants can turn hermaphrodite in certain circumstances – meaning they are both male and female. This happens in a situation where the plant is highly stressed, and fears for its ongoing survival. It becomes both genders as a last resort to self-pollinate and continue to spread seeds.

CANNABIS IS FROM BOTH MARS AND VENUS

Regular cannabis seeds are usually about 50% male and 50% female. The female plants produce bud cannabis. Male plants produce seed pods. They can also produce tiny amounts of THC via trichomes on the leaves. However, if you are not growing your cannabis as a science experiment don’t mess with male plants. It is a waste of time.

Obviously, particularly to the non-expert, all seeds look alike. That is why it is so important when growing cannabis, to buy seeds from a dealer or seed bank. While the plant is in the early stages of growing, it is also impossible to determine gender.

There is only one more problem. Cannabis plants can be both male and female in the right circumstances.

CANNABIS AND THE SEXES

Cannabis is actually much like other plants – with most having this ability. In essence, female plants have the ability to develop male characteristics. This usually occurs thanks to environmental stress. Plants will develop male characteristics at a certain point in the grow cycle in an effort to ensure seeds are produced before the stressor can kill the plant.

Such stress includes changes to hours of darkness during flowering, dramatic changes in temperature, drought and physical damage.

There are other environmental factors which can stress a plant into a sex conversion. This includes as a reaction to insects or disease. It can also occur with the use or overuse of certain kinds of pesticides and fungicides.

However, this tendency is also considered to be a sign of inferior plants. A good mother plant will not show signs of hermaphroditism even when subjected to this kind of stress. All cannabis can turn, but high-quality genetics will resist the urge the most.

As in the human world, hermaphrodite plants are considered a bit strange. In the cannabis one, they are dreaded. Breeders suggest removing such plants from a grow. The reason? They could create accidental pollination of the buds. If a pollen sac from one of these plants is allowed to come in contact with the buds of other plants, those buds will stop developing. They will instead, produce more flowers and seeds.

WHEN DO CANNABIS PLANTS SHOW GENDER?

The first sign of gender appears at the V shape on the plant where stalk meets stem. The plant will develop little green shoots or pre-flowers here. The plant may show pre-flowers when in the vegetative or growing stage. This is also more the case when the plant is a clone.

However, there are other ways to find out if any of your plants are hermaphrodites. The first is to check the kind of flowers they produce. The second comes at the end of the growing process. However, it is important to check before you grow the next time. If you find seeds in your harvested bud and you know you have no males, you have a hermaphrodite plant.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

The first answer is an established breeder. The best way to start with an all-female crop is to buy the feminized seeds from an established source.

However, since this is a problem that will not disappear during the growing process, here are some guidelines for checking your grow.

Female plants take a bit longer than males to show signs of gender after flowering. The plants begin to develop a few wispy white hairs where the buds will soon grow. These flowers begin to form between the stalk and stem. Female pistils are always white (never green).

Male plants literally have grape-sized “balls” of pollen. The balls will show up about a week or two after the plant has entered the flowering stage. They also produce a growth that is a distinct yellow colour and look a bit like bananas.

If the male is allowed to continue growing, the pollen sacs will burst open. The pollen they spill can contaminate your other plants.

Hermaphrodite plants have both male and female flowers. That is also why it is so important to remove them.

ISN’T THIS LIKE ROCKET SCIENCE?

While it sounds complicated, it really isn’t. Growers who start with the right seeds and maintain a healthy grow environment do not have many problems. For this reason, however, it is important to watch your cannabis plants.

It is fairly easy to spot the difference in buds as the plants mature. That is also why it is generally a good idea to grow more than one plant – even the first time. Observation, practice and patience are the keys to a good and healthy grow. Feminized seeds produce femal plants 99% of time, and should one turn hemaphrodite, simply take care to remove it.

I have an indoor growroom and in my recent harvest I found seeds in the buds, but I’m sure there are no male plants in the room. I’ve heard that light leakage can cause plants to become hermaphrodites. Is this true, and if so, do you have any tips for avoiding this?

Why am I seeing seeds in the buds of my cannabis plants?

I have an indoor growroom and in my recent harvest I found seeds in the buds, but I’m sure there are no male plants in the room. I’ve heard that light leakage can cause plants to become hermaphrodites. Is this true, and if so, do you have any tips for avoiding this?

Cannabis plants are monecious. This means they have the ability to be either male or female. Or in the case of hermaphroditism, they can be both. The reason to make sure there are no males or hermaphrodites in your garden is because male flowers make pollen. When pollen touches the white hairs on a flower, it makes a seed, and seeded weed gives you headaches. Even though there are reasons in nature hermaphroditism could be important, such as continuing the species in case there is no male present, hermaphroditism is generally a bad thing when talking about cannabis plants.

Light poisoning is the most common cause for a normal plant to hermaphrodite. Light poisoning refers to the flowering night cycle of a plant being unnaturally interrupted with light. The best way to prevent this is to close yourself inside your darkened room during the daylight, and then after allowing a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, check for any light leaks from covered windows, door jams, etc. Also cover all timer and appliance lights with tape.

Negative stressors can combine with small interruptions of the light cycle to cause hermaphroditism, especially with less-stable, clone-only hybridized strains. When the night cycle is abnormally interrupted, it sends a mixed hormonal signal to the plant. This can cause a full female plant to throw some male flowers. Male flowers are easy to identify, especially when side by side with female flowers. Male flowers look like small bunches of bananas, which will take a week or two to swell before they burst and release their pollen.

Finding a hermaphrodite in your growroom can happen at any stage of the flowering cycle and is indicated by the presence of male flowers growing on the same plant as female flowers. As with all species in nature this can occur in varying degrees. A plant can become slightly or majorly hermaphroditic. In cases where singular male flowers are found between the branch and stalk nodes, you should be diligently removing them as they grow. You must re-inspect the plant top to bottom every few days to be sure pollination and seeding doesn’t occur. If you find male flowers (anthers) actually growing from within the female flowers (buds) the situation is a little more dire. You can still remove all the male anatomy as it appears, but it will be harder to find and much more prevalent. This is a horrible discovery that leads to a tough decision: Should you let the plant live and risk the whole crop being ruined by seeds?

In either case, once hermaphroditism has compromised the safety and purity of your sensimilla, the plant should not be propagated further. Remember, once a hermy, always a hermy. The plant pictured here is in the tenth and what should have been the final week of ripening, but a timer failed and one light stayed on continuously for almost two weeks, causing this vegetative regrowth. Because the light was continuous, the plant made no pollen. This method of re-vegging can be used to save a flowering plant you have no copies of, but be careful, as this may cause some strains to hermaphrodite.

Purposefully causing a plant to hermaphrodite is called selfing. Gibberellic acid or colloidal silver is typically sprayed onto the female plant. This technique is used to make feminized seeds and uses the plant’s ability to be both male and female to force a female plant to produce male flowers. The pollen contained in these male flowers can only produce female seeds. Just keep in mind that feminized plants should not be used for breeding, as they were produced without a true male, making them genetically inferior.

Female plants take a bit longer than males to show signs of gender after flowering. The plants begin to develop a few wispy white hairs where the buds