Wondering which parts of marijuana you can smoke? We’re here to help with this simple guide to cannabis plant anatomy. Below, we’re going over everything you need to know about all the different parts of marijuana. We’ll cover which parts of marijuana you can smoke, what the other parts of the plant do, the difference between male and female cannabis plants, and more.
Marijuana Plant Anatomy
With its long stems and large fan leaves, the marijuana plant looks like many other flowering plants. However, the compact, bud-like flowers of the marijuana plant give it a distinctive look. Marijuana flowers are also the main reason humans love marijuana so much. Marijuana flowers, dense in cannabinoids like THC and CBD, are the part of marijuana people smoke.
While marijuana flowers are the most loved part of the marijuana plant, they’re just one part of this wonderful flora. Let’s go over all the parts of the marijuana plant, starting with the seed that grows the plant and ending with the plant’s highly coveted flower.
Like many plants, cannabis plants grow from seeds. These seeds are produced inside female cannabis flowers after they’re pollinated by male cannabis plants. Note, however, that you probably won’t find seeds inside the cannabis flower you buy at a dispensary. Modern marijuana growers generally want to produce sinsemilla (seedless) cannabis flowers, so they will take care to make sure their female plants are not pollinated by male plants.
After a cannabis seed successfully germinates, it will sprout tiny cotyledon leaves. As a cannabis plant grows, its first true leaves will start to grow from inside its cotyledon leaves. These cotyledon leaves will then fall off, leaving the true leaves in their place.
Cannabis plants grow roots from their seed and from their main stem. Healthy root growth is critical for a cannabis plant, as roots deliver water and nutrients from the soil to the rest of the plant.
The stem of a cannabis plant is a central column that provides support for the plant’s branches. A cannabis plant’s stem may also be called its main stem or its stalk. Cannabis stems can grow quite high. Cannabis sativa plants can stretch up to 10 feet tall, while indica strains can grow to around 6 feet in height. However, growers often use techniques to avoid tall “stretching” of the stalk in order to encourage more branch and flower production.
Branches are offshoots that sprout from a cannabis plant’s main stem. Branches provide support and space for leaves, which are needed for photosynthesis. Branches also help deliver water and nutrients throughout a cannabis plant.
Nodes are the areas of a cannabis plant where branches and the plant’s main stem meet. Cannabis flowers grow at node sites.
Internodes are the spaces between nodes along a cannabis plant’s main stem.
Fan leaves are an iconic part of the cannabis plant. These large cannabis leaves grow together in groups shaped like fans upon the plant’s branches, reaching out to catch light and conduct photosynthesis. Fan leaves are often used as a symbol for marijuana, but note that they are not what people smoke to experience psychoactive effects. Fan leaves contain only a trace amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Cannabis flowers, also called “buds,” are reproductive organs that only grow on female marijuana plants. Cannabis flowers are the part of marijuana that people smoke, so they’re the main reason people cultivate marijuana plants. People smoke marijuana flowers because they contain high amounts of cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, that can provide psychoactive effects or health effects. Marijuana flowers are also rich in terpenes, which give the flowers distinctive aromas and tastes.
Cannabis flowers grow at a female plant’s nodes and are made up of many small parts, including:
- Bract: A bract is a group of small tear-shaped growths that are heavily coated in resin glands, which are what produce cannabinoids. A bract grows around the flower’s ovule and makes up the core body of the cannabis flower.
- Calyx: A calyx is a translucent layer of delicate tissue that encloses a cannabis flower’s ovule, which rests inside the base of the flower’s bract.
- Sugar Leaves: Sugar leaves are small, thin leaves that protrude from cannabis flowers. Sugar leaves produce resin, which looks like a frosty coating on the leaves, hence their name. Sugar leaves do not produce as much resin as the body of the flower itself, but they can still be used for their cannabinoids. Sugar leaves are trimmed off by growers before flower buds are sold. This “trim” may be used to make various cannabis products, including kief, pre-rolls, and edibles.
- Pistils and Stigmas: The pistil is a part of a cannabis flower’s reproductive system. Pistils feature hair like strands called stigmas, which reach out from the flower, ready to collect pollen. When stigmas first sprout, they’re white in color, but they darken as the cannabis plant matures, turning yellow, orange, red, or brown. The color of a flower’s stigmas can help a grower decide when to harvest the flower.
- Trichomes: Trichomes are resin-producing glands that grow all over a cannabis flower. From a distance, trichomes look like tiny, translucent hairs. Up close, you can see that trichomes have a bulbous tip that gives them a mushroom-like shape. Trichomes produce a sticky, aromatic resin that helps cannabis flowers ward off predators and survive the elements. This resin also happens to contain high amounts of cannabinoids, which cause various effects when they interact with the receptors in the human body’s endocannabinoid system.
If they’ve been pollinated by a male cannabis plant, cannabis flowers will also produce seeds. However, growers usually want to avoid having seeds in their flower, so they avoid risking pollination. Growers typically want to avoid having seeds in their flower because they want to increase the amount of resin on their flower. If a flower is spending its energy on creating seeds, it will have less energy to create trichomes and resin. That’s why sensimilla (seedless) cannabis flower usually has a higher potency compared to seeded cannabis flower.
Understanding Female vs. Male Marijuana Plants
The cannabis flower people smoke comes from female marijuana plants, not male marijuana plants. Male marijuana plants produce pollen sacs, rather than flowers, on their nodes. Since male plants don’t grow resin-packed flowers, they’re rather low in cannabinoids like THC. While it may technically be possible to smoke large amounts of a male marijuana marijuana plant and experience short-term psychoactive side effects, attempting to do so would probably be a lot more trouble than it’s worth. That’s why male cannabis plants are usually grown solely for cross breeding purposes, rather than for recreational or medical cannabis use.
How to Smoke Marijuana
So, the flowers of female cannabis plants are what people consume to experience the effects of cannabis. But how do people use them?
There are many, many ways to consume marijuana. Smoking marijuana is a popular option, since smoking cannabis provides a fast onset of effects. People who smoke marijuana grind their flower and then smoke it in a joint, a bong, a water pipe, or another smoking vessel. Vaping cannabis using a vaporizer is another popular consumption method with a fast onset. Many people find vapes to be a convenient alternative to traditional smoking that provides a similar experience. Another alternative to smoking cannabis is using edibles. Plenty of people, especially those who are concerned about the long-term effects of smoking, prefer taking in their cannabinoids via edible products like cannabis brownies, gummies, tinctures, teas, or CBD oils.
We hope this guide to cannabis plant anatomy has been helpful to anyone who’s looking to get a better understanding of marijuana. As always, if you have any questions about marijuana or marijuana use, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always happy to share our cannabis knowledge with our customers. You can get in touch with us by messaging us through our website or by calling your local Essence Dispensary location.
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