Parts of the cannabis plant
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- Types of weed plants
- How to tell male from female marijuana plants
- How to propagate cannabis plants
Cannabis grows in a variety of climates around the world and can be used in many applications: rope, biofuel, paper, and many medical and recreational uses. The plant is part of the Cannabaceae family, which also includes hops. It is further classified as Cannabis sativa L . Each part of the plant serves a purpose and while the whole of a cannabis plant is certainly greater than the sum of its parts, knowing its parts can inform your experience and appreciation of it. Below are descriptions of each of the plant’s parts and the functions they perform.
Each part of the cannabis plant serves a purpose.
The flowers of the female marijuana plant can be identified by their small teardrop structures, which consist of pistils attached to bracts. Cannabis flowers are usually covered with a frosty-looking coating of trichomes, with a heavier density of trichomes making for a more desirable flower.
The main part of the flower, at the end of a female plant’s stem is composed of many small floral clusters. In general, the bigger, heavier, and more densely covered in trichomes a cola is, the better quality it will be, although some cultivars will naturally grow flowers that are more loosely structured and airy.
The small leaves that surround the reproductive cells of a female weed plant. When a female plant is exposed to pollen from a male marijuana plant, the bracts surround and shield the seed pod.
Marijuana trichomes are hairlike appendages found on the surface of the cannabis plant. Trichomes protect the plant from external stressors and contain resinous glands that create flavonoids, cannabinoids and terpenes — the chemical compounds that give the marijuana plant its unique features and effects. Trichomes give cannabis buds a crystal-like sheen and make them sticky feeling.
Within the glandular trichomes, there are three main types: bulbous, capitate-sessile and capitate-stalked.
Non-glandular trichomes are called cystoliths. Bulbous trichomes are tiny bulbs that are sparsely located throughout the entire plant, but are so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Capitate-sessile trichomes are more abundant than bulbous trichomes, found on the underside of the sugar leaves and fan leaves, but are usually only visible through a microscope. Capitate-stalked trichomes are shaped like mushrooms and contain a large trichome head at the top of the stalk. These are the trichomes that can be easily seen on the cannabis flower surface.
The point at which the stem and leaf intersect. Nodes can hold one or more leaves or offshoots. As explained below, nodes are important to be familiar with, as they are where cannabis plants begin to grow either pollen sacs (male cannabis plants) or pistils (female cannabis plants). Understanding the sex of a marijuana plant is crucial to the final product, since only female plants produce flowers and since non-pollinated flowers are far superior than pollinated buds when it comes to consumption.
Leaves are important components of a weed plant, and there are actually a couple types of marijuana leaves. The large, protruding leaves that appear along the length of the plant are called fan leaves. Theses leaves are essential to the living plant’s photosynthesis, but are always removed from the finished, harvested product.
As opposed to fan leaves, sugar leaves are small leaves found throughout cannabis colas’ cupping buds that are typically trimmed off the flower after harvest. They are called “sugar leaves” because of the high volume of trichomes found on them, which makes it look like the leaves are covered in sugar. Sugar leaf trim can be used to make edibles or concentrates.
The main support structure of the marijuana plant, the stem transports fluids, nutrients, and information from the roots to the rest of the weed plant. The stem provides a foundation to give fan leaves access to the light they need to facilitate growth and carries the weight of heavy colas.
Pistils vs. stigmas
There is often a lot of confusion surrounding pistils and stigmas, with many people confusing one of the other. Here’s a quick breakdown on the difference between the two important cannabis plant components.
What is a pistil?
The pistil is the primary piece of the female flower’s reproductive system, comprising a single ovule with two protruding stigmas.
What are stigmas?
The thin hairs that extend from a female’s bract to catch male pollen. They are commonly confused with pistils. Knowing how to identify stigmas is an important part of growing weed, as these are the telltale signs that a plant is female and will therefore produce the cannabinoid-rich flowers you’re trying to harvest.
Cannabis grows in a variety of climates around the world and can be used in many applications: rope, biofuel, paper, and many medical and recreational uses. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Types of weed plants
If you want to stay in touch with the origins of your favorite cannabis products, knowing the ins and outs of the plant at the industry’s core is a good place to start. And that includes knowing not only the specific parts of a cannabis plant, but also the different types and strains of weed that exist.
Along with understanding the various parts of a marijuana plant, you should also know about the different types of cannabis. While there are long-held claims about the effects that sativas, indicas, and hybrids offer, current research suggests that the effects of cannabis are determined by a person’s endocannabinoid system and the plant-specific cannabinoid profile.
Despite that, cannabis is typically classified in the following four categories:
- Indica: Indica-leaning weed plants tend to produce dense, fat, heavy buds during the flowering stage. These strains are typically believed to give consumers a “body high” instead of a more cerebral high.
- Sativa: Sativa plants tend to produce buds that are airy and more formed than indica plants. Sativa strains of the weed plant are often said to offer users a more cerebral, energetic, “buzzy” highs.
- Hybrid: As a blend of sativa and indica, hybrid strains are generally believed to give you a more balanced high.
- Hemp: Hemp plants are part of the cannabis family, but they differ from a regular weed plant in that they produce only trace amounts of THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects of the marijuana plant. In the U.S., the 2018 Farm Bill specified hemp as a cannabis plant containing up to 0.3% THC. However, hemp plants produce a number of other important cannabinoids, most notably cannabidiol (CBD), and their fibers are used to produce a range of textiles.
To break it down even further, there are numerous strains within each of the more general categories indica, sativa, and hybrid. Understanding and becoming familiar with these various strains is what will really enable you to target — on a specific level — the type of experience you have when consuming weed.
How to tell male from female marijuana plants
Typically, you will be able to distinguish between male and female cannabis plants when the plant is about six weeks old. To figure out the sex of a marijuana plant , look at the plant’s nodes, where the leaves and branches connect to the main stem.
Male plants will produce pollen sacs that at first look like little tiny balls and then grow into larger clusters of oblong-shaped sacs. Conversely, a female weed plant will produce pistils, which in their early stages look like thin hairs and then eventually start growing into more structured ovules and stigmas.
To figure out the sex of a marijuana plant, look at the plant’s nodes, where the leaves and branches connect to the main stem. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
There is one very important reason why it’s crucial to be able to distinguish male from female plants: Only female plants produce flowers. Because male plants produce pollen sacs, they do not generate any of the buds that people actually harvest and consume. From the perspective of growing weed for human consumption, male plants are really only good for propagating brand new baby plants from seed.
With the exception of consciously choosing to reproduce plants through pollination (as opposed to cloning a female plant), growers must carefully keep male plants away from female plants.
Hermaphrodite plants are a rare monecious plant, meaning it develops both male and female sex organs. Hermaphrodites are primarily formed if a female weed plant is exposed to extreme conditions during key stages of growth. Flowers from hermaphrodite plants will be full of seeds, making them very poor quality for consumption. To avoid this, growers must be experts at spotting both hermaphrodite and male plants early and then getting rid of them before they ruin nearby female plants.
Many breeders produce seeds that are feminized as a way to avoid male genetics. These feminized seeds only carry female genetics, and in most cases, is guaranteed to produce female plants. Another option is to grow auto-flowering strains, which are genetically engineered to automatically flower after a brief vegetative period of two to four weeks.
How to propagate cannabis plants
Knowing the parts of a marijuana plant is necessary for propagating cannabis plants. Propagation refers to the process of using one plant to create new plants. In general, cannabis growers do this in one of two ways:
- Cloning : Cloning is a popular method, as it allows you to get multiple baby plants from a single adult plant, without having to buy seeds or go through the longer process of germinating, planting, and growing a weed plant from seed. To clone a marijuana plant, carefully cut a branch away from the stem right at the node. From there, place the cutting into a growing medium, typically either suspended in water or inserted into a starter plug. When the cutting develops roots you can then transplant it into a larger container or the ground, depending on where you’re going to be growing the plant.
- Seeds: Growing from seed requires you to start from scratch, and is ideally suited to growers who are novices, growers who want to produce a new type or strain than what they’re already growing, and growers who don’t have a plant they want to replicate exactly. To grow a weed plant from seed, place a seed in some sort of starting medium such as rockwool or peat pellets and keep it moist until it sprouts. As the sprout develops leaves and roots, it will start requiring more and more light. When a decent little ball of roots has formed, transplant the baby marijuana plant to a larger container or the ground and proceed to feed, water, and ventilate it until the weed plant reaches maturity.
The cannabis plant has many different parts to it. Learn about the cola, calyx, trichomes and more.
Four Plants That Look Like Weed – Don’t Get Scammed!
If you’ve never smoked weed before and are thinking of giving it a try, you might be worried about someone trying to sell you something that isn’t cannabis. You might even think that someone might try to pass off a plant that looks like marijuana plants as something to smoke.
It’s certainly true that scammers do take advantage of noob smokers by selling them sub-par weed, small amounts, or something that isn’t actually cannabis at all. However, it’s very rare that they’ll use a plant that looks like marijuana. For reasons that we’ll get onto later, it just doesn’t make much sense!
That said, there certainly are times when knowledge of plants that look like cannabis comes in useful. In the last section of this article, we talk about times that you might want to steer clear of planting anything similar looking to weed near your house and also the importance of being vigilant when buying clones or cuttings.
Plants that Look Similar to a Marijuana Plant
The leaves of many species of Japanese maple really look a lot like the leaves of WeedRepublic’s favorite psychoactive plant. They have a serrated edge to them, similar to those on marijuana plants. The formation of the leaves is pretty similar too.
Although seeing a single Japanese maple leaf on the ground might make some people suspect there is a cannabis plant growing somewhere nearby, there are plenty of major differences to tell the two plants apart.
One of the biggest differences is the fact that the leaves of many Japanese maples aren’t even green at all. Some species of the plant do indeed have green leaves but these will commonly have red or purplish stems, which is incredibly rare in healthy marijuana plants.
Most Japanese maple leaves also don’t look that much like cannabis leaves. Sure, they both have five “fingers” to them and the leaves have a serrated edge. However, the splits between the fingers always reach the stem itself on a marijuana plant. This is often not the case on a Japanese maple!
You’re also highly unlikely to get scammed by someone selling you Japanese maple in place of cannabis. We really doubt you’ll be loading up a pipe-like the Squirrel Nest pipe from Empire Glassworks with the plant! Only one of the plants actually produces the aromatic, THC-laden buds we all stick in grinders like the amazing Mendocino Mulcher! No prizes for guessing which one either.
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Texas Star Hibiscus
Another plant that you might mistake for cannabis is known as Texas Star Hibiscus. Again, it’s the highly distinctive leaf formation that is most likely to give rise to confusion. The plant has multi-fingered, serrated leaves growing from thin green stems. Again, seeing a single leaf might trick an inexperienced smoker but we highly doubt someone will try to sell you Texas Star Hibiscus as cannabis.
The plant doesn’t smell anything like cannabis and doesn’t produce flowering sites that are similar to those on cannabis plants. Outside of absolute opportunists selling to very naive, first-time smokers (probably underage ones!), we highly doubt anyone will try to pass off Texas Star Hibiscus as Grade A smoke. We find it even more unlikely that anyone would fall for it too!
Some species of the kenaf plant really look like a weed! In fact, the plant’s scientific name even has “canna” in it. In the field of botany, the plant is also known as hibiscus cannabinus.
Kenaf grows naturally in tropical and subtropical climates. It’s found in Asia and Africa mostly. Just like WeedRepublic’s favorite herb, the plant has been used as both a source of food and fiber for centuries too!
The kenaf plant has a star-shaped leaf with seven fingers. The edges are serrated and the veining through them is very much like that seen on cannabis plants too. We reckon of all the plants we’ve covered so far, this one is the most likely to result in neighbor suspicion if you’re growing it on your property!
That said, anyone trying to dupe you into buying some kenaf is going to struggle. It produces rather attractive flowers that don’t stink of high grade. You probably won’t be heating it up in your FOUR vape from Mig Vapor anytime soon!
Again, the main reason for this is the fact that kenaf doesn’t smell anything like cannabis and it doesn’t produce bud sites that look close enough to trick someone who can see the product. For almost every use of cannabis for either recreational or medical purposes, the buds are favored over the leaves.
Unless you’re buying a bin bag full of cannabis leaves to cook with or make smoothies (cannabis is super nutritious!), we doubt you’ll need to worry about kenaf being passed off as weed!
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The coral plant is another plant that kind of looks like a weed. Its leaves are also formed in long, serrated fingers. However, there are usually a lot more fingers than you’d find on cannabis plants.
There is another major difference between the leaves of the two plants too. The serration along the margins of the coral plant’s leaves aren’t that similar to those found on a weed leaf. Anyone who’d see a real cannabis plant would immediately recognize the coral plant as being an imposter.
Whilst it might trick an absolute noob during its vegetative growth, any doubt is cast to the side when the coral plant flowers. It produces glorious Fuschia flowers, rather than green, THC-coated buds!
Keep Your Wits About You and You Won’t Get Scammed!
True be told, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will try to sell you one of the above plants like cannabis. Although the leaves and other characteristics can look similar, you just don’t load up your Linx Gaia with dried leaves.
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That said, the scam that you might have been worried about is a legit one. Just about every WeedRepublic team member has at least one story from their youth about being scammed when buying weed on the black market. Our particular favorite is a friend of a friend who bought the corner of house brick wrapped in tinfoil as hashish in his youth!
You see the “fake sell” scam doesn’t really need something that looks like a weed to work. Since cannabis buds are so distinctive looking (and smelling), the scam instead relies on the dealer convincing the buyer to pay for the goods without checking them first.
For this reason, you won’t find your regular dealer ever trying to pull a stunt like this. They’d lose themselves one of their customers. It’s much more common when some stranger approaches you somewhere busy and asks if you want to buy something to smoke. If there are a lot of people around, you’re more likely to go along with their requests not to look at what they’ve sold you until after they’ve had the chance to make their getaway.
The scammer will use something that kind of feels like cannabis when bagged up. This could be something solid, in the case of hash, or any old leaves compressed and tightly wrapped if you’re buying bud. They’ll often put it in your pocket for you or your sock and take the money after telling you not to get it out until you’ve got some privacy. They’ll soon disappear, leaving you to unwrap some soggy leaves, or in our friend’s case, a big old house brick!
Beware of Growing Cannabis Lookalikes!
So, we’ve established that you’re unlikely to get scammed by a dealer selling you plants that look like weed but aren’t. However, that doesn’t mean that these lookalikes are harmless! There are a few occasions where you really want to beware of them!
If you’re growing actual cannabis illegally in a grow tent like the best-selling Vivosun, for example, it would be pretty stupid to load up your front garden with all the plants we’ve covered in this article. Nosy neighbors might have smelled you smoking a joint in your garden, see the star-shaped leaves out front, and jumped to a conclusion.
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Now, them calling the cops would be pretty funny if you don’t have marijuana plants on your property. It’s probably less hilarious if you’re hiding a grow op!
We should also mention the live cannabis plant trade too. Many growers will sell whole mother plants or cuts for other growers to start from. In the case of cuttings, we can imagine an inexperienced grower seeing the serrated, star-shaped leaves of the Kenaf plant coming out of a Rockwool cube and believing they were buying cannabis cuttings. However, anyone with proper experience growing will spot differences. Chief of these would be the smell. Even vegging marijuana plants give off a slight smell. If you rub the leaves and smell your fingers, and you don’t smell something fresh, citrusy, and with a hint of weed, you might be looking at a marijuana lookalike!
If you’ve never smoked weed before and are thinking of giving it a try, you might be worried about someone trying to sell you something that isn’t cannabis. You might even think that someone might try to pass off a plant that looks like marijuana plants as something to smoke. It’s certainly true that scammers do take