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Cannabis...The Plant

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

Because it's just a plant...

In the past few posts, I’ve written how marijuana is a naturally occurring plant from Eastern Asia (sativa) and the Afgan (indica) regions - and that it has two primarily spoken about chemical components…THC and CBD.

However, I haven’t taken the opportunity to talk about the actual plant. Because it is just a plant…it just happens to have magically qualities to it. ;) Wine is just really the result of grapes…same concept.

There are technically 3 different types of Cannabis plants: Indica, Sativa and Ruderalis. Indica hails from the Afgan region and provides a very relaxed and sedated feeling. Sativa on the other hand, originated in Eastern Asia and gives an energetic and inspiring high. I posted more in depth details on sativas versus indicas here, if you would like more info.

I have forever had an issue remembering the difference in effects in regards to Sativa & Indica. UNTIL…I came up with mnemonic device to keep them straight. Sassy Sativa is uplifting and In-da-Couch Indica will do just that…put you in the couch.

Ruderalis is the 3rd species of cannabis plant. I haven’t really focused on it prior as it is something you rarely see as a consumer/user. Native to Central/Eastern Europe and Russia, it produces low THC levels…which is why you see it less – limited recreational value.

While low in THC, Ruderalis is a hardy plant (probably why is survived in Russia) and contains high CBD levels. Primarily used by cannabis breeders to enhance Sativa and Indica's properties. It is starting to gain popularity due to the exploding CBD market - but if it has to do with marijuana…what isn’t gaining popularity? ;)

The actual plant is no different than any other. It starts with a seed, matures into a plant, flowers, becomes pollinated and releases more seeds. The circle of life…

How these things happen or don’t happen has a great deal to do with the end product…which we all enjoy.

When it comes to cannabis….it’s all about the ladies! Woot woot!

Female plants are the ones that produce resin (trichomes) secreting flowers. These clusters of flowers (called the cola) are coveted, because they become the end result we buy to smoke in the dispensaries.

While naturally designed to be pollinated – that is rarely the goal. Once this happens, the female plant will focus on growing excellent seeds (its babies) and not producing higher quality flowers covered with trichomes – resulting in sub-par marijuana. Not to mention, if you have ever smoked weed with seeds it you can attest …it is not a pleasant experience.

Generally speaking, marijuana growers do not want their product to “go to seed”. The exception being…people who want to grow seeds.

Male plants do not produce buds and fundamentally exist to pollinate the female plants…which they will happily do. While still containing THC and CBD, the levels are lower than the female plant. Not to mention, having them anywhere near a female plant is asking for a disastrous and costly crop. One good puff of wind and the male’s pollen is flying all over the female's stigma….which sounds a little like a Saturday in most colleges ;)

Before I getting into the anatomy lesson...I want to clarify the definition of “bud”. This word is used a lot in the marijuana industry and can cause confusion when talking about the anatomy of the cannabis plant. Cannabis, like any other flowering plant has buds…the beginning of a flower. The term bud is also used to describe the end product sold as flower – the dried, nicely trimmed little nuggets of love sold by gram. Confusing, huh?

As I go into the anatomy breakdown, I am using “bud” as in the beginning of a flower. Clusters of these buds form and bloom to create the cola - which is the flowering top collection of buds at the end of a branch.

To explain all the parts of the cannabis plants, I am going to start at the very beginning. Remember, Science was not my favorite subject.

The seed is lovingly planted, watered and starts to grow…very exciting! Tiny leaves emerge from the dirt (if not hydroponically grown) attached to a baby stem. As the baby marijuana plant grows, the stem becomes stronger and taller. Branches and leaves - that actually look like cannabis leaves start to appear. These leaves (the ones that are not near the actual bud) are called fan leaves. They contain little to no THC.

As our delightful little creature enters adolescence, it starts to grow little shoots (known as nodes) - at the base of a branch/leaf and the stem. Nodes are the preview that the caylx is coming!

The caylx is the beginning of the bud and looks like little green tear drop petals - and will act as the protector to the pistol which contains all plants reproductive organs . The arrival of the caylx which is really important to growers. It is the first opportunity to identify the sex of a plant and remove the males.

As the female cannabis plant is focusing its energy on growing beautiful buds, the calyx grows to accommodate the pistols and stigmas. As the clusters of calyxes increase in size and mature, sugar leaves start to grow around them. Very cutely named sugar leaves due their high density of trichomes, they support the calyx, pistols and stigmas as they grow. With the sugar leaves comes the sticky resin covering the bud with THC & CBD rich trichomes (yeah!). Shortly after, the stigmas start to make their beautiful entrance.

Commonly referred to as hairs and often mistakenly called pistols, stigmas look like white furry hairs growing out of the pistil. These trichome laden beauties existence is to "catch" the male plant’s pollen in the air and progressively change in color to yellow, orange, red, and brown over the course of the plant’s maturation.

A little like….baby face, maybe a wrinkle, to wrinkle cream. ;) Growers use these as guides or clocks - telling them when to harvest the colas.

Once the cannabis plant has grown to its desired maturity, it is harvested. Stems covered with colas sparkling with crystal trichomes are hung to dry. Trimmers then cut off the colas and groom them to look pretty and less rangy…creating a bud (I mean the dried stuff sold by the gram here). During this process, the ends of trimmed sugar leaves and flaked off dried trichomes are collected and used in processing other products, or in the case of the trichomes sold as kief.

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