Gender Differences in Marijuana Plants
by Gabrielle Caravetta
Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning that either male or female organs will start developing. Far before the reproduction cycle begins, the gender of the plant is determined by its “pre-flowers”. They grow within four to six weeks between the plants’ nodes (where leaves and branches extend from the stalk.) Between the nodes of the female plant will be tiny, hair-like stigma sprouting, and the growth of small pollen sacks indicate a male gender.
Female vs. Male
The ultimate goal of the cultivation process: produce a female plant. The buds that we all know and love are produced by females. Growers can ensure the sex of their plants by growing clones or using genetic clippings from a parent strain, and through special breeding processes that create feminized seeds.
Males help to produce female seeds through pollination, however, males and females are usually only grown together when they’re crossbreeding and creating new strains. The separation of the two allows for the females to focus their energy towards their flourishing buds. Too much pollination will produce seed-infested buds--who wants to pick through their fresh nug?
Male plants have additional purposes:
- Hemp fiber: Unlike females, males produce soft, more desirable fiber used for products like clothing, table cloths, and other household items.
- Concentrate production: a very small amount of cannabinoids can be found in the leaves, stems, and sacs which are extracted to produce hash and other oils.
Despite their rarity, these are cannabis plants that produce both male and female sex organs. These plants can sometimes self-pollinate, but this is typically bad as it will create buds with seeds and also pass on hermaphroditic genes.
This occurs when cannabis is under stress, it’s important to monitor plants after they have been exposed to stressors: indoors, high temperatures or light leaks are often the cause; outdoors, a snapped branch might be repaired and then turn into a hermaphrodite.
The other primary cause of hermaphrodite plants lies in its genetics—a plant with poor genetics or a history of hermaphroditic development should be avoided to protect your garden.