What is the difference between male and female cannabis plants?

The cannabis plant can have either male or female reproductive organs. This type of plant is known as dioecious plants.

As the cannabis plant can be female or male, it is possible to separate certain characteristics of growing female plants, with or without male intervention. What this means is by familiarising the male plant with the female plant it will result in cross-pollination and therefore seeds, which is how farmers grow plants with the qualities they want and need.

If the male plant is removed it gives the female plant more space to grow larger and stronger, which results in big seedless buds, which are named sensimilla. It also stops the males from pollinating the females. The buds that people consume are resinous buds and these grow on the female plant.

If the buds have seeds they are usually considered low-quality cannabis. This is because the extract is distasteful and bitter. This is an instance where farmers can introduce the male plants to pollinate the females to create a better strain.

If the grower is not sure of the type of seeds they have, learning how to recognise the sex of the plant is important for reasons such as; developing improved genetics, collecting seeds, or growing sensimilla.

Recognising the Different Sexes

To determine a cannabis plant’s sex, the farmer needs to be able to see what grows in between the nodes, this is where the leaves and branches 

diverge from the stalk. The pollen sac of the male plant or the stigma of the female will develop into what traps the pollen or disperses it. These attributes can be visible weeks prior to them serving their objectives in the reproduction cycle. And these are called the- pre-flowers.

Pre-flowers start to grow after four weeks but can take longer depending on how quick the sprouting stage occurs. The farmer should be able to confidently determine the sex by, at most, the sixth week.

At first, the pre-flowers are very small, and therefore difficult to identify, but a magnifying glass can be used. When examining the nodes, the grower should be looking for a growth of small sacs (male) or two bracts (female) which will eventually result in the stigma. Examining the pre-flowers is the most accurate method to determine the sex of a cannabis plant.

Hermaphrodite Plants

A female cannabis plant can grow both the female and male sex organs, this is when it is considered- hermaphrodite. This means that the plant can now produce pollen that is able to pollinate the entire garden. There are two varieties of hermaphrodite cannabis plants and those are; a plant that develops both buds and pollen sacs, and a plant that grows anthers.  Both of these varieties result in the production of pollen, a true hermaphrodite creates sacs that need to burst, while the anthers are exposed, pollen-producing stamen.

When a plant becomes extremely stressed, an effect can be what is called- herming out. Some stressors can be; plant damage, bad weather, disease, and/or deficiencies of certain nutrients. Therefore, it is essential to observe plants after exposure to any stressors. When outdoors, if a branch is broken it can repair but then turn into a hermaphrodite.

Another cause of hermaphrodite plants can be if a plant has poor genetics or a history of hermaphrodite development.  If any pollen sacs or anthers do appear at any stage, it is best to discard the plant, to stop the pollination of female plants.

Pollen is potent and good at travelling so the grower needs to be aware of this. It is highly recommended to keep the males being used for pollination away from the growing area and be cautious when working with that pollen.