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Breaking Down the Cannabis Plant

cannabis plant

Because of almost one hundred years of cannabis prohibition, we are still learning more about the cannabis plant. But we know that for thousands of years, humanity has been using cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes.

As far as plants go, cannabis is relatively complex in its structure. That is probably why it has survived and evolved for millions of years. A pollen study revealed that cannabis existed on the planet more than 28 million years ago on the eastern Tibetan Plateau. Is it any coincidence that the religious concept of “Zen” evolved in the same area? We think not!

We hope you enjoy learning a little bit more about the cannabis species as we take a look at all the working parts of this miracle plant.

How is Cannabis Grown?

In some states where recreational (adult-use) cannabis is legalized, people can grow their cannabis. It sounds pretty exciting until you actually try to grow it at home. And then you realize how finicky the cannabis plant is.

Like all plants, cannabis starts from a seed. But throughout breeding new strains and hybrids from the original Landrace varieties (think OG cannabis plants), certain types of cannabis are notoriously hard to grow.

Depending on the strain of cannabis, the plant needs a particular type of soil. Loam is a soil mix containing clay, sand, and silt, and it is thought of as the best soil to nurture a cannabis plant.

The cannabis plant is also sensitive to light and heat. Advanced indoor growing operations have the lighting set on timers that are specialized by the requirement of the specific strain grown in strict climate control.

Cannabis plants thrive in 40% to 60% moisture. If the growing environment is too dry, the plant may live but not bloom. A female cannabis plant must be placed beside male plants to pollinate successfully and reproduce. Only the female plant produces cannabis flowers.

Is There a Quality Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Grown Cannabis?

Our doctors often discuss with patients how the plants are grown. DocMJ’s office in Pensacola has some of the most knowledgeable doctors in the industry discussing this on an on-going basis. Dispensary cannabis can be grown inside a controlled greenhouse or outside a field. More often than not, female cannabis plants are kept indoors for various reasons. Cultivators want to ensure that the female plants produce quality flowers. And that means it can not be allowed to become pollinated by male cannabis plants.

If a female marijuana plant is exposed to a male cannabis plant, the results are chaotic from a breeding perspective. The female cannabis plant will then produce a large volume of seeds instead of flower.

In the flowering stage, cultivators can visually see any problems with cross-bred plants. The flowers may be heavily seeded, which indicates male cannabis pollinated the female cannabis plants. It can also cause hermaphrodite plants.

When cannabis plants produce seeds, the plants are often discarded as a called propagation. Or, in some cases, seeded flowers can be dried and ground up to create other cannabis products.

Male cannabis plants are often discarded. But in larger cultivation environments, male plants may be dried and then recycled to enrich the soil. It can also be used as hemp fiber and is sometimes processed into hash or edible cannabis products.

How Long Does it Take to Grow a Cannabis Plant?

It can take four to six months for a cannabis plant to mature from seed to sale. There is a lot of plant science that goes into growing cannabis. Environmental factors also impact how quickly (or successfully) cannabis plants thrive.

Bud production happens in the last 4-6 weeks of the plant’s development. When the cannabis branch grows, it creates leaves and cola, a flower cluster. The long skinny stems of the cannabis plant grow thicker and develop resin coated leaves.

Whether the cannabis strain is a full Sativa, Indica, or hybrid strains, the life cycle of the cannabis plant is the same. Once the cannabis plant flowers, it produces resin glands with cannabinoids and terpene content.

Breaking Down the Cannabis Plant By Section

When you learn that the DNA of the cannabis plant is almost thirty million years old, it is hard not to appreciate its structure. Designed by nature to thrive in various environments (depending on the strain). And the intricate balance between the male marijuana plant and female plants.

Cannabis Flower

The cannabis flower is created exclusively by female plants. Cannabis grows flowers that contain the primary cannabinoids (THC and cannabidiol or CBD) and a variety of secondary cannabinoids depending on the strain. This content also includes terpenes, which, combined with therapeutic cannabinoids, create psychoactive and physiological effects.

The Cola

Regarding cannabis flower, size matters, but only for cultivators; Sativa cannabis plants traditionally grow very long buds. And when the buds grow closely together, it forms a cola—the top, pointy part of the cannabis plant.

Why is a large cola a big deal? First, only healthy cannabis plants produce them. The healthier the cannabis plant, the larger the cola. Healthy female cannabis plants also produce a high-quality flower. The female cannabis plant has a higher potential of having better cannabinoid content.

The second reason a large cola is exciting to cultivators is the volume of flower produced. Naturally, if the yield is higher, that means more bud is produced from each plant. And that is a win for the grower. Some cola can grow to be as long as a human arm.

The Pistil

This is the reproductive cradle, where the parts of the cannabis flower rest. There are many thin strands called stigmas, and it is their job to collect the pollen that floats over from male plants. However, in commercial cannabis growing, this pollination is not allowed.

Inside the cannabis plant pistil, the stigmas appear white when the plant is in the early stage of development. However, as the plant matures, the stigmas turn yellow.

The Bract (Calyx)

When you see a long cannabis bloom, it is composed of many cannabis buds or flowers. The cannabis buds are tear-drop shaped and would generally house the cannabis seed (if complete pollination was to occur) on the weed plant.

Cannabis bud is a collection of calyxes, and they are attached between the branches and the stem of the cannabis plant. These tiny bulbs begin to produce a sticky substance called resin. Some strains of cannabis produce more resin and are dubbed “sticky” weed.

Cannabis Trichomes

Trichomes are another part of the cannabis plant that you can see with the naked eye. And they are also something that gets cultivators very excited. They are resin glands that are spread over marijuana leaves and flowers. And much of the natural scent of a cannabis plant comes from the trichomes.

Why would a plant want to cover itself with sticky trichomes? It is a natural defense against insects and animals that would graze on the cannabis plant. The sticky substance can trap insects before they have a chance to munch on the plant. And the odor emitted by them is believed to deter herbivores from taking a bite too.

The Node

When a branch grows out from the stem of the cannabis plant, that is called a node. Sometimes the branches can branch out further and contain buds. But not all nodes will develop a cannabis flower or bud on a weed plant.

The node is how cultivators can tell the difference between a male cannabis plant and a female marijuana plant. Female marijuana plants or mother plants will develop white pistils that look like little hairs at the site of the nodes. But the male marijuana plant will only develop a lump on the node areas. A marijuana plant will typically show male gender sooner than female attributes.

Cannabis Fan Leaves

Why are they called cannabis fan leaves? They are probably the most visually recognizable feature of the weed plant. Cannabis plants grow large leaves that have seven (7) points. Since cannabis plants can grow very tall, the leaves need to be broad to conduct photosynthesis to “feed” the plant with the energy it needs.

Weeks before the harvest, cultivators will start to trim back the cannabis fan leaves. They begin to wither and die normally as part of the natural lifecycle of the cannabis plant. Sometimes the trimmings are recycled to improve soil quality in fields or greenhouse-grown bud.

Sugar Leaves

Around every cola and bud are a series of small leaves that grow. These are called the sugar leaves of a cannabis plant. They have an important role, as they help to protect the cannabis buds from the elements and also from pests and predators.

It is actually rather clever when you think about it. The plant evolved to grow small parts of the cannabis, with enticingly tender leaves that are more likely to be snacked on by bugs than the actual cannabis buds. This has evolved over millions of years to ensure the health and successful reproduction of the cannabis plant.


Like any other type of foliage, the marijuana plant has a stem that supports the plant. The root systems develop, and the plant grows in height until it flowers in the last growing stage. The branch then provides a base where all buds form, including the apical or terminal bud at the very top of the cannabis plant.

What Are Cannabis Seeds?

There are two types of cannabis products in a dispensary that is likely to be bargain-priced. The first is cannabis shake. That is the trimmings or pieces of cannabis flower that broke off during trimming. Cannabis “shake” is just as potent as bud. But esthetically, people prefer to purchase the whole flower instead, even though there is no difference in quality or potency.

The second type of discounted cannabis bud you may find in a dispensary is seeded. Not just a few seeds here or there; the bud may be entirely coated in them. And there are many reasons why this type of flower is discounted.

First of all, the seeded flower is tough to separate. If you luck out and the volume of seeds is low, you may be able to trim the flower away from the seeds. But it is a painstaking and frustrating process that will definitely harsh your mellow.

Can You Smoke Cannabis Seeds?

Sometimes people decide to use their grinder to mulch the seeds up with the flower. However, the seeds have a high natural fat content. So, even if you grind them up and pack a bowl, you will experience two unpleasant things.

It will negatively impact the flavor of your marijuana smoke. And it will literally “snap, crackle and pop” in your bowl or pre-roll. It won’t hurt you, but it is startling and uncomfortable. Kind of like smoking a firecracker, and most people don’t like the sensation.

Nutritional Value of Marijuana Seeds

Some people actually try to buy marijuana seeds but not to smoke them. The truth is that the seeds are packed with healthy nutrients. And like hemp seeds, you can use them to make a cannabis-infused beverage or add them to other foods.

Cannabis seeds are rich in the following vitamins and nutrients:

  • B-Vitamins
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamine E
  • Zinc

Once you have dried the cannabis seeds from a marijuana plant, you can use them as a topping for your yogurt, oatmeal, or hummus. They are also a natural source of plant protein and are easy to purchase if you live in Florida or another state that has legalized medical or recreational cannabis.

How Do I Get My Florida Medical Marijuana Card?

Getting your Florida medical cannabis card is not difficult if you are a patient who has a diagnosed qualifying health condition. Visit our website to review the list of health conditions that can make you eligible to become a registered patient.

Florida residents can choose from twenty-five (25) convenient DocMJ clinic locations. Schedule an appointment online and visit DocMJ’s office in Pensacola, Florida. Or find another location close to home where you can visit a physician and complete the first important step to getting your Florida medical card.


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