The difference between male and female cannabis plants

The difference between male and female cannabis plants

Cannabis plants are primarily male or female, although hermaphrodite plants are a possibility. Cannabis is known as a dioecious plant, meaning both male and female plants produce flowers.

Each sex has different characteristics which enable growers to tell them apart. It is important to know exactly how to identify each gender depending on the desired outcome of the grow, whether that be large resinous buds or seeds and breeding potential.

Marijuana plants begin to reflect signs of their specific sex within the first two weeks of the flowering period. Plants begin to reach their sexual maturity at around six to eight weeks after germination has occurred. At this point signals to which sex they are will become visible around branch internodes.

Typically pure indica and sativa strains will begin to flower when night periods start to become longer, or the photoperiod is shortened. If a plant contains autoflowering genes, time will be the determining factor instead of light.



Female weed plants are the absolute preference to most growers who want big juicy buds to smoke, make medicine with or sell. This is because female flowers are coated in a thick layer of cannabinoid rich resin which determines its recreational and medicinal potential. This resin is produced by mushroom shaped glands on the plant called trichomes, effectively minute cannabinoid factories.

As well as having an obviously profound use among humans, this resinous substance is extremely important for the reproduction and evolution of the cannabis plant. It enables female plants to seize male pollen which results in the fertilisation of the plant. After fertilisation has taken place, the female plant will go into seed, ensuring the survival of the species and providing growers with breeding and cultivation potential.

However one important reason to detect the sex of plants early on is to single out the males and remove them from the growing space. This action will be taken by growers looking to optimise the quality and quantity of yields. If the female plants are kept away from the pollen produced by their male counterparts, they will start to produce far more valuable resin in a desperate attempt to capture pollen and become fertilised. If no pollen is to be found, the end result will be flowers covered in a dense layers of trichomes. This is due to the available resources being harnessed for resin production, instead of seed production.

A grower interviewed in the documentary Botany of Desire, based on the book of author Michael Pollan, described this scenario perfectly: "In essence, what you're seeing is extreme sexual frustration. This is a room full of women who are looking for some guy to come by and give them some pollen so they can create seeds. And they try harder and harder as time passes, and the more unsuccessful they are, the more production of the resins that are intended to attract pollen increases, and that increases the psychoactive elements of the plant."

These potent, unfertilised female flowers have been given the name sinsemilla, which is Spanish for "without seed". Sinsemilla is also defined as a "cannabis variety which has a particularly high concentration of narcotic agents". Meaning it will get you really, really high.

One definite way to detect if a plant is female will be the appearance of its sex organs, named pistils. These tiny white or orange hairs are the sex organs of female plants. Pistils will start to emerge at internodes, sections where branches intersect with main stem, at around 1.5 weeks into the flowering stage. Female flowers produce small tear-like calyxes with two pistils at this stage which will eventually grow and form together into what are commonly referred to as buds.



Perhaps less praised among smokers and consumers, male plants still play a fundamental role in transferring genetics to the next generation of weed plants. Males looks aesthetically different to their female partners whose flowers are glistening with resin. Male marijuana flowers instead produce bell-like clusters known as pollen sacks that hang down, the equivalent of botanical testicles.

Male marijuana plants will being to display pollen sacks at internode locations early on in the flowering stage, making it apparent what sex they belongs to.

These pollen sacks begin to open up and bloom when they reach the correct stage of maturity, producing white/green flowers. The dispersed pollen will then be released in an attempt to fertilise female plants and spread the genes of the father plant.

As far as breeding programs go, good quality males are fundamental as genes from the father plant are also partly responsible for contributing to the genetic make up of the offspring plants.

Although not as inundated with cannabinoids as female flowers and plants, males have been found to contain a decent degree of cannabinoids and can be fairly potent. Males display resin producing glands mostly on the sepals, anthers and smaller upper leaves.

Males also produce significant amounts of terpenes, the molecules responsible for a plants individual flavor and scent, that harbour vast therapeutic benefits.