In this article we will discuss:
All variations of Cannabis plants are not exactly the same and they also come in both the male and female variety. Some are tall and skinny, others are short and stout, and still others are much smaller.
The Cannabis plant is also known for its dioecious nature, meaning that it forms into distinct colonies of male and female plants. This is one of the reasons growers develop issues with male plants invading a grow room. In addition to male and female plants, growers and cultivators are likely to run into (and create!) hermaphroditic and androgynous plants.
Whichever species you ultimately choose to grow, it is a good idea to gain some basic knowledge of the variations and the differences between male and female plants. You’ll also want to understand the reasons why you’d want to separate them.
When you know these things, you can make the best decision for your own growing habits. In this article, we will cover the three species of cannabis, the role of gender in growing as well as hybrid breeds and hermaphrodites:
The first (and arguably the most common) species is called Cannabis Sativa. Within the realm of cannabis, sativa is a very large plant, with a height reaching anywhere from 6.5-19.6 feet (2-6 meters). It’s not particularly dense with foliage, however, being far more impressive in its height.
The leaves of the sativa species are delicate, and the seeds are smooth, without any marbling or flecks. Sativa is relatively slow to flower and is less affected by changes in light cycles than the other species of cannabis. Sativa is usually found below a latitude of 30° N, in places like India, Thailand, Nigeria, Mexico, and Colombia.
As with most of the Cannabis species, sativa is usually dried, cured, and processed into a low-moisture herb for consumption. It is smoked or vaporized, and though the effects can vary depending on the strain and presence of active ingredients, sativa is more well-known for gettingusers ‘high’ as opposed to ‘stoned’.
This means it has a more energizing and stimulating effect, as opposed to the ‘couch-lock’ found more frequently in Indica strains. Sativa is known for a high ratio of THC to CBN the two primary active ingredients in cannabis. Because of this, sativa is less often suggested for medicinal uses, although it was still used historically for health purposes in Ayurvedic medicine.
Cannabis Indica is significantly denser than Sativa, although it is also much shorter, clocking in between 3.2-9.8 feet (1-3 meters) tall on average. The lush foliage is made up of rounder, more robust leaves than the Sativa, which has a more jagged angular appearance. The seeds are very similar, with marbled coloring and a smooth surface.
Flowering occurs more rapidly in Indica varieties than it does for Sativa, and it’s more susceptible to changes in light cycle that induce flowering. It is most commonly found above 30° N, in countries like Nepal, Lebanon, Morocco, and Afghanistan.
Indica flowers and buds are spaced much closer to each other than the buds and flowers found in Sativa, and very sticky and resinous by comparison. Indica is the variety traditionally chosen to make hashish, in part because of the high volume of resin. The drug effect from Indica has a strong ‘stoned’ feel, due to the high amount of CBN in the plant. Sometimes there is even more CBN than THC in the plant.
Of the primary varieties, it is cannabis ruderalis that is the least well-known. This is not because of it’s size, although the ruderalis plant is extremely short, usually ranging from 11.8-23.6 inches (30-60 centimeters) in height. Like Indica, Ruderalis has a remarkably thick foliage.
Ruderalis has an extremely early and fast flowering cycle because it grows farther north than any other types of marijuana and so doesn’t have the luxury of a lot of time to mature before cold weather hits. Ruderalis is used to produce autoflowerers. Read more about autoflowering marijuana seeds.
Ruderalis is less well-known because it is not very psychotropic. It is used primarily as a source of additional genetic material by breeders and cultivators. That way, hybrids which flower early can be bred, and certain strains can be adjusted so that they will grow in more northerly climes.
What are hybrids?
In modern cannabis cultivation and breeding, there are a huge number of varieties available. Many years of intense mixing and hybridization have created a huge spectrum across these three primary varieties.
The different mixes all have different characteristics, running the gamut of possibilities relating to flowering cycles, yield, CBN:THC ratios, and disease resistance, among others. In general, the purpose of a hybrid plant is to combine positive characteristics from different strains together.
The key differences between Indica and Sativa are the height of the plants, the length between buds, the size and shape of the leaves, the odor, the quality of the smoke, and the chemical properties themselves. In general, Indica is wide and robust while Sativa is long and thin.
Male cannabis plants
When male-sexed cannabis plants finish maturing, the flowering process occurs all across the plant. Tiny racemes (short flower stalks) are formed at the base of the flower itself. When the flowers open, the plant releases a load of airborne pollen which sticks to and is absorbed by the pistil of the female plant.
This is a basic explanation of how the fertilization and reproductive process in cannabis plants works. It can be difficult to distinguish between male and female plants at times, but the male usually has earlier sexual development.
Female cannabis plants
Like the male cannabis plants, mature females will also produce racemes. In the case of the female plants, the racemes are a blend of tiny pistils and calices (calyx). In each of the calices, there is an ovule, which acts as the receptor for the pollen from the male plant.
When the grains of pollen stick to a pistil, the pistil stalk then pushes into the calyx, and the plant is fertilized. The calyx itself is also the site where cannabis seeds are grown after fertilization.
Each seed will have a mix of characteristics coming from both parent plants, as in other instances of sexual reproduction. The only time this wouldn’t be the case would be if the parent plants were identical, as in the case of certain pure clones or specific hybridizations.
Hermaphrodite cannabis plants
Although rare as a natural occurrence in nature, many growers might be exposed to the existence of hermaphroditic plants, that is, plants which contain both male and female sex organs. These sorts of plants can fertilize themselves, which is both extremely interesting and potentially quite useful from a breeding perspective.
In general, a hermaphrodite cannabis plant falls on one of the three points along a sexual spectrum. If the plant is mainly comprised of male flowers or has a roughly equal number of male/female flowers, it is probably of little use to a grower. If the hermaphrodite has mainly female flowers, however, it should definitely be saved.
The pollen from these plants can be quite useful, and some growers collect the pollen because even though it is a male part of reproduction, the hermaphroditic pollen is genetically female, and will produce female flowers.
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In the 70’s, Indica strains were brought to the USA and mixed with the already present Sativa plants, which set off a long chain of breeding and experimentation with cannabis cultivation and hybridization.
It’s important to note that despite the differences between all of these varieties of cannabis, they are essentially one species. They can still be bred together. The names Indica and Sativa refer to the areas where the plants are originally from. The same sort of idea is found in other agriculture, or dog breeds, where there is a wide difference in appearances, but the species are still the same.
Many growers don’t want seeds in their plants at all, although there are always exceptions. It’s highly advised to keep grow rooms and male pollen as far apart as possible unless there is some express purpose for fertilizing the plants. The yield will drop substantially, and the taste of the plant will be ruined.
In general, it’s highly desirable to have unpollinated female plants, because more of the energy is devoted to producing cannabinoids and buds that are valuable to the grower, rather than being expended on sexual reproduction organs and seeds. Unpollinated plants will have more sugar, THC, and much denser more odorous flowers. This is ideal, especially for medicinal purposes, where the efficiency is very important for any patients who are in need of the active ingredient.
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