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Written by Neal Brown . Updated: May 18, 2022

Cannabis Reproduction and Identifying Gender

Cannabis Reproduction

Cannabis reproduction is similar to almost all reproductive creatures on earth, a male and female get together and create babies. Clearly this is done in different ways among many species. However, in about 12% of the plant kingdom, male plants grow alongside the female plants, and when they reach maturity and those pollen sacs are ready to burst, they open and flood the nearby female plants with pollen. The females in turn receive this pollen through the air via a slight breeze which attaches itself to what is called the females pistols. These pistols are covered in a sticky, resinous residue specially designed to capture the pollen. The female plant is now pollinated, and through a botanical chemical reaction this activates the reproductive cycle, producing flowers and seeds for the next generation of plants. Cannabis is one of the few plants in the world that does not require an insect pollinator, it relies on what is called anemophily, in which the pollen is transported by air currents from one plant to another. Only about 12% of the world’s flowering plants are pollinated in this way, including most grasses, many trees, and of course the cannabis plants. This is the reason one male plant among a crop of females can pollinate and ruin an entire grow-op in one shot, depending on the goal of the crop. If this is a specific seed crop, no problem. If it’s a commercial bud production crop, then you have a big problem on your hands. All of those girls will start producing seedy, low potency buds if exposed to a pollinating male plant.
Identify Cannabis Plant Gender
Identifying a cannabis plants gender can be tough, there may be no obvious differences until it’s far too late to save your crop. Learning how to spot the differences early on is a very important skill when dealing with unsexed seeds, which will matter in all cultivation circumstances. One male plant in a commercial crop of females can completely destroy the entire crop. It’s not possible until the vegetative cycle to notice any of the slightest differences between male and female plants. There are no guarantees, but here are some signs to watch for. Male plants may quickly become larger and more robust looking than their female counterparts, appearing much bushier and larger than the females in the vegetation phase. Once flipped into flower is when you need to be particularly vigilant, inspecting each plant carefully as they mature. You will need a magnifying glass to help notice the miniscule differences that start to appear while the male pollination sacs develop. In between the stem nodes is where the first signs of the female pistols will appear, and the pollination sacs of the males also begin to develop. In the beginning they will look almost identical, but as the days pass, the males will develop what look like two tiny, round ball sacs, similar to testicles, whereas the females will not. This is the make it or break it point. If you see anything resembling these sacs forming, remove and destroy the plant immediately before they open and pollinate your crop.

Male Cannabis Plants

Many people mistakenly confuse male cannabis plants for hemp plants. They believe hemp is the male counterpart of the marijuana plant. This is not the case, as hemp is a completely separate genus of cannabis that does not contain the psychoactive THC of marijuana. The male cannabis plants are the male sexed version of the marijuana plant that is utilized to cultivate and breed all those new and improved cannabis strains we have on the market today. Marijuana has both male and female sexed plants that in nature, grow in groups and cross pollinate to produce the next generation of marijuana. In the industry males are mostly used for crossbreeding new strains and for seed bank production. Other than that, they are not cultivated in the commercial marijuana market as a consumption bud producer. Just one rogue male within a crop of females can pollinate and ruin an entire harvest. Male plants do produce flowers, but they are generally very sparse and of low quality compared to female cannabis buds. In nature, males will grow in a crop intermingled with the female plants and as they mature, they will develop tiny pollination sacs that will burst open releasing pollen that then pollinates the females, triggering them to produce the flowers and seeds required for the next generation of mixed sex plants. No insect pollinators necessary, cannabis is one of the rare air pollinators. The males rely on the breeze to spread their pollen throughout the crop, sticking to the female pistols, and the cycle continues.

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