Anatomy of a cannabis seed In a previous blog post we explained how to distinguish superior cannabis seeds from their poorer quality counterparts. Selecting quality, viable seeds is the first The North American cannabis industry will be worth $47B by 2027. Here are the basics around the anatomy of a cannabis plant, and how they are grown. Everything you need to know about the anatomy of cannabis plants.
Anatomy of a cannabis seed
In a previous blog post we explained how to distinguish superior cannabis seeds from their poorer quality counterparts. Selecting quality, viable seeds is the first crucial step for a cultivator growing healthy plants that produce a high yield.
Very few of us however are aware of the anatomy of these seeds, or the role each component plays in the growth of the plant, yet cannabis seeds are fascinating organisms which deserve detailed attention.
The radicle is the first growth that will emerge from the seed during the process of germination. Known as the ‘primary root’, or the ‘embryonic root’, it grows downwards into the soil in order to start absorbing the water, minerals and other nutrients the plant requires for growth.
If the radicle begins to decay, the seedling will die off before emerging above the soil. This is known as ‘dampening off’ and is visible on the radicle as dark spots.
The root cap is shaped like a thimble or dome, and sits on the end of the radicle. It’s comprised of multi-layered tissue similar to that of the shoot apex.
The root cap performs two primary functions: first, it is responsible for anchoring the plant by ensuring that the root continually grows downwards into the soil (if the root cap is removed without damaging the radicle, the root will grow in an irregular direction which may not be conducive to plant stability). Second, the root cap is responsible for protecting the tip of the radicle from damage as it pushes its way down through the soil.
Known as the ‘embryonic leaf’ in seed-bearing plants, these are the first small leaves which start to emerge. Emergence from the seed takes place within twenty-four hours of the radicle entering the soil.
Cannabis seeds contain two cotyledons, placing them within the dicotyledon “dicot” category of flowering plants (plants whose seeds contain only one cotyledon are referred to as “monocots”). “Dicot” seedlings contain cotyledons which are photosynthetic, thereby driving the growth of the seedling as soon as they emerge from the soil.
These cotyledons are the first visible sign of growth (due to their being above ground) and they contain the stored nutrient reserves of the seed. Cotyledons are responsible for encouraging leaf growth during the early stages of the plant’s life. As such, the first true leaves will emerge from within the cotyledons. As these true leaves become established and the cotyledons are no longer required, they will turn yellow and die.
The cotyledons are vital for the plant to be able to breed.
As mentioned earlier, the shoot apex is made of similar material to the root cap. It is also a similar shape. However, in contrast to the root cap, the shoot apex is comparatively long.
The shoot apex is the growing tip of the plant, and is protected by young leaves.
As the name implies, these are the first true leaves to emerge after the cotyledons. They emerge from the top of the initial long, thin stem attached to the shoot apex. These leaves enable the plant to continuously seek the sunlight it requires to further develop.
Primary leaves emerge prior to cell division within the stem which then results in secondary growth.
This is the first part of the flower to form. If looking at more orthodox, colourful flowers, the calyx is identifiable as the tight green bundle of growth (“sepals”) directly underneath the petals which hold the flower together.
The calyx contains the reproductive organs of the plant, called the “pistils” and the “trichomes”, and is designed to protect them. The pistils are where the long hairs (called “stigmas”) emerge from, while the trichomes are the resin glands.
Female calyx resemble small seeds. Once they are ready for pollination they will burst open to expose white pistils. Male plants form pollen sacs which usually drop low. Once mature, these sacs will burst open and release pollen into the air, thereby pollinating the females.
The petals of a flower form the “corolla”. The corolla and the calyx combined comprise the perianth.
The perianth is the non-reproductive part of the structure, designed with the sole purpose of protecting the plant’s reproductive organs.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at our piece on the anatomy of the cannabis plant. Understanding anatomy of both seed and plant will help you nurture a seedling into an established plant that produces a good quality harvest, and make growing an increasingly rewarding process.
For those of you that are interested in buying cannabis seeds, view our selection for sale here and start your very own collection!
The Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant, and its Lifecycle
By 2027, it’s projected that the legal cannabis market in the U.S. and Canada could hit $47.3 billion in size.
That will make it bigger than annual global sales for raw metals like nickel and silver put together. It would be a size that even exceeds the North American pork market.
But while almost everyone has a sense of the basic mechanics of mining or ranching, knowledge around the essentials of cannabis are understandably not as well ingrained in our culture.
Cannabis Plants 101
Today’s infographic comes to us from The Green Organic Dutchman, and it breaks down the anatomy of a cannabis plant, the differences between types of plants, and also the basics around cannabis cultivation.
Here are some of the more important things you need to know about the plant:
Commercial cannabis comes from the female species, which have long skinny stems and large, iconic fan leaves. The plant is trimmed down into buds, which come together in a cola at the top of the stem.
Trichomes are a blanket of crystal resin coating the cannabis plant, and they contain both terpenes and cannabinoids.
The two most well-known cannabinoids are THC and CBD, which also occur in the largest volume.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is known to cause psychoactive effects or the “high” felt from cannabis.
Effects: pain relief, anti-nausea, sleep aid, appetite and mood stimulant.
Cannabidiol (CBD) lacks nearly any psychoactive effect, making it preferred as a medicine.
Effects: pain relief, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, seizure reduction.
Other cannabinoids such as cannabichromene (CBC), cannbigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN), have similar therapeutic properties. Research is also validating the plant’s efficacy in treating medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and Alzheimer’s.
Terpenes are organic, aromatic compounds found in the oils of all flowers, including cannabis. Interestingly, these oils have their own independent medical potential that is waiting to be unlocked.
Cannabinoids and terpenes work in harmony, resulting in an “entourage effect” and enhances the medical properties of cannabis
Sativa, Indica, Hybrid
There are two common types of cannabis plants: sativa and indica.
Sativa plants have long and thin leaves that are lighter in color. Buds are long and wispy, and feature red or orange coloring. They tend to contain high THC and low CBD levels – optimal for daytime use, described as being energizing, stimulating, and creative.
Indica plants have leaves that are wide, broad, and deep in color. Buds are dense and tightly packed, featuring purple coloring. Indica usually contains medium levels of THC, and a higher amount of CBD. Its effects are often described as being relaxing and calming, which is more optimal for nighttime use.
It’s also worth noting that hybrid strains can often bring together the best qualities of both into one plant.
The Lifecycle of a Cannabis Plant
Every stage of growth of a cannabis plant needs different care:
1. Germination (Seed): 1-2 weeks
Seeds ready for germination are dark brown, hard, and dry. Encourage sprouting by watering seeds in a paper towel.
2. Seedling: 2-3 weeks
Move seeds into growing medium. Plants need the maximum light at this stage, and appropriate water levels. Cotyledon (seed leaves) and iconic fan leaves will grow.
Light: 18-24 hours
3. Vegetative: 2-8 weeks
Plants need flowing dry air, fresh warm water, and increased nutrients – especially nitrogen. It’s important at this stage to separate male and female plants before pollination to prevent female plants producing seeds instead of trichomes.
Light: 12 hours sunlight (18 hours fluorescent light)
4. Flowering: 6-8 weeks
Gradually reduce light exposure to produce medicinal qualities. Increase phosphorous levels and decrease nitrogen. Fertilizers can help stimulate bud formation.
Light: 12 hours
Temperature: 20-28 °C
Trim and dry the buds. The plant is ripe when buds turn from milky white to reddish orange. Harvest once 70-90% of pistils are browned for maximized taste and effect.
As the cannabis industry matures, consumers will demand the highest-quality products. Growing cannabis in a natural environment is increasingly vital to create a premium end-product.
In the next part of this series, we will dive into various growing methods and the benefits of organic methods on quality and effects of cannabis.
How to Make Quality Cannabis, and the Role of Organic Farming
California Cannabis: A Golden Opportunity With Unique Challenges
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Mapped: The Most Common Illicit Drugs in the World
Mapped: The Most Common Illicit Drugs in the World
What are the most commonly used illicit drugs around the world?
December 17, 2021
Mapped: The Most Common Illicit Drugs in the World
Despite strict prohibitory laws around much of the world, many common illicit drugs still see widespread use.
Humans have a storied and complicated relationship with drugs. Defined as chemical substances that cause a change in our physiology or psychology, many drugs are taken medicinally or accepted culturally, like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
But many drugs—including medicines and non-medicinal substances taken as drugs—are taken recreationally and can be abused. Each country and people have their own relationship to drugs, with some embracing the use of specific substances while others shun them outright.
What are the most common drugs that are considered generally illicit in different parts of the world? Today’s graphics use data from the UN’s World Drug Report 2021 to highlight the most prevalent drug used in each country.
What Types of Common Drugs Are Tracked?
The World Drug Report looks explicitly at the supply and demand of the international illegal drug market, not including commonly legal substances like caffeine and alcohol.
Drugs are grouped by class and type, with six main types of drugs found as the most prevalent drugs worldwide.
- Cannabis*: Drugs derived from cannabis, including hemp. This category includes marijuana (dried flowers), hashish (resin), and other for various other parts of the plant or derived oils.
- Cocaine: Drugs derived from the leaves of coca plants. Labeled as either cocaine salts for powder form or crack for cocaine processed with baking soda and water into rock form.
- Opioids: Includes opiates which are derived directly from the opium poppy plant, including morphine, codeine, and heroin, as well as synthetic alkaloids.
- Amphetamine-type Stimulants (ATS): Amphetamine and drugs derived from amphetamine, including meth (also known as speed), MDMA, and ecstasy.
- Sedatives and Tranquilizers: Includes other drugs whose main purpose is to reduce energy, excitement, or anxiety, as well as drugs used primarily to initiate or help with sleep (also called hypnotics).
- Solvents and Inhalants: Gases or chemicals that can cause intoxication but are not intended to be drugs, including fuels, glues, and other industrial substances.
The report also tracked the prevalence of hallucinogens—psychoactive drugs which strongly affect the mind and cause a “trip”—but no hallucinogens ranked as the most prevalent drug in any one country.
*Editor’s note: Recreational cannabis is legal in five countries, and some non-federal jurisdictions (i.e. states). However, in the context of this report, it was included because it is still widely illicit in most countries globally.
The Most Prevalent Drug in Each Country
According to the report, 275 million people used drugs worldwide in 2020. Between the ages of 15–64, around 5.5% of the global population used drugs at least once.
Many countries grouped different types of the same drug class together, and a few like Saudi Arabia and North Macedonia had multiple different drug types listed as the most prevalent.
But across the board, cannabis was the most commonly prevalent drug used in 107 listed countries and territories:
|Country or territory||Most Prevalent Drug(s)|
|Albania||Sedatives and tranquillizers (general)|
|Burkina Faso||Cannabis (general)|
|Central African Republic||Cannabis (herb)|
|Costa Rica||Cannabis (herb)|
|Côte d’Ivoire||Cannabis (herb)|
|Dominican Republic||Cocaine (powder)|
|El Salvador||Cannabis (herb)|
|Greece||Solvents and inhalants (general)|
|Hong Kong||Heroin, opium, opioids|
|Lithuania||Sedatives and tranquillizers (general)|
|New Zealand||Methamphetamine, solvent and inhalants|
|North Macedonia||Multiple types|
|Saudi Arabia||Multiple types|
|South Africa||Cannabis (general)|
|Sri Lanka||Cannabis (herb)|
|Syrian Arab Republic||Cannabis (hashish)|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Cocaine (crack)|
How prevalent is cannabis worldwide? 72 locations or more than two-thirds of those reporting listed cannabis as the most prevalent drug.
Unsurprisingly these include countries that have legalized recreational cannabis: Canada, Georgia, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay.
How Common Are Opioids and Other Drugs?
Though the global prevalence of cannabis is unsurprising, especially as it becomes legalized and accepted in more countries, other drugs also have strong footholds.
Opioids (14 locations) were the most prevalent drugs in the Middle-East, South and Central Asia, including in India and Iran. Notably, Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, supplying more than 90% of illicit heroin globally.
Amphetamine-type drugs (9 locations) were the third-most common drugs overall, mainly in East Asia. Methamphetamine was the reported most prevalent drug in China, South Korea, and Japan, while amphetamine was only the most common drug in Bangladesh.
However, it’s important to note that illicit drug usage is tough to track. Asian countries where cannabis is less frequently found (or reported) might understate its usage. At the same time, the opioid epidemic in the U.S. and Canada reflects high opioid usage in the West.
As some drugs become more widespread and others face a renewed “war,” the landscape is certain to shift over the next few years.
Cannabis Plants Anatomy: From Seeds To Buds
Many consumers have seen a cannabis flower and maybe leaf but have never seen a plant grow from seed.
When growing cannabis, it’s essential you become familiar with the anatomy of a cannabis plant to know what they need and prevent problems.
It’s crucial you know the parts of a cannabis plant such as roots, nodes, calyxes, and trichomes, and what they’re used for to be able to maintain a healthy garden.
1. Anatomy of female vs male plants
Cannabis plants are dioecious, this means they have separate sexes, so the plants can be male or female.
In cannabis, the female plant produces high levels of cannabinoids and develops flowers (buds) while the male plant produces low levels and develops pollen sacs.
When both of them interact, the pollen fertilizes flowers, producing seeds which are used for breeding and cannabis cultivation.
It’s essential you know which one you need to grow to achieve the desired results, so in this article, we’ll explain the main differences and the anatomy of a cannabis plant.
2. Seeds and seedlings
A seed is the first thing you need to start growing your own cannabis, a cannabis seed has a hard shell to protect the embryo, this embryo is what will develop into a seedling when germinated.
When exposed to the right temperature and moisture, you will see a seedling (baby plant) start to develop, this seedling comes out of the medium with a small pair of green rounded leaves named cotyledons.
The cotyledons already contain chlorophyll which allows the tiny leaves to perform photosynthesis but it’s only in the early vegetative stage that you will see the first pair of serrated leaves develop and this is when the plant will start to absorb energy and nutrients, and direct it to the growth of foliage and stems.
After 3-5 days of exposing the seed to germination conditions, you will see a white “tail” coming out of the seed, this “tail” will start to grow longer and thicker as soon as the seed is planted and will eventually become your plant’s taproot, which is the main root from where rootlets sprout.
Once the taproot grows to a considerable size, several lateral roots will start to emerge from it, forming a network of roots in the soil, this root network is responsible for absorbing water and nutrients which are vital for your plant’s growth.
4. Fan leaves
After the cotyledons have appeared, they will be exposed to sunlight. This is important because the cotyledons use photosynthesis to absorb sunlight and produce energy for the plant to grow. After a couple of days, the first serrated leaves will appear, and as the plant grows, bigger foliage will appear and each time they will have more apexes, which are the fingers of a cannabis fan leaf.
Depending on the genetics, the foliage can have five, seven, nine, or more fingers but either way, independent of the number of apexes, the fan leaves use sun, water, and C02 to produce sugars.
Also, the leaves are different depending on the genetics, for example, Indica leaves are usually wider with more fingers while Sativa leaves are thinners and have more fingers, there are also autoflowers that start with leaves similar to Ruderalis leaves and it can get complicated to differentiate so here’s a table to help you figure it out easier.
Cannabis leaf characteristics
|Sativa||Skinnier with up to 13 “fingers”.|
|Indica||Fat and wide leaves with up to 9 “fingers”.|
|Ruderalis||Short and compact, developing 3-5 “fingers.|
These sugars are a cannabis plant’s source of energy and it fuels growth and all the biological processes it needs.
Have in mind that even though the foliage is a part of a cannabis plant, they have low levels of cannabinoids so their purpose is to absorb sunlight, store water, and also protect the buds from sunburn but are not usually smoked.
5. Sugar leaves
Sugar leaves are regular leaves but unlike fan leaves, they’re not too big and usually grow in between the buds. This foliage can sometimes have trichomes on them but will depend on the trichome production of each specific strain.
These leaves contain less resin that buds and are usually not consumed but depending on the quality of the genetics, these leaves can be used to make edibles, oils, and extracts.
6. Pre-sex structures
The pre-sex structures appear on the internodes in the pre-flowering stage of the cannabis plant, if your plant turns out to be a male, you’ll see small balls appearing which are pollen sacs in the early stages.
These pollen sacs will eventually develop and open up, releasing the pollen needed to produce seeds, now, if you see white hairs (stigmas) instead of pollen sacs, your plant is definitely a female.
If you’re a home grower, you should “sex” your plants before they are completely mature, this will prevent the male plants from pollinating the female plants, have in mind that fertilized flowers will produce seeds which decreases the amount of cannabinoids and overall yield.
Now, if you’re a breeder or just want to experiment with cannabis breeding, you can have a breeding chamber so you can pollinate your plants in a controlled space and prevent cross-pollination because pollen is extremely light and can travel on your hair, clothes, and even by the wind.
7. Branches and stems
As said above, leaves absorb sunlight, and as new leaf growth appears, your plant will consequently get more light and the stem and branches will get thicker and thicker, developing more internodes (and more internodal spacing) on both sides of the stem.
The main part of a cannabis plant’s anatomy is the stem, the stem provides support to the foliage, branches, and flowers (basically the whole plant), inside the stem, there is a vascular system that consists of the Xylem and Phloem.
The Xylem transports water and the nutrients dissolved in water while the Phloem is responsible for transporting sugars, proteins, and other organic molecules in plants.
Sometimes plants can develop mutations, these mutations are genetic mutations so they cannot be fixed, and although some mutations can result in odd growth such as irregular branching and leaf growth, they can still produce good quality flowers, despite sometimes the yields being affected.
Nodes are the point where branches come off from the stem, in the vegetative stage of a cannabis plant they’re parallel to each other but when your plant begins flowering the appearance of nodes can become irregular, now this isn’t a problem at all, it’s just a characteristic of some cannabis strain and is usually a trait that can help you identify a certain plant’s species.
Have in mind that nowadays most cannabis strains are hybrids (a combination of Indica and Sativa genetics) so this won’t always be 100% correct but usually, Indicas tend to have nodes that are closer together while Sativa’s nodes are usually more spaced out.
These nodes are essential because they are where the buds or pollen sacs will start to develop and it’s where the first signs of your plant’s sex appear.
9. Flowers (buds)
The buds (flowers) are the most important part for growers but also for the cannabis plant, the flowers play several roles such as attracting pollinators and producing seed (once they’re fertilized) to perpetuate the species.
Nowadays you can find feminized seeds which means the seeds will result in 100% female plants but in nature, cannabis plants are dioecious which means the plants will be male or female, as said before.
The pre-flowering stage is vital in differentiating whether the plant is a male or a female because it’s when a plant will show the first signs of its sex.
The flowers that form on the top of the stem are known as the cola, typically, a plant has one main cola but growers have come up with several methods of creating multiple main colas with plant training techniques (such as LST and HST) that help increase yields.
The main cola is known as the apical bud or main cola and it’s where most of the buds gather together to form the main bud, you’ll also see small clusters of flowers between the foliage in the internodes but, compared to the main cola, the side colas are smaller so this is why growers use both LST and HST.
These two plant training methods end up changing the structure of the plant by exposing the flowering sites to more light and airflow, allowing the buds to grow bigger while also improving their quality.
When talking about flowers, there’s a distinction between female and male flowers. Male plants usually develop 2-3 weeks earlier than female flowers and, as said above, do not develop buds but they also form colas that consist of pollen sac clusters.
10. Pistils and stigmas
The pistils and stigmas are the reproductive parts of the female flowers, most cannabis consumers know the stigmas as pistils but that is wrong because the pistils are the part where the stigmas (white hairs) grow from.
These hair-like parts are responsible for collecting pollen grains from the male flowers and consequently, produce seeds.
When a cannabis plant is fully mature, the stigmas can change color several times, usually starting with white hues, then yellow, orange, or red, and lastly, brown.
Now, have in mind that the stigmas do not affect the potency or taste because they do not store any cannabinoids and don’t have trichomes so they won’t influence the quality and effect of your buds.
The bracts, which are usually called calyxes by mistake, are what actually form the buds on a cannabis plant, they are pear-shaped nodules that develop between the sugar leaves but depending on the strain, they can appear in several colors, shapes, and sizes.
When the stigmas get pollinated, the bracts essentially turn into an ovary (seed incubator) which allows the seeds to grow and ripen but ends up affecting the yields and can affect the resin quantity on your buds, that’s why “sinsemilla” or feminized seeds are preferred by growers and consumers.
A non-pollinated flower is usually trichome-rich because your harvest will have more trichomes and they are responsible for producing and storing terpenes and cannabinoids.
Trichomes are the tiny crystals found all over the buds and surrounding foliage and are considered the most important part for cannabis consumers, these mushroom-shaped glands are clear and sticky, and form a thick layer on the buds.
These mushroom-shaped glands known as trichomes can be found in different types and sizes, they are:
- Capitate-stalked trichomes 100 µm;
- Cystholitic trichomes 50 µm.
- Unicellular non-glandular trichomes 20 µm;
- Capitate sessile trichomes 20 µm;
- Complex bulbous trichomes 10 µm and;
- Simple bulbous trichomes 10 µm;
All “recreational strains” are THC-rich, depending on the strain, the trichome production may differ, resulting in more or fewer trichomes on your plants, but either way, all cannabis plants will produce trichomes.
For home growers, the trichomes are the standard practice to know exactly when to harvest but in nature, the compounds produce by the cannabis plant provide defense mechanisms, such as terpenes, which smell helps keep away predators.
Also, the sticky trichomes protect the buds from insects and against UV light, and although we don’t usually think about this when growing indoors, all the parts of a cannabis plant have an important role when cannabis plants grow in nature.
13. The Life Cycle of Cannabis Plants
Now that you know everything you need about the anatomy of cannabis plants, let’s understand a bit more about the life cycle of cannabis plants. Cannabis plants can take anywhere from 8 to 32 weeks to grow and mature, and during this time it goes through four stages, they are:
- Germination stage;
- Seedling stage;
- Vegetative stage;
- Flowering stage.
And it’s essential for you to understand these stages to grow healthy plants as each stage requires different light spectrums, light cycles, nutrients, and growing conditions.
The Germination Stage
Just like with any other plant, cannabis plants start from seeds. Cannabis seeds are dormant until exposed to warmth and moisture. This means that if you are looking to germinate cannabis seeds or any other type of seed, you will have to hydrate it and place it in good conditions.
After planted, seeds can take anywhere from 3 to 10 days to germinate and seeds contain enough food for 2-3 weeks, which means there’s no need to water with a nutrient solution until the seedling has come out of the soil. Once the seedling comes out of the soil, you’ll see two small rounded leaves which are called cotyledons, and this is what marks the beginning of the seedling stage.
The Seedling Stage
The seedling stage of cannabis plants can take anywhere from 1- 3 weeks, and sometimes more depending on the strain and growing conditions. During the seedling stage, plants focus on developing roots and foliage, this means that the roots are still small and fragile so be careful to not overfeed or overwater them. Once you’re in the seedling stage, make sure to provide 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness, and remember to keep an eye on them as they’re extremely susceptible to pests and diseases.
The Vegetative Stage
After a couple of weeks in the vegetative stage, your plants will start needing more food, light, and water as the roots and foliage start to grow exponentially. During the vegetative stage, you have to make sure you’re feeding your plant higher levels of nitrogen and less phosphorus and potassium as nitrogen is needed to develop foliage. If you’re growing indoors, the general rule is to flip to 12/12 (which triggers flowering) once the plant is ⅓ or ½ of the size you want them to be by harvest.
The Flowering Stage
Once you flip to 12/12 (or when autumn comes outdoors), your plants will start flowering. The flowering stage can take anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks or even more, depending on the strain. This stage starts with the appearance of pre-flowers which will eventually fatten up and turn into those delicious sticky flowers you’ve been waiting for so long. Obviously, this is just a quick rundown and there are a lot of things to keep in mind, other than the light cycle but understanding the life cycle and anatomy of cannabis plants will allow you to anticipate problems before they happen.
14. In conclusion
Cannabis plants are millennial plants that have developed and perfected their structure throughout the years, even though we don’t see it like that, all the parts of a cannabis plant are essential for them to grow and perpetuate their species.
Feel free to leave tips and more important information to help educate fellow growers, leave a comment in the comment section below!