Categories
BLOG

marijuana foxtailing

What Are “Foxtails” on Cannabis Buds?

by Sirius Fourside

What to Do About Marijuana Foxtailing

Picture some dried and cured, ready-to-smoke bud in your mind. Maybe it’s some you’ve harvested yourself, maybe it’s some exotic-looking unique strain, or maybe it’s just a generic picture your mind pulls up when you think ‘weed’.

I’m sure there are a few exceptions, but I’m betting most of you didn’t automatically picture this:

Picture of a cannabis bud with a major “foxtail” coming out the top. In this case, the foxtailing was caused by too much heat, though some types of foxtails are caused by genetics.

There are new green “fox tails” near the top of this cola where the bud is too close to the grow light. On the right is a bud with a typical shape. The lower bud is far enough away from the grow light to be unstressed.

Many auto-trimming machines cut off foxtails, so if you used to purchase cannabis regularly you may have bought buds that had foxtails without knowing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though!

So, What Exactly Are Foxtails?

The bud we know and love is made up of a bunch of calyces (that’s the plural for “calyx”) and each calyx is a potential home for a seed. However, those seeds will only develop in cases where pollination or hermaphroditism (developing both male and female sex organs) occurs.

Buds are made up of many calyxes stacked on top of each other, but generally, buds grow evenly and stick together in bunches.

As female cannabis plants mature and soak up light, they grow calyces in groups which pile up on each other until they end up looking something like the plant above. Even the more exotic looking strains tend to form buds with a somewhat even-ish surface:

“Foxtails” are made of several calyxes stacked on top of each other in a tower-like structure.

Even when you can very clearly see each individual calyx (which is natural for some strains), they tend to be relatively symmetric, with a similar amount of “foxtailing” on all sides. (Why are these buds pink and purple?)

Another example of a strain that naturally makes foxtails in normal conditions

Foxtailing buds look a bit different from traditional buds because the calyces grow on top of each other to form spires.

These spires/towers throw off the overall shape of the bud as we’re used to, so they look odd to most people. However, there are also strains that grow bud where all (or at least the vast majority) of the calyces turn into foxtails.

Note that on these plants, every calyx is foxtailing….even the calyces on the underside! It appears to be the same action that’s happening in the “bad” foxtailing picture above, but it’s much more complete.

So, is foxtailing a bad thing? It depends…

I know, I know… no one likes an ‘it depends’ answer. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would be a definitive answer and it feels so nice to feel like you know something for sure! Luckily for us as growers, you can learn to tell if the foxtailing you’re seeing is good or bad in just a few minutes! Now you can impress your friends!

Note: That was a trick! Impress your friends with cooking and/or Karate, but tell no one you grow cannabis!

The Two Types of Foxtailing
(Good vs Bad)

Before we go any further, I have to admit that designating one type of foxtailing ‘good’ is a bit misleading. I call it ‘good’ in that it doesn’t provide any positive or negative benefits; ‘good’ foxtailing looks a bit funky but ultimately, it’s purely a cosmetic issue. However, ‘bad foxtailing’ really is a bad thing and comes with consequences…

Being able to tell if the foxtailing you’re experiencing is good or bad is as simple as being able to tell the difference between two foxtailing pictures. Here are two more examples side-by-side:

Let’s start with the one on the left. This type of foxtailing is caused by…

Genetics
Some strains of cannabis have been bred – by humans and/or mother nature – to form buds where foxtailing is the norm. Although often foxtailing is caused by heat or light stress, when you’re growing a strain that is genetically predisposed to foxtail, the whole bud joins in on the foxtailing action. This makes it so that genetic foxtailing looks more uniform than the other type of foxtailing we’ll review in a minute.

The picture to the right is a strain called ‘Dr. Grinspoon’ (named for the esteemed cannabis activist, Dr. Lester Grinspoon). The look of this plant could be considered another manifestation of genetic foxtailing, and it’s important to note that this action happens everywhere on the plant.

Good or Bad? In short, there’s nothing wrong with genetic foxtailing. The fact that it’s genetic means that it was going to do it regardless of whatever specific growing technique is being used. These strains are also capable of containing high amounts of THC, so it doesn’t seem that genetic foxtailing reduces the potency of the plant.

This type of foxtailing is the good type. Again, that only means that it’s good by comparison to bad foxtailing in that it doesn’t cause any negative effects.

Now for the other picture. The other kind of foxtailing (the bad kind) is usually caused by…

Heat/Light Stress
The second cause of foxtailing is environmental and it’s usually caused by your lights. If you’ve ever parked a high-powered HPS or LED light (CFLs and T5s aren’t usually strong enough) too close to your cannabis, you might see it grow these odd spires.

What about when buds keep growing new white pistils over and over? This is another version of foxtailing that is caused by heat and light stress. If it’s only happening to the parts of the plant closest to the light, that’s a sign that it’s being caused by stress instead of genetics.

Good or Bad? Bad! This type of foxtailing is a sign that your buds are getting too much light and/or too much heat! These odd spires can also be accompanied by light bleaching and cooked leaves. Any one of these signs is a message that your lights need to be backed off immediately to halt any further damage. Although light bleaching and burned leaves are obviously damaged, foxtails don’t look damaged so much as they just look weird, so they don’t register as a threat to new growers. Unfortunately, they’re the harbingers of heat damage which means lost potency; if you see this type of foxtails on your buds, you’ve likely already lost potency to heat and now the mission is to lose as little as you possibly can.

Luckily, this type of foxtailing is usually localized, so you’ll only see it in spots where light intensity is super-high. This usually means they’ll be found in a small circle directly under the light, but that small circle gets larger as the light gets closer.

Now with all that being said, plants are weird! It’s totally possible that many of you growers have already seen a plant that makes the ‘bad’ looking foxtails but all over the plant. Or maybe a plant that only grows in spires! The point is that there is bound to be plants that break these rules, but at least until then you’ll know what you’re dealing with. Good luck and happy growing!

What makes long thin buds grow on top of your regular buds? And when is fox-tailing perfectly normal? Also, why do new white pistils keep appearing on almost-done buds?

Foxtailing. a desireable trait?

Jimster
jaguarlax
Dirtbag

Undesirable for me or anyone I know. Cash croppers hated it because it slowed down trimming.

We only ever saw it when heat got away on us or the plants grew too close to the lights.

I see it all the time on LED grown pot and it’s one of the things that’s prevented me from trying any of the newer LED’s myself..

Jimster

Undesirable for me or anyone I know. Cash croppers hated it because it slowed down trimming.

We only ever saw it when heat got away on us or the plants grew too close to the lights.

I see it all the time on LED grown pot and it’s one of the things that’s prevented me from trying any of the newer LED’s myself..

cemchris

Genetics can cause it. The more sat dom stuff will do it. Happens alot in haze crosses. It happens to me when plants get too tall and close to the light like @Dirtbag said.

For example: vegged a week longer then I liked for this room. This plant does it a little to an extent but as it got closer the more it happened.

Jimster

Genetics can cause it. The more sat dom stuff will do it. Happens alot in haze crosses. It happens to me when plants get too tall and close to the light like @Dirtbag said.

For example: vegged a week longer then I liked for this room. This plant does it a little to an extent but as it got closer the more it happened.
View attachment 963711

Dirtbag

Genetics can cause it. The more sat dom stuff will do it. Happens alot in haze crosses. It happens to me when plants get too tall and close to the light like @Dirtbag said.

For example: vegged a week longer then I liked for this room. This plant does it a little to an extent but as it got closer the more it happened.
View attachment 963711

For sure some strains have it to a degree. Our Wedding cake was like your pic. That just is what it is, I have no issues with buds like that.
To me though, undesirable foxtailing is the long spires that shoot way out of the buds all over from heat stress. Like your top in the pic only worse. And it could happen to almost any strain that got too close to the lights for us.

It would also make the half pound bags huge.

growsince79
MIMedGrower

Many of the sativa leaning strains i have foxtail towards the finish. But when i let them keep going they tend to mostly fill out the space created. And push out way more trichomes those last extra weeks.

I do back away crom the hps lamp a couple inches to help keep them from getting out of hand.

More dense indica phenos dont seem to do it at all but also tend to have a flatter fuzzier high in my opinion.

so I guess i love foxtail weed.

goingtoguano
goingtoguano
growsince79
bubblefunk

IMO if you’re seeing foxtail’s that aren’t genetic, you’ve messed up along the way. Various forms of stress lead to this kind of growth. Definitely not desirable IMO

“This life of sin has got me in. well it’s got me back in prison once again. I used my only phone call to contact my daddy! Got 20 long years for some dust in a baggie. ”
Billy Strings

100% Compliant legal cultivator

Tycho
dire wolf
dire wolf
Dirtbag

Really if you think about it, the reason equatorial sativas develop foxtails to begin with is because they originate from hot locations. Whereas high mountain indica landrace strains get the intense light, but usually cooler drier environments.

Reminds me of an interview with Arjan of greenhouse seeds with Kyle Kushman where he was talking about how they can take a pure landrace indica plant, and when they breed it to itself, outdoors in the Congo, over several generations of breeding It will adapt and start to grow more like a sativa. Just gave me an interesting perspective on just how much environment dictates so much of how weed expresses itself.

Moshmen

For sure some strains have it to a degree. Our Wedding cake was like your pic. That just is what it is, I have no issues with buds like that.
To me though, undesirable foxtailing is the long spires that shoot way out of the buds all over from heat stress. Like your top in the pic only worse. And it could happen to almost any strain that got too close to the lights for us.

It would also make the half pound bags huge.

I was looking at some seed advertising and noticed that most of the "Big Bud" type of plants seem to have foxtailing occuring in their pictures. I have had…