Cannabis genders explained: Male, Female and Hermaphrodite

When growing cannabis it’s very important to know the differences between the genders of this plant. Most other plants can grow both male and female flowers on just one plant, cannabis is what’s called a dioecious plant, this means both female and male grow completely separate from each other.

Just like human beings, there are 2 main genders that we call male and female. These genders are very different from each other and both have their own characteristics (like humans). The most important one we humans have in common with this plant is that you’ll need a male+female to reproduce.

However, despite these similarities there are also some other aspects that are different from us humans which, as a beginner, might be a little confusing to understand.

To clear up these differences, we’ll explain all them in this article one by one! 

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         Female

The unfertilized, female cannabis plant is pretty important as it’s the only gender that can produce the THC-rich buds we all love or need (as medicine). Female plants produce way higher levels of THC then males. However, it will produce these buds only when she doesn’t get pollinated by a male plant. So if you want to grow some buds, make sure there is no male plant close to the ladies or in the same room.

 

Pollination occurs when a male plant evolves and “pop” their pollens on the flowers of the female. Once it pollinates the female plant, she won’t put her energie and nutrients in growing new buds, instead all her energy goes to the production of seeds for reproducing purposes.

Recognizing a female cannabis plant:

Now you know the importance of a female plant and what happens with or without pollination, it would be nice to recognize one. In this article we will tell how to recognize the differences in appearence of all genders. To begin with the female:

The ladies have some noticeable characteristics and should be recognized quite easily. A female plant has more side branches which makes it more bushy and “healthy looking” compared to other genders. However, the most recognizable aspect of a female plant is visible once she starts her blooming phase. This is when you start to see small hairs appear on the end of most branches.

To be 100% sure you are dealing with a female, use this method:

  • Wait for the plant to grow for 4-6 weeks
  • Go and look for the nodes on your plant
  • Look for small green ball with the shape of a seed (called: Calyx)
  • Make shure a small “hair” (pistil) grows out of the ball (see photo)

If this is visible, you have a female!

Feminized seeds

A Great development in the cannabis world is the concept of feminized seeds. Breeders and seedbanks use a method to reproduce only seeds with female genetics, so growers are guarenteed to buy female seeds only. This concept is called feminizing and today it’s the standard for any company selling seeds. Luckily, most of them also sell non-feminized seeds so you are still able to cross strains and produce seeds by using the male plants.

Feminizing can be done in a few different ways. One way is by interrupting the light schedule of the seed-producing plant. When done properly, it could lead to all seeds being female. However this method is not 100% accurate. There is a better way:

These days it’s more common and reliable to treat female plants with colloidal silver or silver thiosulfate. The silver particles in these solutions will obstruct the production of flowers which results in a female cannabis plant with male pollens that are only holding female genetics. If these pollinate another female plant, the seeds coming out of them are almost 100% female.

However. Even when you buy feminized seeds, there is still a very small chance of one being a male. Depending on multiple factors, it’s possible that a male plant grows out of a feminized seed.


          Male

Male plants are often seen as a pain in the ass because they can ruin crops pretty easily. Just like other plants, the males produce pollen and release them by opening (popping) their pollen sacs. When these pollen float through the air and land on female plants, they get pollinated. this means that from then, a female will produce seeds instead of thc-rich flowers. This is why most grower get rid of male plants.

 

However, they don’t deserve their negative reputation as there are some benefits as well! Let’s start with the most obvious one:

  • Breeding strains– For some people it’s just not enough to just grow one kind of strain from the same clones over again. Or you might not be able to your hands on some nice new seeds. Then breeding your own strains might be the answer! Choose 2 strains with different characteristics (like: Flavour, potency and yields) and combine these by breeding a new strain using a male from one strain and female from the other. A male plants contributes 50% of it’s genetics so make sure to choose the best male you can find!
  • Production of very strong fibers– The fibers of male plants are quite different then female fibers. Male fibers are more flexible and have a higher resistance, female fibers on the other hand are more sturdier. Hemp-growers often seperate these so they can use them for different products like textiles or paper. The soft and thin male fibers are better for fine textiles like towel and bedding. The rough female fibers can be used for canvas, paper and rough textiles.
  • Making edibles/concentrates– As male plants won’t produce any buds, they do produce small amounts of the same cannabinoids that you can find on the female plant. Only less of it. Most of these can be found on the leaves, stems and sacs. This makes it possible to use the material for making edibles, hash or rosin.

Recognizing a male cannabis plant:

Just like the female plant, a male can be recognized pretty easily once you know where to look at. It’s quite important to recognize the male before they start to pollinate other plants in your growroom. Luckily, most of the times males are quicker to be recognized then females.

Picture by: @RollingPapyrus

There are 2 things to look at when determine the gender. The first one is by looking at the overal appearance of the plant. Males tent to stretch a little longer, grow less leaves and branches, look thinner and “less healthy”. Next to a female, you would recognize a male easily, however on it’s own it might be a little harder. Thats why you can also use this more reliable method which is quite similair as the way to spot a female:

  • Wait for the plant to grow 4-6 weeks
  • Go and check the nodes of your plant
  • Look for pollen sacs (small balls that grow in the same place as the calyx on females only without a pistil and bigger, see picture!)
  • Once you’re sure you spot a pollen sac, you’re dealing with a male!

 


Hermaphrodite

This gender is pretty rare in the cannabis world so the chance of growing or finding is isn’t big. The Hermaphordite is something we see in humans, animals & plants. It simply means that it’s an organism which is born with male and female features/characteristics/. In this case, the cannabis plant is able to pollinate and reproduce by itself. So just like male plants, these can ruin your thc-rich buds. This gender is nature’s answer to bad circumstances so the plant is able to pollinate and reproduce by itself.

The hermaphrodite is often the result of:

  • Fysical damage to the plant
  • Diseases
  • Nutrient’s shortage
  • very bad weather
  • Sometimes genetically

Depending on the genetics, some strains are more sensitive to turn in a hermaphrodite then others. A hermaphrodite is able to reproduce itself which means that if you have one in your growroom/area, it’s a matter of time that more and more plants will start to grow. Next to that they will polinate the females. Make sure to avoid these in your grow!  .

Recognizing a Hermaphrodite cannabis plant:

If you want to know how to recognize a hermaphrodite, you need to watch for 2 varieties:

The first one clearly shows both male and female gender characteristics. One bigger pollen ball (male) and one smaller ball (calyx) with one hair coming out (pistil). This one will eventually pollinate its own female flowers and produce seeds.
The other one shows something different. Once it reaches the blooming phase, it will produce small banana shaped “fruits” which are actually inside out seedpods. These contain pollen and don’t have to “pop” to release them as they carr them on the outside of the seepod. This makes these kind of hermaphrodites pro’s in the pollination of  female plants.

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