In the world of plants, reproduction can take place in various ways. Hermaphrodite plants grow single flowers that have both male and female reproductive organs.
Monoecious plants produce two different types of flowers on the same plant. And then there are dioecious plants like cannabis, which deliver both male and female reproductive organs.
Since cannabis grows as a male or female plant (the industry has also selected monoecious varieties), we can isolate the benefits of the growth of females with or without male interference. The introduction of both males and females will result in cross-pollination and therefore, seeds, which is the way a breeder reaches new genetics. On the other hand, removing a male from the garden allows female plants to produce large seedless shoots (called sensimilla). The resinous buds we consume all come from female plants.
Pollinated shoots are generally considered inferior quality cannabis. When the seeds are present, the smoke becomes hard and unpleasant. However, growers can introduce male plants to pollinate the females if they grow a new stock or collect seeds for next year’s harvest.
Female genetics can be guaranteed by obtaining feminised clones and seeds. If, however, you work with regular seeds or you are unsure of your type of seeds. Knowing how to determine the sex of your plant is vital for the development of new genetics: the seed harvest or growth of sensimilla. Fortunately, the sexuality of cannabis plants is easier than you might think if you know when and where to start looking.
How to determine the sex of a cannabis plant
Cannabis plants show their sex from what grows between the internodes (where leaves and branches extend from the stem). What starts like a lot of pollen on a male plant or a stigma on a female will become what spreads or captures dust, respectively. Fortunately, we can see these differences weeks before they start serving their goals in the reproduction cycle. These are known as “pre-flowers”.
The pre-flowers begin to grow for four weeks in growth but may take a little longer, depending on how quickly the budding phase has occurred. By the sixth week, you should be able to find pre-flowers and safely determine the sex of your plant.
Pre-flowers may initially be extremely small and difficult to identify with the naked eye, but you can use a magnifying glass. Examine the nodes of the plant and look for both the early growth of small sacs (males) or two bracts (female), which will eventually produce the stigma of the hair.
Although there are other methods to determine what the sex of the plant is, examining the pre-flower formation is the most reliable. The removal of males early is essential for two reasons: it frees up space in your garden, so the females become more prominent and stronger, and prevents the males from pollinating the females.
What are hermaphroditic cannabis plants?
When a female plant develops both male and female sexual organs, it is considered hermaphroditic. This means that your cannabis plant is now able to produce pollen that can fertilise the entire garden. “Ermendo fuori”, as some call it, is something that generally happens when a plant becomes excessively stressed. Some plant stress factors include:
- Plant damage
- Weather events
- Nutrient deficiencies
There are two types of hermaphrodite plants:
- A plant that develops both buds and pollen sacks
- A plant that produces anthers, commonly called “bananas” because of their appearance
While both determine the production of pollen, the real hermaphrodites produce pockets that need to break, while the anthers are exposed, the stamens that produce pollen.
Since this happens when cannabis is under stress, it is essential to monitor the plants after they have been exposed to stress factors. Indoors, high temperatures or imbalances due to daylight hours are often the cause. Outside, a broken branch could be repaired and become a hermaphrodite.
Another leading cause for developing hermaphrodite plants lies in the genetics of the plant. A plant with poor genetics or a history of hermaphrodite development should be avoided to protect your garden. If you notice pockets of pollen or anthers at any time, immediately remove the plant from your garden to prevent pollination of female plants.
If you are interested in pollinating parts of your crop, remember that pollen is potent and very good at travelling. Keep your males destined for pollination away from your garden space and work carefully with that pollen.