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Marijuana plant anatomy

From Buds to Trichomes: The Anatomy of a Marijuana Plant


Mastering the Marijuana Seedling Stage

Marijuana plant anatomy can focus too much on flowers. While it is easy to be enamored with the beautiful, dank, and sticky marijuana plant buds we all know and love, we shouldn’t ignore the rest. Behind those buds, there’s a whole plant, with each of the parts of the marijuana plant playing a crucial role in a successful harvest. 

Here at i49, we believe that the more our customers know about their favorite plants, the bigger their crops will be—and the better they will taste. For those reasons, we’ll take a closer look at the cannabis plant and the elements of its anatomy.

cannabis anatomy

We’ll provide some marijuana plant images for visual aid throughout the article so that you can get a better idea of cannabis plant anatomy.

Cannabis Seeds

For most enthusiasts, an introduction to marijuana anatomy occurs when they purchase or are given a few seeds. Therefore, we’ll start our examination of the anatomy of a marijuana plant with the humble seed.

Cannabis Seeds

If you’ve ever wondered where to buy pot seeds, we can help. Healthy and mature cannabis seeds should have a rounded shape with a flat end and a pointed end. These seeds have a rigid, tough outer casing that prevents crushing and other damage. The shell’s halves, also known as the pericarp or hull, are separated by a seam that opens as a seed germinates.

Depending on genetics, marijuana seeds can vary in size from about 800 seeds per gram to 15 seeds per gram. Mature cannabis seeds should have dark stripes, which are unique from one seed to the next. These markings can be removed easily to reveal the beige color beneath.

Another part of the anatomy of a marijuana bud is the plant embryo, which contains everything needed to grow weed buds. The embryo remains dormant until it’s put into the right conditions, and it consists of a root and two cotyledons. In between these first two leaves you’ll find the apical tip, from which the plant grows once the seed has germinated.

The Roots

When seeds first begin to grow into marijuana buds, the taproot is the first part to emerge from the seed casing. The emerging root will grow downward in search of nourishment and moisture, colonizing the substrate. A cannabis plant’s root system serves three purposes: anchoring the plant, giving it water and nutrients, and storing starches and sugars created by photosynthesis. It’s difficult to ignore the importance of the roots in the anatomy of a marijuana bud, as they’re the foundation upon which healthy, green plants are built.

cannabis roots

Roots fall into three categories. The first is the taproot, which is the subterranean part of the plant’s stem that produces branches as it grows downward. These branches are another type of root known as fibrous roots, which extend outward to form a network that’s almost the same size as the above-ground part of the plant. A third root type, known as adventitious roots, sometimes sprout from plant stems above the substrate. The adventitious roots are the part of a marijuana bud’s anatomy that makes cutting and cloning possible. 

Stems and Nodes

Of all the parts of the anatomy of a marijuana bud, the plant’s stem is the component that holds it upright and supports its weight. The stem holds the vascular system, which carries nutrients and moisture from the roots upward to the leaves via the xylem cells. This system also transports starches and sugars around the cannabis plant for storage or use via the phloem cells. Phloem, also called bast, is the part of the plant that’s typically harvested for fiber to make canvas, rope, and other materials.

Cannabis plants’ stems are sometimes hollow, and they are separated by nodes where lateral branches grow. The spaces between the nodes are known as internodes. Cannabis buds’ seedlings start by growing opposed pairs of leaves and nodes, and as time passes, the nodes will grow alternately to indicate that the plant is entering the flowering phase.

Cannabis Stems

Tall, stretchy sativa plants have wider internode spacing than compact, short indica varieties, though environmental factors can also determine spacing. The first flowers appear at the nodes, so that’s where cultivators look when determining the gender of a plant growing from a regular seed. The narrow, small leaves growing at the nodes are called stipules, which are different from pre-flowers.

Nodes are a part of the anatomy of a marijuana bud where hormones are made and most growth occurs. That’s why cultivators always cut their clones with a node to be placed into the substrate, so it will produce hormones (auxins) that encourage root development in the undifferentiated node cells.

Petioles and Leaves

Cannabis leaves somewhat resemble an open hand, with anywhere from three to 13 serrated, veined leaflets. Indica varieties typically have shorter, wider, and darker leaflets, while sativa leaflets are typically lighter, longer, and narrower. However, cannabis is a diverse genus and there are a few exceptions to the rule. Autoflowering varieties often have small leaves, with shaping that’s dependent on genetics.

Marijuana leaves

Cannabis plants have fan leaves of varying sizes, which are removed and disposed of during the harvest. They also have sugar leaves, which are the tiny, resinous leaflets that makeup one of the most noticeable parts of the anatomy of a marijuana bud. Sugar leaves are either trimmed and saved for their resin, or they’re left on the buds and smoked or vaporized.

As seedlings grow, each leaf set has an odd but increasing number of leaflets, so the leaves immediately above a plant’s cotyledons will typically have one leaflet. The second pair of leaves will have three leaflets, the third set will have five, and so on. These leaflets join at the rachis, from where they attach to a branch or a stem by their petioles. A petiole may be any color from dark purple to green, with darker colors indicating a phosphorus deficiency.


Does marijuana have flowers? Yes, of course, more commonly called weed plant buds, marijuana plants definitely flower after they develop vegetation. A female marijuana plant will flower differently from a male marijuana plant. 

Cannabis plant in flowering stage
Flowering Stage

Cannabis is a dioecious plant, which means that female and male reproductive organs are on separate plants. Unless you’re planning to breed plants or preserve seeds, you probably won’t allow male plants to grow to maturity. However, it’s important to know what they look like, even if you’re using feminized seeds in Colorado.

Male flowers look like tiny green balls on narrow sticks, being composed of petals that open to reveal pollen-emitting stamens. They grow in loose, long bud clusters from branch internodes, and once the pollen is released, the male plant will die off. Male flowers contain a much lower level of terpenes and cannabinoids than female flowers do.

Female flowers consist of tight bract clusters. Bracts are the teardrop-shaped petals that growers call calyxes. Each calyx contains the stigma and the ovary, which is the part of a flower that catches pollen. Once a stigma is pollinated, it’s transported to the ovary where seeds are formed. The pistils will gradually shrivel and turn red or brown once they’ve served their purpose. Cannabis seeds typically mature within four to six weeks.

After they’re pollinated, female marijuana plants will focus on seed production rather than resin synthesis. Therefore, seed-filled buds have lower terpene and cannabinoid levels. If you’ve ever smoked a joint or sparked up a bowl and found a seed, you know just how bad it tastes and smells. That’s why we strive to grow seedless (sensimilla) flowers.

Sexing Cannabis Plants

Before delving too deeply into the topic, it is first important to understand the basics of marijuana plants. The technical name for marijuana is Cannabis Sativa. 

sexing marijuana plants

These plants are unisexual. This simply means some plants can create both male and female flowers. If a cannabis plant produces only male flowers, it is said to be male. If it only produces female flowers, it is female. If the plant produces both, it is called a hermaphrodite. 


One of the easiest ways to distinguish between a male marijuana plant and a female is the flowers. Male plants produce smaller clusters of bell-shaped flowers that hang down. 

They release pollen that can fall on female plants or be carried by insects. Although they are called flowers, the male really produces sacks that are shaped like flowers, but they are full of pollen. 

Female marijuana plants produce calyxes that are tear-shaped and have two pistols. These group together and form buds. 

It is important to note that female cannabis plants typically flower later than males. You can find the flowers or calyxes forming at the node areas of the stems. (Ernest Small, H. D. Beckstead, and Allan Chan)

Unfortunately, cannabis plants often do not reveal their genders until the flowering stage. It is sometimes too late at this stage of growth to remove the males. This is why learning how to sex cannabis plants is essential for growers. 


Although this is not a definitive method of sexing a male weed plant, most males are taller than female plants. If the height difference is not enough to decide, look for the flowers. Females have pistils, and males do not. 

Male plants also grow straighter than females. If you see a tall, straight plant, this is likely a male, though the best way to distinguish the sexes is by looking at the flowers or calyxes. 

Females usually have complex growth patterns. They will bush out more than the males after the seedling stage finishes and they are heading into the vegetative stage. 


Some growers have found unique ways to identify if a sprout is a male cannabis plant or a female. Before attempting this method of identification, please note, it is not based on scientific fact, but more on theory. Those growers who use this method have seen up to a 90% success rate in identification. 

If the sprout comes from the top of the seed or the bottom, it is most likely a female plant. If the sprout shoots out of the side of the seed, it is a male. Never throw away sprouts based on this finding alone. If you suspect there is a male marijuana plant, simply isolate it from the others and watch to see how it grows.


Scientists aren’t sure why the anatomy of a marijuana plant involves such large quantities of trichomes, but most believe that they assist in seed development and protect flowers from insects, animals, UV light, and temperature shifts. There are two types of trichomes: non-glandular and glandular.

The main difference is that glandular trichomes are found on the sugar leaves and flowers, while non-glandular trichomes typically grow on petioles, leaves, and stems. Glandular trichomes have resin glands that secrete terpenes and cannabinoids, while non-glandular trichomes have no glands or heads.

Glandular trichomes are divided into three groups: bulbous, capitate-sessile, and capitate-stalked. Bulbous trichomes are small and few in numbers, while capitate-sessile trichomes grow close to the surface of the leaves. Finally, capitate-stalked trichomes are found on flowers and contain a high level of cannabinoids.

cannabis trichomes

As cannabis flowers mature, their trichomes will change color. They start out transparent and gradually turn milky white, becoming amber-colored when they’re fully mature. Cultivators have harvest habits that depend on their preferences and the effects they’re seeking. However, we offer useful guides on harvesting cannabis according to the ripeness of its trichomes.

With our help, you’ll learn more about marijuana bud anatomy, as well as how and when to harvest your cannabis crop for optimal flavor and potency.

In Closing

The anatomy of a marijuana bud is quite complex but learning a little about it will help you become a more confident cannabis cultivator. With more knowledge about stems, leaves, trichomes, seeds, flowers, and other parts, you’ll become a more informed grower and consumer.

Count on the pros at for more information on marijuana bud anatomy, cannabis cultivation tips and advice, as well as one of the country’s best selections of weed seeds.

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