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Demystifying Cannabis (Part II)

This is part 2 of a 4 part series where we try to break down cannabis and explain each part in detail. In part 2 we will look at the anatomy of the plant. From seed to bud, this is the part that excites people most.

Part II – Anatomy of Cannabis

Before we jump into the anatomy of cannabis it’s important to know that cannabis has male and female plants. In some cases the plant can be both but those are quite rare so the focus of this article will be on males and females. Cannabis plants show their sex by what grows in between their nodes which is the point where leaves and branches extend from the stem (stalk). Pollen sacs will develop on a male plant to spread seeds and stigma will develop on a female to catch pollen. These are known as “pre-flowers.”

In the wild the male plant releases pollen and this pollen travels in the air until it reaches a female flower. The female then produces seeds which it eventually drops and these seeds grow into new cannabis plants and the cycle repeats. In modern times people realised that the female plants contains significantly more psychoactive compounds when compared to the male and these compounds get even more concentrated when they are not pollinated. It’s because of this reason today most cultivators focus on growing unfertilized female plants.

Today most products you’ll buy on the market are made from female cannabis plants. So let’s focus on what comprises the female plant.

The female cannabis plant can be broken into 7 basic parts –

  1. Stems (stalks)
  2. Fan leaves
  3. Colas
  4. Sugar leaves
  5. Calyxes
  6. Pistils
  7. Trichomes


Stems are the main body of the plant and also provides support and nutrients to the flowers. While they have very low psychoactive substances they are used for producing fibers, textiles, paper, organic compost, rope etc.

Fan Leaves

Possibly the most iconic symbol of the international cannabis movement, the fan leaves of the cannabis plant provide the plant with the energy it needs by photosynthesis. While they don’t have many uses they to us they are extremely important for the overall health of the plant


The central flower cluster that forms along the upper portion of the main stems and large branches in a mature female cannabis plant. Colas are composed of tightly woven teardrop shaped buds that can grow upwards of 24 inches when grown in a greenhouse setting. They are a prized possession among growers and consumers due to the high concentration of active resin. 


Commonly know as a bud, a calyx has the highest concentration of cannabinoids in the whole plant. One calyx (or one bud) is made out of sugar leaves, pistils and trichomes, all of which contain cannabinoids and terpenes (medicinal substances and aromatic molecules).

Sugar Leaves

Small leaves that, together with other sugar leaves, hold cannabis buds together. They are called sugar leaves within the cannabis industry because of the high concentration of trichomes that cover the leaf with a sugarlike appearance. Because of their high concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, sugar leaves are typically trimmed off of the plant after harvest and are then used for the production of concentrates.


The pistil is the hair like looking part that we see in the image above. It’s the female sex organ of the plant. Within the pistil lies the ovaries that turn to seeds once the pistil comes in contact with the pollen. If the pistil doesn’t come in contact with pollen it’ll continue to grow longer and it’ll produce more cannabinoid and terpene-rich resin in an attempt to trap pollen.


Trichomes are crystalized glands that produce resin on a marijuana plant. Often referred to as “sticky little hairs”, these glands are not actually hairs or crystals (although they’re still very beautiful close-up). Instead, they’re specific parts of the plant that carry the majority of cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.) and cover the plants major surfaces. Under a microscope, trichomes look like mini mushrooms, with each section providing certain value to the plant.

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