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If you take a closer look at a cannabis bud, you’ll notice it is made from several different parts: tiny leaves wrapped around bulky knobs, sugary crystals, and delicate orange hairs. You may wonder what all these formations are and what roles they play in the overall scheme of things.

This article is a brief overview of cannabis anatomy that aims to help you gain a better understanding of the cannabis plant in its full form. Unfortunately, restrictive laws make it very difficult to find real, living cannabis plants. This guide will hopefully help you understand where your favorite strain comes from.

Male And Female Plants

While cannabis plants can be male, female or hermaphrodite, the flowers in your jar come from a female plant.

  • Female plants produce big flowers that end up as round or pointed buds while male plants produce some tiny pollen sacs located at the base of the leaves.
  • Male plants pollinate female flowers, thus initiating the seed production. However, the powerful flowers we consume actually originate from seedless female plants that are known as sinsemilla. These plants produce big cannabinoid-rich buds with no seeds.
  • Hermaphrodite plants are rather rare and they feature both male and female reproductive organs. This enables the plant to pollinate itself during the flowering season. As self-pollination spoils the seedless sinsemilla flowers and passes on hermaphroditic genes, growers aren’t too fond of it.

Growers can control the sex of their plants by creating new, genetically identical strains coming from the parent plant. They may also use a special breeding technique that enables them to obtain feminized seeds.

The Anatomy Of A Cannabis Plant

The cannabis plant contains a series of structures, many of which being common to all flowering plants species. The stems of these plants are long and thin. The iconic fan leaves grow from areas known as nodes. By the time the plant grows large enough, unique and intricate designs start forming, giving the plant its specific look.


A cola is a cluster of buds growing tightly together. Each plant features many smaller colas that form along the lower branches, and a unique, bigger cola that forms at the very top of the plant. This top cola is also known as the apical bud.

Pistil And Stigma

The pistil is the organ that contains the reproductive parts of the plant. The hairlike strands around the pistil are known as stigmas. The role of the stigmas is to collect pollen from male plants. The initial color of the stigmas is white, but they gradually turn to yellow, orange, red, and even dark brown as the plant reaches maturity. Stigmas play a very important role in reproduction, but don’t contribute to the taste or the potency of the flower.

Bract And Calyx

The bract is the part of the plant that encapsulates the female sex organs. They look like green leaves that are covered in resin glands. The bracts are responsible for producing the highest concentration of cannabinoids. The calyx is enclosed by bracts, and it is invisible to the naked eye. It is nothing else than a transparent layer that covers the ovule of the female plant.


The cannabis bud features a crystal resin blanket which is impossible to miss. This resin (known as “kief” when it dries) represents the secretion of the mushroom-shaped glands of the leaves, calyxes and stems. Initially, tricomes were developed to protect the plant against predators. They are used to extract terpenes, the dazzling aromatic oils you may have already heard about, and therapeutic cannabinoids such as CDB and THC. Trichomes and their resin are the base of the hash production.