The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Plant Anatomy

The anatomy of a cannabis plant

When looking at a cannabis bud, you’ve probably noticed the complexity in the different parts that you can see. From the little sugar crystals to the bright, colorful hairs, a cannabis plant’s anatomy is fascinating. What are these different features, and what function do they serve for the plant?

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Male Vs. Female Cannabis Plants

There are both male and female cannabis plants and some that are a mix of both genders. The male fertilizes the female plants to initiate the production of seeds. The resin-secreting flowers produced by the female cannabis plant are trimmed down to buds, and these flowers are what we consume. The mixed, or hermaphroditic, plants contain both male and female organs, allowing it to pollinate itself during flowering. These plants are generally deemed a nuisance to growers, as the self-pollination spoils seedless sinsemilla plants, which produce highly potent flowers. Highly potent herbs sound great, right? Check out Sparc’s selection of high-quality buds!

What Is the Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant?

When it comes to the cannabis plant, the flowers usually get most of the attention, since they are consumed for use. Every part of the plant plays a vital role in bringing those flowers to life.


A cluster of buds that tightly grow together is called a cola. The main cola, or apical bud, forms at the very top of the cannabis plant. Smaller colas can be found on budding sites of the lower branches. 

Stigma and Pistil

The pistil houses a flower’s reproductive organs. Stigmas are the vibrant, hair-like strands that are found on the pistil. The purpose of the stigma is to collect pollen from male cannabis plants. The stigmas change color throughout a plant’s maturation, starting with white coloration and darkening over time, turning the stigma yellow, orange, brown, and red. They play a significant role in the reproduction cycle, but the stigma has little effect on the budding flower’s taste and potency.

Bract and Calyx

The bract houses a female cannabis plant’s reproductive parts. They look like green tear-shaped leaves, and the bract is covered in resin glands that produce higher concentrations of cannabinoids than any other part of the plant. The calyx is a translucent layer covering the ovule on the flower’s base and generally cannot be seen; they are hidden away, tucked inside the bract.


Trichomes are tiny in size, but you can’t miss the coating of crystal resin on a cannabis plant’s buds. Secreted through mushroom-shaped, translucent glands on the stems, leaves, and calyxes, this resin is what we call kief once it has dried. Trichomes formerly served the purpose of protecting the plant against outdoor elements and predators. They ooze terpenes, which are aromatic oils and cannabinoids like CBD and THC. Hash production relies on trichomes and their potent resin.

The Seed

The seed is where it all begins. A mature, healthy cannabis seed has a well-rounded shape with one flat end and one pointed end and has a rigid, tough outer casing to prevent the seed from being crushed easily. A seem down the side of the housing that opens up during germination. Cannabis seeds can vary significantly in their size, anywhere from tiny to massive. Mature seeds have an outer shell covered in dark marking, known as tiger stripes that are a thin layer of cells that coat the seed and can be easily rubbed off. Inside the seed is the plant’s embryo that contains everything the plant needs to start a new life once it is planted and taken care of.

Cannabis growing outdoors

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The roots are the foundation of a cannabis plant and are essential to growing a healthy plant with beautiful flowers. There are three main purposes of the root system: keeping the plant anchored in the substrate, providing water and nutrients for growth, and storing the starches and sugars that are produced by photosynthesis. The taproot is the first piece that emerges from a germinated cannabis seed; it grows downward into the soil, seeking out nutrients and moisture to help the plant grow. After the taproot has spread, fibrous roots branch off from it to form an underground roots network. Then thick adventitious roots sprout from the stem of the plant; these make reproducing and cloning plants possible.

Root Crown

The root crown, also called the collar or neck, is formed when the stem and roots join together. This crown divides upward and downward growth, where the vascular system switches from the stem to the roots and where most of the plant’s cell division occurs. The root crown is an extremely vital part of the cannabis plant. It sits typically near the surface of the soil, where aeration is at its highest. It can also be transplanted and buried deeper below the ground to encourage more adventitious roots to sprout.

Stem and Nodes

The cannabis plant’s stem is what keeps it upright and supports the weight of the plant. It also contains the vascular system that carries nutrients and moisture from the roots to the leaves through xylem cells. It transports starches and sugars from the photosynthesis process around the plant for use or storage via phloem cells. These phloem cells are harvested for hemp fibers. The stem is divided by nodes, and the seedlings grow opposite pairs of leaves and nodes at first, but when they start to grow alternatively, that is a sign the cannabis plant is mature and ready to flower.

Leaves and Petioles

The leaves of a cannabis plant are palmately compound, meaning they are shaped like an open hand with multiple parts and have anywhere from three to 13 serrated, veined leaflets. The plants have small and large leaves shaped like a fan that gets removed at harvest. Leaflets join together and attach to the branch or stem by a leaf-stem called the petiole. The petioles vary in color and length, depending on the variety of the cannabis plant.


 Closeup cannabis flower

Male staminate flowers resemble small green balls on sticks and are composed of five petals that open to produce pollen-producing stamens. Once the pollen is released, male plants will soon die off. The male flowers contain low levels of terpenes and cannabinoids. The female pistillate flowers form tight clusters, and once they are pollinated, the plant devotes its energy to seed production. These seeded buds have lower levels of terpenes and cannabinoids, which is why growers strive to grow seedless sinsemilla flowers. What types of flowers are your favorite? Sparc has them all, from indica to sativa, and high THC to high CBD!

While it’s easy to admire the beautiful flowers of a cannabis plant, it’s essential not to overlook all of the parts and hard work used to produce your favorite buds. Learning more about how the plant grows and thrives allows us to become better growers and cultivate the best possible buds from each cannabis plant.

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