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5 Key Components of Female Cannabis Plants

By Megan O'neill
Published: July 12, 2017 | Last updated: May 25, 2021
Key Takeaways

Female cannabis plants have more THC than their male counterparts, which is why growers focus on them. Here are five things that differentiate a female cannabis plant from a male plant.

Female cannabis plants show five key characteristics that distinguish them from the males. The females grow the buds and are what growers cultivate.

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There are a few distinct markers that help you identify the females from the males, and they have to do with their buds as well as their general plant anatomy. The female flowers have more THC and this is why growers focus on them.

Here’s all you need to know about the girls.

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Cannabis calyxIn a female cannabis plant the calyx will grow and eventually open to expose the pistils, which look like long, white hairs.

The Calyx

After about six weeks, cannabis plants will start to show signs of being male or female. If you see a plant growing round balls near the base of the branch, those are premature pollen sacks of a male plant.

Female plants grow two light hairs. These are the pre-flowers. The female calyx has long hairs that are tear-drop shaped with antennae. They can be a variety of colors such as purple, green, or white.

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Cannabis plant with immature pistils.Pistils are long and covered in sticky resin that traps pollen.

The Pistil

The pistil is the combination of the stigma and the ovule. It is only found on female cannabis plants. The stigma is the part of the female plant that looks like an antennae. Its purpose is to help the plant become pollinated. When the plant is fully developed, these will change to an orange color. They are covered in a sticky resin.

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Read also: 8 Things to Consider When Sexing Your Cannabis Plants

The ovule and stigma together are the pistil. When a plant become fertilized, the ovule will swell up and develop a white, black, gray, or striped seed. These are also called the seed pods. The first pistil that you see are small, wispy hairs on the joining branches of the cannabis plant.

cannabis flower Cannabis flowers contain ample resin crystals (trichomes) that look like granulated sugar.

The Flower

The female flowers are rich in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and that is what is best to smoke. Growers keep male cannabis plants away from female plants because when the females are fertilized, they will use up energy making seeds instead of making flowers.

As it develops, the flowers grow larger and more colorful. In the second stage of a plant's life, the flowering stage, the plant starts to grow crystal-like, fluffy, lighter buds that have fan leaves around them.

Read also: 6 Steps to Great Big Cannabis Buds

The flowers grow together in bunches. The flowers are made up of 'sugar leaves', which are the green buds covered in crystals. The buds typically form largest on the top branches of the plant. On the branch they get smaller as they get closer to the stem.

As the plant progresses through the flowering stages, you will see the buds get larger and the flowers change colors. Most of the time, sativa strains are lighter in color than the indica strains.

The flowers become buds and the resinous crystals are the trichomes. These make kief and are what smell the strongest. The part of the flower that contains the most resin is actually in the ovule.

cannabis colaCannabis plants produce one flower at the very top that is larger than all the others, called an apical bud, or cola.

The Cola

At the top of the cannabis plant and the biggest branches is the apical bud, or the cola. These are large rows of buds.

The colas are comprised of a stem, flowers, branches, and leaves. It is the best and the most desirable part of the cannabis plant. The parts that receive the most sun or artificial lighting will form the colas.

Only female plants grow these thick, vertical columns of flowers considered to be the most important part of the plant. It’s possible that different parts of the plant are at different stages of development at the same time.

If you harvest the plant in parts, then the energy will go to developing the other parts that haven’t grown as much. Then, a month later (or however long it takes) you can get a second harvest.

Read next: The Basics of Breeding Your Own Cannabis Strains

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Written by Megan O'neill

Profile Picture of Megan O'neill

Megan O'neill is a freelance writer based in the US. She writes about all sorts of things, but writing about cannabis has become one of her favorite topics.

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