Cannabis plants are composed of different parts, each having a certain purpose. It’s interesting to understand which part of the plant you smoke, which part is used to make concentrates, and what the resin on the buds is made of.
Male, female and hermaphrodite cannabis plants
Cannabis plants can be male, female or hermaphrodite — meaning that they’re both male and female.
The cannabis you consume comes from a female plant. Only the females produce the resin-secreting flowers which can be trimmed down to buds. These buds contain cannabinoids, which provide the fun effects we’re familiar with. Male plants pollinate the females, but aren’t consumed.
Cannabis growers typically create clones of their plants in order to preserve their genetic identity. This allows them to control cannabis production, while anticipating future sales.
The different parts of the plant
Stem — The stem is long and skinny, and holds a fair amount of fan leaves. As with most plants and flowers, the stem stores and transports nutrients extracted from the soil to the flowers and leaves. The place where a small branch (holding leaves) grows from the stem is called a node.
Fan leaves — The fan leaves turn the energy from the sun into energy for the plant, thanks to photosynthesis. Of course this also works with lamps, when growing cannabis indoors. These leaves have become a well known unofficial symbol of the cannabis culture, which is recognized all over the world.
Sugar leaves (our namesake!) — The small leaves that grow in the flower are called sugar leaves. They can be trimmed and used for cannabis edibles.
Cola — The cola is a cluster of flowers growing very close together at the top of a female cannabis plant.
Calyxes — The calyxes grow under the small leaves of cannabis buds. They’re nodules shaped like a tear, which secrete cannabinoids through small glands.
Pistils — The orange hairs you see come from the calyxes, and are called pistils. When a male plant secretes pollen, these little hairs are here to collect it. The color of the pistils changes while the plant is growing toward maturation. The taste of the cannabis buds isn’t influenced by these pistils, neither is their potency.
Trichomes — The leaves, stems and calyxes all contain translucent glands which secrete trichome. The trichomes form the crystal resin blanket on your cannabis buds. Even though they’re small, they serve an important cause. Foremost, they protect the plant. But they also ooze terpenes and cannabinoids.
Seeds — The seeds of cannabis plants are found in the calyxes. They can be used to grow new plants.
What the different parts are used for besides smoking
Cannabis seed oil — The oil extracted from these seeds is used in food and beauty products. It appears that the oil is good for the skin and hair. It also contains healthy amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Such products don’t contain THC or other cannabinoids.
Concentrates — When a cannabis product is produced through an extraction process, it’s called a concentrate. Depending on the parts of the plant that are used, the concentrate could contain either THC or CBD, or both.
One of the most well known concentrates is hash. The resin, formed by the trichomes, is compressed in order to make this smokable product. It’s possible for growers to breed cannabis strains with a high trichome production, with the goal to make hash.
Butane Hash Oil is also a cannabis concentrate, known as BHO. Butane is used to extract cannabinoids from the plant. The THC content of BHO can be as high as 80%, making it very useful for pain relief.
Tinctures — Tinctures are alcohol-based extracts, made with the flowers of the plant. They’re very popular among users looking for a non-smoking way to medicate with cannabis. Only a few drops are often enough to relieve someone of his or her symptoms or pain.
One of the advantages of tinctures is that they are fairly easy to dose. Also, it’s possible to add a few drops to your drink or food, if you don’t want to put it under your tongue.
Edibles — Things such as cannabis infused butter or gummies can be made with dried sugar leaves, which are trimmed before selling the smokable buds. It, of course, would be a shame to let them go to waste!