Marijuana Buds And Seeds

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Keen to know more about cannabis bud structure? Our guide explains the detail and botany that make up our beloved cannabis buds. What causes seeds in buds while growing cannabis? What does it mean to find seeds in your marijuana buds? Is it something to be worried about? This is something that happens while buds are Knowing the anatomy of a marijuana plant is important for any grower. Learn to identify the different parts of a cannabis plant from the experts at Leafly.

Breaking down the cannabis bud structure

The cannabis plant remains one of our most treasured crops. How many other crops reward their grower so richly? How many plants deliver such joy and satisfaction? From the iconic leaf shape to the glittering, sticky and aromatic buds, cannabis draws our gaze like no other. The more knowledge/understanding the grower has about their cannabis plant, the better their ability to optimise the growth. Read our detailed guide to learn more and improve your own skills.

Summary:
How are cannabis buds made?
The different parts of a cannabis bud
Female vs male cannabis buds
Sativa vs indica cannabis buds
Cannabis buds colours meaning
Growing the best cannabis buds

How are cannabis buds made?

For most cannabis growers the buds, and the terpenes/cannabinoids produced by them, are the most important part of the cannabis plant. Optimise the nutrients, lighting and environment and the buds will swell and merge forming thick, long blooms.

Start with the best cannabis seeds and you can expect proven genetics that will deliver heavy crops of Grade-A cannabis buds. In nature, the cannabis buds act as the host for the cannabis seeds which form after pollination. In practise most cannabis growers work hard to ensure that no pollination occurs, this allows the plant to focus her biochemical pathways to produce extra cannabinoids/terpenes rather than use the energy to produce seeds.

Ever since feminised cannabis seeds were first created by Dutch Passion in the 1990’s the overwhelming majority of growers switched to the use of feminised seeds. These give rise to 95%+ mature female cannabis plants.

The different parts of a cannabis bud

Within the cannabis bud structure there are several different plant parts, all of which play a key role. Knowing a little more about the form and function of the female cannabis plant can help the grower understand more about the growth. The most knowledgeable cannabis growers tend to be the ones that produce the best quality harvests. Cannabis bud structure isn’t too difficult to understand and shows many similarities with other plant species.

Calyx (or bract)

A long cannabis bloom is composed of many closely packed cannabis buds. Cannabis buds are made from numerous calyxes. These are small tear-drop shaped structures that would normally encase the cannabis seed, if pollination were to occur. The calyxes are positioned between the stem and branches, they first appear as pre-flowers. Once bloom has begun the calyxes multiply, usually coated in sticky resin. For many cannabis growers, the favourite part of the cannabis bud structure are the sticky, potent calyxes!

Pistils and stigmas

Pistils provide part of the sexual function in cannabis. They have a single ovule that gives rise to two stigmas. The stigmas are the familiar hairs that emerge from the calyx. Initially they are white. As harvest approaches the stigmas often take on a more orange hue (occasionally red, pink or other colours are possible).

If the stigmas turn orange/brown quicker than expected it could be a sign that pollination has occurred. That may happen due to a deliberate pollination, or an accidental pollination if e.g. a hermaphrodite cannabis plant is present in the grow room.

Colas

A cannabis cola is the name often given to a long, fat bloom. Good quality sativa cannabis seeds are known for producing long buds. The cola is formed when a healthy cannabis plant forms numerous buds which grow closely together. In the best cases, a cola can be as long as your arm and just as wide!

Sugar Leaves

Sugar leaves are the small resin-soaked leaves that can be found in and around the blooms. Found within the cannabis bud structure, sugar leaves are often removed during the trimming process. However, due to the dense trichome coverage the sugar leaves are rarely thrown away. Instead many growers will use them to create cannabis concentrates and cannabis extracts, such as hash, cannabis oil, shatter etc.

When the sugar leaves are particularly small the grower often simply leaves them in the buds. Removing them can be fiddly, and possibly unnecessary since they are loaded with generous resin levels.

Related:
How to harvest, dry and cure cannabis

Trichomes

One of the favourite parts of the cannabis bud structure, trichomes are the mushroom-shaped microscopic resin glands which store terpenes and cannabinoids. They are thought to be partly designed to deter insect infestation. The sticky layer traps pests and is thought to be toxic to many.

Recent research also suggests that the chemicals in the trichomes can protect the plant from UV light damage. But to the connoisseur cannabis seed grower, the presence of a thick & pungent trichome layer is a guarantee of quality, potency and satisfaction!

Related:
Cannabis trichomes – everything you need to know

The cannabis stem forms the backbone of the plant from which the branches and blooms will emerge. However, the stem (as well as the branches) can be manipulated, bent, cut etc to allow heavier harvests.

Related:
Cannabis high stress training (HST) tutorial

Female vs male cannabis buds

Most cannabis growers are familiar with the shape/smell of female cannabis buds. Ever since the arrival of feminised cannabis seeds, male cannabis plants have been in short supply and tend to be quickly disposed of. Male cannabis ‘buds’ look more like small balls, or miniature ‘grapes’ that contain pollen. Once the pollen sacs have ruptured, the pollen is spread where it hopes to land on a stigma and create the process of cannabis seed production.

Most growers, with the exception of those making their own cannabis seeds, seek to avoid male cannabis flower at all costs. This is to prevent their harvest of cannabis buds being reduced to seed.

Related:
Autoflower vs feminised cannabis seeds explained

Sativa vs indica cannabis buds

Sativa cannabis genetics tended to evolve in tropical, moist and warm conditions. As a result of this, and to minimise chances of mold/bud rot, sativa cannabis strains tend to have a slightly more open and airy cannabis bud structure. This allows the sativa buds slightly more latitude/air flow before they suffer the dreaded botrytis mold infection.

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Indica cannabis buds often evolved in slightly less humid conditions, often in cooler more mountainous and less tropical environments. That’s why the cannabis bud structure for indicas is slightly denser and more compact than that of sativa strains. The threat of mold is often much less in a typical indica habitat compared to a tropical sativa habitat – that is reflected in the way the cannabis bud structure evolved.

Related:
Indica vs Sativa: Origins, Uses and Effects

Cannabis buds colours meaning

When growing cannabis seeds (either feminised seeds or autoflower seeds) the results you achieve will depend very much on the environmental conditions used during cultivation. A pro-grower with LED grow lights and an optimised environment may get significantly superior harvests (and greater THC levels) compared to a less experienced grower with limited cultivation skills. Even when using the same cannabis genetics.

Different environmental conditions and temperatures can influence cellular biochemistry. One side effect with cooler conditions can be more autumnal hues to the bud colours. But certain cannabis strains, for example Auto Blackberry Kush, can also produce striking bud blue/purple bud colours simply due to the genetics. Different colours in the cannabis buds can be due to genetic factors, environmental factors…or both.

Related:
What do different weed colours indicate?

Growing the best cannabis buds

To get the best quality cannabis buds you need to combine the best cannabis genetics with a good grow environment. Even the world’s best cannabis grower can’t accomplish much with low quality cannabis seeds, buy the finest you can from a supplier with a solid reputation and perhaps a cannabis cup or two.

Do your utmost to optimise grow room conditions and the genetics should do the rest. These days LED grow lights are widely regarded as the best quality light source, they produce the highest THC levels and terpene content and are highly recommended.

What causes seeds in buds while growing cannabis?

What does it mean to find seeds in your marijuana buds? Is it something to be worried about? This is something that happens while buds are forming in the flowering stage, but can be prevented with the right steps. Learn more below.

There’s a seed in my bud!

Sometimes you don’t see the seeds until they fall out of your buds

What causes seeds?

Seedy buds are the result of pollination. What does that mean? Cannabis buds are flowers. Like other flowers, they make seeds when pollinated. Cannabis buds get pollinated when they come into contact with cannabis pollen while the buds are forming.

Seeds happen when pollen gets on the hairs (pistils) of buds as they’re forming. In other words, seeds in weed are caused by pollination.

This bud is full of fat seeds because pollen got on the pistils during bud development.

Pollen typically comes from the pollen sacs of a male cannabis plant. Male plants spray pollen everywhere when their flowers are mature. Sometimes female cannabis plants will produce pollen (known as herming) due to genetics or stress. Any source of pollen, whether the plant is male or female, can pollinate buds in the vicinity and cause seedy buds.

If you’re not growing with feminized (all-female) seeds, about half the plants will be male and grow pollen sacs (male flowers) that release pollen. Unless you want seeds, male plants should be removed from the grow room immediately because they will otherwise seed all your buds.

Seeds are caused by the presence of male flowers while buds are growing. Male flowers release pollen that pollinates buds and causes seeds to grow.

Any time you see “bananas” or “balls” it’s important to separate that plant immediately to prevent possible pollination. These are the result of a hermaphrodite plant (“herm”) and these structures also release pollen.

Example of a hermaphrodite plant making seeds

You may notice a bunch of little yellow growths in these buds. They almost look like mini bananas. This plant is “herming” or growing male flowers that spew pollen everywhere. If this plant isn’t removed from the grow space, it will pollinate itself and all other plants in the area, causing seedy buds

This is the same plant. You can see that some of the pure white hairs have turned brown early. This is because those hairs were pollinated. If this plant were allowed to continue flowering, there would be a seed growing at the base of all those brown hairs.

You may not realize that seeds are forming while your buds are growing

But once they get really seedy, buds may look like they have huge plump calyxes/bracts (female flowers) or they may even be misidentified as pollen sacs (hermie/male flowers).

When handling the buds after harvest, you may see seeds or hear them as they fall onto the surface below

Does it mean the weed is bad? No!

If it’s very seedy the buds may not feel as potent, though a few seeds here and there won’t make much difference in bud potency. The main problem with seedy weed is that you are getting less smokeable bud for the amount of total mass there. If it is seedless, you will get more bang for your buck. Seedless bud (sinsemilla) is considered to be the highest quality and most potent type of weed.

Seedy weed is still good to smoke

However, cannabis plants waste energy developing seeds that could have been used to fatten buds. When a bud has lots of seeds, it often isn’t as big and plump as it would have if the plant had not been pollinated. Notice how all the mass of this bud is in the seeds. The rest of the bud is airy and small.

Are seeds good to grow?

I’ve seen some growers get impressive results with bagseed (seeds you find in a “bag” of weed), but overall results seem to be hit or miss. Plants can grow in odd ways and often either the yields or quality isn’t as expected. The problem is that seeds often don’t “breed true” to the buds that they came from.

“Found” seeds can sometimes produce excellent results

But sometimes the plants grow poorly or buds don’t turn out anything like the buds you found the seeds in

That is why many growers either stick to clones (which are exactly the same as the “mother” plant) or purchase seeds of a stabilized strain from a trustworthy breeder. Starting with stable genetics helps ensure each of the plants will grow the way you expect, and buds have the smell, yield, and potency you want.

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If you’re not sure what strains to get, here are a few recommendations. These strains produce excellent weed and are generally easy to grow. These seeds are all feminized, which means they will only grow female plants (no pollen to worry about!) Click the links for more information.

    – top-shelf looks and smell with classic effects reminiscent of 90s buds but stronger. Easy to grow. – this version is MUCH more potent than regular White Widow. The buds tested between 24-26% THC. Don’t plan to do anything else that day ? – for those who are looking for a face melter. These buds test up to 28% THC and produce buds with quintessentially “American” looks and smell. The mental and physical effects may be too intense for most beginners. is a good choice for commercial growers with high THC up to 30%, big yields, and a short flowering time. is a potent Sativa hybrid with great yields and uplifting unique mental effects is an autoflowering strain that produces photoperiod-quality buds in about 70 days from seed to harvest.

Platinum Cookies is essentially a more potent version of the popular Girl Scout Cookies strain.

How can I tell if it’s a viable seed?

Good seeds are often dark and relatively hard. Very pale or white seeds that can be easily crushed between the fingers often don’t sprout. However, I have been surprised to find some very flimsy seeds sprout and produce amazing plants (we aren’t breeding them for hard seeds after all) so when in doubt, I highly recommend doing the true test to see if the seed is viable – try to germinate the seed and see if it sprouts.

The best way to tell if a seed is viable is to try to germinate it and see what happens.

Marijuana plant anatomy and life cycles

The cannabis plant has several structures, many of which we can find on any ordinary flowering plant species. Cannabis grows on long skinny stems with its large, iconic fan leaves extending out from areas called nodes.

Cannabis really stands out in its flowers—or buds—where unique and intricate formations occur: fiery orange hairs, sugary crystals, and chunky buds enveloped by tiny leaves.

The life cycle of a marijuana plant

There are 4 stages in the life cycle of a marijuana plant:

  • Germination (3-10 days): When the seed sprouts and pops out of the soil
  • Seedling (2-3 weeks): After germination, when the plant develops its first cotyledon leaves
  • Vegetative (3-16 weeks): The immature or juvenile stage, when a cannabis plant grows its stalks, branches, stems, and fan leaves
  • Flowering (8-11 weeks): When a weed plant starts producing buds

Parts of the cannabis plant

Cannabis seeds

Seeds are produced in female cannabis plants and carry the genetics of a male and female. Seeds need to germinate to sprout and will grow a taproot, which will become the main root that anchors the plant.

Cotyledon leaves

These are the first leaves to grow from the seed after germination. They usually come in pairs, and seeing them is a sign of successful germination and that your plant is on its way to growing healthy and strong.

Cannabis roots

The roots grow down from the main stalk of the plant into the soil. When growing from a seed, the main root is called the “taproot.” Roots are the lifelines of a cannabis plant, pulling water and oxygen into the plant so it can grow healthy and strong.

Mycorrhizae, a beneficial fungus, can be added to soil to improve root systems.

Marijuana plant stem

The main stem, or stalk, of a cannabis plant grows straight up from the root system and supports all lateral branches. The stem gives a plant structure and stability.

Often, growers will top, or cut off, the stem after about five nodes, which forces the plant to grow out laterally more, creating more bud sites.

Branches

Branches grow out of the main stem and support fan leaves and buds. Growers often train a cannabis plant by topping branches to create more bud sites.

A node is a point at which a branch grows off of the main stem, or one branch from another branch. Fan leaves and buds can grow on some nodes, but not necessarily all.

When determining the sex of a cannabis plant, pre-flowers, or the beginnings of male and female sex organs, will appear at the nodes.

The space between nodes is called “internodal spacing” and will give you a sense of whether a plant will grow tall or short.

Check out Johanna’s full video series on how to grow weed on Leafly’s YouTube .

Fan leaves

Fan leaves are the large, iconic leaves of the cannabis plant. They capture light for the plant and typically have little-to-no resin and are usually discarded when trimming.

Sugar leaves

Sugar leaves are the small, resin-coated leaves that buds form around. Sugar leaves are usually saved as “trim” during harvest and can be used for pre-rolls, extracts, and other cannabis products.

Flowers

Also known as “buds,” the flowers of a cannabis plant are the fruits of your labor. They contain the cannabinoids and terpenes that get you high or offer health benefits. Flowers only grow on female cannabis plants and must be dried before consumption.

A cola, also called a “bud site,” refers to a cluster of buds that grow tightly together. While smaller colas occur along the budding sites of lower branches, the main cola—sometimes called the apical bud—forms at the top of the plant.

Bract and calyx

A bract is what encapsulates the female’s reproductive parts. They appear as green tear-shaped “leaves,” and are heavily covered in resin glands which produce the highest concentration of cannabinoids of all plant parts.

Enclosed by these bracts and imperceptible to the naked eye, the calyx refers to a translucent layer over the ovule at a flower’s base.

Stigma and pistil

The pistil contains the reproductive parts of a flower, and the vibrant, hair-like strands of the pistil are called stigmas. Stigmas serve to collect pollen from males.

The stigmas of the pistil begin with a white coloration and progressively darken to yellow, orange, red, or brown over the course of the plant’s maturation. They play an important role in reproduction, but stigmas bring very little to the flower’s potency and taste.

Trichomes

Despite their minute size, it’s hard to miss the blanket of crystal resin on a cannabis bud. This resin is secreted through translucent, mushroom-shaped glands on the leaves, stems, and calyxes.

Plants originally developed trichomes to protect against predators and the elements. These clear bulbous globes ooze aromatic oils called terpenes as well as therapeutic cannabinoids like THC and CBD. The basis of hash production depends on these trichomes and their potent sugar-like resin.

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Male vs. female marijuana plants

Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning it can be male or female, and the male and female reproductive organs appear on different plants. What’s in your stash jar now are the flowers of a female marijuana plant.

Female plants produce the resin-secreting flower that is trimmed down into the buds you smoke, and males produce pollen sacs near the base of the leaves. Male plants pollinate females to initiate seed production, but the buds we consume come from seedless female plants—these are called “sinsemilla,” meaning “seedless.”

Growers can ensure the sex of their plants by growing clones or the genetically identical clippings from a parent strain. Feminized seeds are also made available through a special breeding process.

How to determine the sex of a marijuana plant

Cannabis plants show their sex by what grows in between their nodes, where leaves and branches extend from the stalk. Pollen sacs will develop on a male plant to spread seeds and stigma will develop on a female to catch pollen. You can see these differences weeks before they actually start serving their purposes in the reproduction cycle. These are known as “pre-flowers.”

Pre-flowers begin to develop four weeks into growth, but they may take a little longer depending on how quickly the sprouting phase occurs. By the sixth week, you should be able to find the pre-flowers and confidently determine the sex of your plant.

Examine the nodes of the plant and look for either the early growth of small sacs on a male, or two bracts on a female, which will eventually produce the hair-like stigma.

Female marijuana plants

Females are the prizes of cannabis plants—they are the ones that grow the buds that we all know and love. Anytime you see a picture of a cannabis plant with buds, you are looking at a female plant.

Female cannabis plants receive pollen from males to produce seeds, which will carry on the genetics of both plants to the next generation.

However, cannabis is primarily cultivated for buds, not seeds, so the practice of growing sinsemilla, or “seedless” cannabis, is prevalent today: Females and males are grown separately, or males are even discarded, to prevent pollination. This allows female plants to focus their energies on bud production instead of seed production.

Males and females are usually only pollinated when crossbreeding plants or creating new strains.

Early signs of a female cannabis plant

A few weeks into the flowering stage, sex organs will appear on a cannabis plant at a node, between the main stem and a branch. The female reproductive organs look like an oval with white hairs coming out of them, which are pistils.

If you’re not quite sure, let the plant grow for another week or so and check again.

Male marijuana plants

Male cannabis plants grow pollen sacs instead of buds. Male plants are usually discarded because you don’t want them to pollinate the females, which will produce seeds—no one wants to smoke buds with seeds in it.

Males are important in the breeding process, but that is generally best left to expert breeders. When pollinating females, males provide half of the genetic makeup inherited by seeds.

Because of this, it’s important to look into the genetics of the male plants. Their shape, rate of growth, pest and mold resistance, and climate resilience can all be passed on to increase the quality of future generations.

Early signs of a male cannabis plant

To spot a male weed plant, check the sex organs at a node, between the main stem and a branch. The male organs will look like a round ball—these will develop into pollen sacs.

If you’re not sure if it’s a male or female yet, wait a week or so and check again. At this early stage there isn’t much risk of a male pollenating your crop.

What can I do with male cannabis plants?

Male plants can also be used for:

  • Hemp fiber—males produce a softer material, while females produce a coarser, stronger fiber. The soft fiber from males is more desirable for products like clothing, tablecloths, and other household items.
  • Concentrate production—males do have some THC and can be psychoactive, but much less so than females. Small amounts of cannabinoids can be found in the leaves, stems, and sacs, which can be extracted to produce hash and other oils.

What are hermaphrodite cannabis plants?

The rare hermaphroditic plant contains both female and male sex organs. These plants can sometimes self-pollinate, but this is typically bad as it will create buds with seeds and also pass on hermaphroditic genes.

“Herming out,” as some call it, is something that generally happens when a plant becomes excessively stressed. Some stressors include:

  • Plant damage
  • Bad weather
  • Disease

There are two types of hermaphrodite cannabis plants:

  • A plant that develops both buds and pollen sacs
  • A plant that produces anthers, commonly referred to as “bananas” due to their appearance

While both result in pollen production, true hermaphrodite cannabis plants produce sacs that need to rupture; anthers are exposed, pollen-producing stamen.

Because this occurs when cannabis is under stress, it’s important to monitor plants after they have been exposed to stressors: indoors, high temperatures or light leaks are often the cause; outdoors, a snapped branch might be repaired and then turn into a hermaphrodite.

The other primary cause of hermaphrodite plants lies in its genetics—a plant with poor genetics or a history of hermaphroditic development should be avoided to protect your garden. If you notice any pollen sacs or anthers at any point, remove the plant from your garden immediately to prevent pollination of female plants.

Marijuana plant anatomy FAQ

What are the first leaves called on a cannabis plant?

Flowering plants, including cannabis, have baby cotyledon leaves which appear shortly after the seed germinates, or sprouts. These embryonic leaves help the plant get started.

How soon can you tell if a cannabis plant is male or female?

Sex organs will appear on a plant within 2-3 weeks of flowering.

When do male cannabis plants pollinate female plants?

Male pollen sacs usually open up and spread pollen via the air 4-6 weeks after they begin flowering.

How does weed grow buds?

When cannabis plants experience a reduction in light, either after the summer solstice when growing outdoors, or manually when growing indoors, they will begin the flowering stage, when buds are produced. Flowering typically takes 7-11 weeks, depending on the strain.

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