Lesson 1, Topic 1
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Basic Cannabis Anatomy

Cartier April 13, 2023

Cannabis, known by many names such as marijuana or hemp, has been used by various cultures for medicinal, recreational, and industrial purposes for millennia. Recently, interest in cannabis cultivation and research has surged, leading to a deeper understanding of the plant’s anatomy. This article will provide a detailed overview of the different parts of the cannabis plant, their functions, and their relevance to growers and users alike.

  1. Roots

The cannabis plant’s root system is essential for the plant’s overall health and development. The primary function of the roots is to absorb water and nutrients from the soil and transport them to the rest of the plant. Cannabis plants have a taproot, a thick central root that extends vertically into the ground, with numerous secondary roots branching off laterally. A healthy root system is crucial for the plant’s ability to withstand stress, fight off pests, and produce high-quality flowers.

  1. Stems

The cannabis stem provides structural support to the plant and acts as a conduit for nutrients and water between the roots and the leaves. The stem consists of nodes, the points at which leaves and branches grow, and internodes, the spaces between nodes. The stem’s thickness and strength are essential for supporting the weight of the plant’s flowers, which can be quite heavy in some cultivars.

  1. Leaves

The cannabis plant has two types of leaves: fan leaves and sugar leaves. Fan leaves are large, iconic, palmately compound leaves with serrated edges. They play a crucial role in photosynthesis, converting sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen. Sugar leaves, on the other hand, are smaller leaves that grow within the cannabis flower clusters. These leaves are coated with trichomes, which produce the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes.

  1. Sex and Pre-flowers

Cannabis plants are typically dioecious, meaning that individual plants are either male or female. Male plants produce pollen sacs, while female plants develop flowers that, when pollinated, produce seeds. Identifying the sex of a cannabis plant is critical for growers, as male plants can pollinate female plants, leading to a reduced yield of the smokable flower. Pre-flowers, small structures that appear at the nodes, are the first indication of a plant’s sex and typically emerge 4-6 weeks into the vegetative stage.

  1. Flowers and Buds

Cannabis flowers, also known as buds or colas, are the primary source of cannabinoids and terpenes, the compounds responsible for the plant’s psychoactive and therapeutic effects. Female cannabis plants produce dense clusters of flowers along their branches, with the largest cola typically forming at the top of the main stem. As the flowers mature, they develop resinous trichomes that produce and store cannabinoids such as THC and CBD and aromatic terpenes.

  1. Trichomes

Trichomes are tiny, hair-like structures that cover the surface of the cannabis plant, particularly the flowers and sugar leaves. They play a crucial role in the production of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, which together contribute to the plant’s unique aroma, flavor, and effects. There are three main types of trichomes: bulbous, capitate-sessile, and capitate-stalked, with the latter being the largest and most abundant in cannabinoids and terpenes.


Understanding the anatomy of the cannabis plant is essential for cultivators and consumers alike. By recognizing the plant’s different parts and functions, growers can optimize their cultivation practices and produce high-quality flowers. Conversely, consumers can better appreciate the complex interplay of compounds that give cannabis its unique characteristics and effects.

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