We all learned the parts of our own bodies when we were kids— we even had fun little songs to help commit them to memory (queue “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”). However, there isn’t a catchy tune to help us familiarize ourselves with the different parts of the cannabis plant (although maybe there should be).
Just like with the human body, the different facets of the cannabis plant all play important—although different— roles. From the leaves to the nodes, the stem to the trichomes, each individual aspect of this plant is crucial in utilizing all the incredible things it has to offer. Let’s break things down, shall we?
Fan leaves are those big, lovely leaves we see everywhere from t-shirts to bumper stickers. The fan leaves are what gives the cannabis plant it’s automatic distinction from others, allowing it to be easily recognized by the viewer. More importantly, however, is the role they play in the plant’s health.
Fan leaves, as with the leaves of other plants, are responsible for capturing the light that helps the plant to grow. Although, during the process of converting a cannabis plant into the products that we ingest, most of them end up being discarded during trimming because they contain little to no resin.
For all of our fellow plant-people out there, you are probably very familiar with nodes because they are what you need to cultivate new plants. A node is the point where a branch emerges from the stem or another, thicker branch. Some of these nodes support the growth of the fan leaves and buds, but not all.
For us, and others within the cannabis industry, the nodes can tell us one of the most important things we need to know: the gender of the plant. Both genders have nodes, but it all comes down to the spacing between them that determines which sex it is. This is known as “internodal spacing”, and it’s paramount for growing and cultivating cannabis. Only female plants will produce the buds that are needed to make the THC and CBD products you love. Because, who run the world?
This one should be pretty straightforward to anyone with even the vaguest understanding of horticulture. The stem is the support system of the plant, growing straight up from the root system and bearing the brunt of the weight from the branches and leaves.
For the cannabis plant, many growers will cap/cut the stem around 5 nodes up from the roots, which entices the plant to grow outwards instead of straight up. Doing this nudges the plant to create more bud sites which means more product to harvest.
Pistils & Stigmas
Both the pistil and stigma are considered part of the reproductive system of the cannabis plant, much like the ovaries and uterus are for females of other species.The stigma’s bright, hairlike threads are used to catch and hold the pollen from male plants, while the pistil uses that pollen to germinate.
On younger plants, the pistil will evolve from a silky white color into vibrant hues of yellow, orange, red, or brown as the plant matures.
Although the pistil and stigma are essential for reproduction, they don’t lend much to the flavor or potency of the cannabis-based products that come from their individual plants.
If you’ve ever been up close and personal with a cannabis plant, especially in the right lighting, you may have noticed a crystalline sheen covering most of the plant. These silvery little glands actually serve an important role, both from a harvesting standpoint and to protect the plant in general.
Trichomes are the “bouncer” of the plant, so-to-speak. They act as a line of defence to protect the plant from predators by emitting a strong odor and bitter taste that render them impalitable by animals. For humans, however, this combination of aroma and taste are exactly what we’re looking for, and we call them “terpenes”. Trichomes and the terpenes they create are the very foundation of cannabis-product creation, allowing us to extract the cannabinoids (THC, CBD, et al) for medicinal and recreational use.
The cola is one of our personal favorites, as cannabis harvesters because this is where the buds are, and many people refer to the cola as the “bud site” because of this. Colas can only be found on female cannabis plants and is that gorgeous flowering top that is so often shown in pictures.
If your plant is healthy, you’ll be able to see a primary cola— aka the “apical bud”— that will form at the very top of the plant. A series of smaller colas will grow along the budding site of the other, lower branches. The cola is where you’ll be able to see the pistil and stigma, and where you’ll get a great view of the trichomes as well.
The cannabis plant’s complexities, as with so many other things, are what work together to make it as lovely— and multifunctional— as possible. Obviously, as cultivators, knowing these details comes with the territory. However, as a consumer, this insight can help you better understand the strains and products you’re using. After all, the devil (and his lettuce) is in the details.