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Cannabis Plant Anatomy: Everything Those With Cannabis Industry Careers Should Know


From top to bottom, the makeup of a
cannabis plant is fascinating to learn about. To cultivate and grow these plants requires an understanding of what they look like, how they grow, what the best practices are for proper cultivation, and what they’re made of. Here’s what you need to know about cannabis plant anatomy.

The Anatomy of Cannabis Plants, Explained for Students in Cannabis Industry Training 

Cannabis plants used for consumption are typically female, with large leaves, seeds of various sizes, and tall, firm stems. The plant’s buds are found atop the stems. Fan leaves, sugar leaves, and flowers are also found in cannabis plants. A cannabis plant uses fan leaves—the cannabis plant’s largest leaf type—to facilitate photosynthesis and absorb sunlight as it grows. Sugar leaves are used to keep the buds structured together, are surrounded by trichomes, and grow while the plant is flowering. Lastly, the flowers are the components that can be smoked and contain parts necessary for reproduction, as well as being heavy in trichomes.

Parts of cannabis plants that are critical for their growth and reproductive properties include:

  • Bracts (the leaves around a plant’s reproductive cells, protecting seeds and flower structure, and containing the most THC among plant parts)
  • Calyxes (the plant part meant to prevent damage to a flower’s reproductive components, and is the first part formed at the onset of a planet flowering)
  • Colas (the component that acts as the primary site for flowering, where flowers join together and buds develop)
  • Pistils (the main reproductive organ of female cannabis plants, a hair from the calyx that produces seeds and absorbs pollen from male plants)
  • Stigmas (strands of the pistils that are used to collect the pollen)

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We’ve Talked About What Cannabis Plants Look Like, But What Do They Contain?

Cannabis plants are coated by trichomes, which those studying cannabis quality assurance will recognize as small glands generating chemicals. Trichomes will also indicate to the grower the status of the flower’s maturity, since harvesting is not supposed to begin until the flowers have a milky white appearance as opposed one that is clear and transparent.

The two most common components of trichomes are cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabinoids are largely composed of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). 

Meanwhile, terpenes are compounds found in cannabis flowers, which are known for being the oils that give cannabis certain flavours and scents that can vary depending on multiple factors, such as fertilizer, soil, and climate. 

Cannabis plants can also be grouped into two distinct categories: sativa and indica (though hybrid plants contain elements of both). Sativa plants also consist of:

  • Thin appearance
  • Tall growth capabilities
  • Lengthier growth rate than indica plants
  • Long buds
  • Skinny leaves
  • High THC, low CBD
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Indica and sativa plants vary in height and structure

Conversely, indica plants are known for their heavier proportions of CBD relative to THC. Their physical makeup consists of:

  • Bushy appearance
  • Short height
  • Faster growth rate than sativa plants
  • Purple-coloured buds
  • Wide leaves
  • Higher CBD content

Roots, Stems, and Why Both are Important in the Cannabis Growing Process

Cannabis plants also would not grow properly without their roots, with the tap root being the first to start growing after a seed germinates. Those pursuing cannabis industry careers should know that not only do the roots provide hydration and deliver nutrients to the plant, but they also keep plants intact during inclement weather, store food, and release chemicals such as sugars around the plants.

The roots of cannabis plants also consist of mycorrhizae, which work in harmony with these plants to produce mycelium in the soil, generate enzymes, and use the mycelium to move nutrients around to the plants. 

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Stems and roots play a significant role in a cannabis plant’s growth

The stems also play a significant role in the plant’s growth, helping to provide water from the roots and to facilitate photosynthesis during its lifecycle.

Both stems and branches are able to deliver water to other cannabis plants through xylem, a tissue which takes water from the roots and brings it and various nutrients throughout the plant. Cannabinoids can also be found within the stems.

Do you want to start your cannabis industry training?

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