The short answer to whether or not male cannabis plants produce female seeds is no. The longer answer is also no, but requires a little more explanation. Did you know cannabis produces gendered flowers? In this article, we’ll cover the signs that indicate gender in the pre-flowering stage and why plant gender matters.
Do Male Cannabis Plants Produce Female Seeds
While cannabis is a dioecious plant (meaning it can be male, female or hermaphroditic), the short answer to whether or not male cannabis plants produce female seeds is no. The longer answer is also technically no, but requires a little more explanation. No worries, we’ll introduce you to the basics of feminized cannabis seeds as well as what you can do with male cannabis plants. Let’s dive into it.
Understanding male, female and hermaphroditic cannabis
We mentioned cannabis is dioecious. While that may not seem out of the ordinary since humans are also dioecious, it’s an incredibly rare trait. Only about 7 percent of all flowering plant species produce separate male and female plants. And this matters because all the cannabis we consume is sinsemilla (seedless females). Our guide to sexing cannabis makes identifying what you’re working with quick and easy. In brief, male cannabis plants produce pollen sacks, and females produce pistils. It’s also possible to have hermaphroditic plants, although these tend to be a result of stress. However, there are full-genetic hermaphroditic strains that produce both pistil and staminate.
Most of the time, non-genetic hermaphrodites are either fully hermaphroditic or females with some male flowers. Male cannabis plants will very rarely produce female parts, but it can happen. In the rare event that this happens, the seeds would also likely be nonviable. Because if the plant is predominantly male and manages to produce viable seeds, the odds of getting female seeds are next to impossible. The offspring in this scenario should only be XY.
So how are feminized seeds produced?
Bottom line, cannabis is genetically wired to produce an equal 50:50 split between male and female seeds — unless growing from clones. Still, the methods we have for producing feminized seeds aren’t bulletproof. Feminized seeds will be about 99 percent female, but it’s still possible (albeit unlikely) for a rogue male to sneak in. Put another way, a 99 percent guarantee is better than pretty much any birth control I’ve ever used in my entire life, and I still don’t have kids. Those are pretty good odds.
The feminization process involves forcing the female plants to produce pollen and thus pollinate other females resulting in only XX offspring. There are basically two routes to feminized seeds. The first is using topical solutions to spray onto female plants, forcing them to produce male pollen sacs. Keep in mind these plants are non-usable for smoking after spraying — consider them a write-off. The second route involves taking advantage of the unnature state of sinsemilla.
It would be very unnatural to see a sinsemilla plant in the wild. The pollen from a male’s pollen sacs can pollinate female plants up to 2000 miles away, although realistically, it’s about two miles. If left past the prime harvesting stage of maturation, sinsemilla will produce male pollen sacs as a final attempt to self-pollinate. Self-pollinated sinsemilla will naturally produce all XX female seeds.
So what’s the point of keeping male cannabis plants?
Can’t produce feminized seeds or enough cannabinoids to be consumable, plus the potential to ruin a harvest? It seems like the cannabis grower is on a crusade to wipe out males! Realistically, there are still a few purposes for male plants other than to be diced up as fertilizer. Male plants are essential for breeding and can actually be used to produce cannabutter for edibles and infusions. It may not result in as intense of a high, but there’s certainly some value in keeping your boys around. Of course, nowhere near your females unless you’re looking to breed.
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How can you tell if your plant is male or female before it flowers?
Home cultivation represents a sure-fire way to become intimately familiar with cannabis. Many novice growers are surprised to learn that cannabis is a dioecious species, which means that it produces gendered flowers. In times of stress, cannabis can also become hermaphroditic, displaying both female and male sex organs.
Young cannabis plants first begin to demonstrate signs of gender, or pre-flowers, a month after germination while the plant is still in the vegetative stage. These pre-flowers can appear as soon as four weeks after germination. However, it can take up to six weeks before the male pre-flowers are distinguishable from the female pre-flowers. While the signs for gender can be subtle, with practice, a dedicated grower can pick them out. A magnifying glass may be helpful as pre-flowers are often challenging to distinguish with the naked eye.
Young cannabis plants first begin to demonstrate signs of gender, or pre-flowers, a month after germination while the plant is still in the vegetative stage. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
We’ll cover the signs that indicate gender in the pre-flowering stage, but first let’s look at why plant gender matters.
Why do growers desire female plants?
Sex matters when it comes to cannabis. Female cannabis plants are prized because they grow cannabinoid-rich buds. Male cannabis plants, in contrast, have less THC content than females. Though some growers do choose to keep male plants for breeding purposes in order to introduce greater genetic diversity into their crops.
Maintaining a crop of exclusively female plants prevents the possibility of male plants fertilizing female plants, leading to seed production. Fertilized female plants don’t create as much cannabinoid content as unfertilized females. When a female bud is fertilized, the plant’s energy and nutrients are directed to creating seeds, rather than forming THC-rich buds. Seedless female buds are known as sinsemilla and are celebrated for their longer bud-producing life and higher THC levels.
If you’re growing cannabis from feminized seeds, or seeds that have been cultivated to produce only female plants, the plants should grow to be exclusively female. With non-feminized or regular seeds, approximately half the plants will turn out to be male.
Do male plants produce buds?
Male plants don’t produce buds. The male sex organs of the cannabis plant instead produce pollen sacs that are designed to fertilize the female bud and form seeds. Seedy female buds are undesirable as they provide lower-quality cannabis. It’s essential to remove the male and hermaphroditic plants from a crop as soon as possible to protect the quality of the female buds.
How can you tell if a plant is a female before it flowers?
In the pre-flowering phase, the main giveaway of a female plant is the appearance of fine, white hairs known as stigmas protruding from tiny tear-drop shaped buds. Stigmas form part of the pistil, or the female reproductive organs, that are located at the nodes where the branches meet the central stalk.
In the pre-flowering phase, the main giveaway of a female plant is the appearance of fine, white hairs known as stigmas protruding from tiny tear-drop shaped buds. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The wispy, white hairs of the female stigma become visible approximately four to six weeks after germination and progressively darken over time. Pistils and stigmas are more likely to appear closer to the top of the plant near the light source, but they can also form in the lower regions.
How can you tell if a plant is a male?
Like the female plant, the male cannabis plant also has sex organs. Male plants often, but not always, reveal their sex a week or two before female plants. Male plants produce pollen sacs, which also grow at the junction between the node and the stalk. When they first form, the male pollen sacs can initially look similar to the tiny buds that appear on female plants, but they do not have stigmas protruding from them. The male pre-flowers also take on more of a spade-like shape than the tear-drop shape of the young female bud.
There are other morphological differences that distinguish males from females. The male plant frequently grows taller than its female counterpart and has thicker, sturdier stalks to support its weight. Male plants also have fewer leaves than female plants, which tend to be shorter and bushier.
How can you tell if a plant is a hermaphrodite?
Hermaphrodite plants, or “hermies” as they are sometimes known, grow both male and female sex organs. Some cannabis cultivars such as Thai Sativa are true hermaphrodites with the tendency to express hermaphroditism in their genes. However, hermaphrodite plants generally occur as an outcome of stress, such as photoperiod disruptions, nutrient deficiencies, or disease. It’s vital to check female plants carefully to ensure the buds are female, and there are no male flowers that could result in the plant fertilizing itself.
Two signs indicate a plant is hermaphroditic. The first and most obvious sign is if the plant grows both male pollen sacs and female buds. The second sign is the appearance of anthers, known colloquially by growers as bananas or “nanners.” Anthers have a curved shape, are typically yellow or lime-green, and appear among buds. Unlike regular male pollen sacs, these anthers can fertilize the female plants as soon as they emerge, so they must be immediately trimmed or removed to protect a female crop.
How can you tell the gender of a seed?
There is no way to determine the gender of a cannabis seed unless you’ve purchased feminized seeds from a reputable grower. Feminized seeds almost exclusively produce female plants; however, you should still check your crop to ensure no rogue male plants have snuck in. Feminized seeds can also become hermaphrodite plants in times of stress, particularly if they come from dubious genetic lines.
Chemical leaf testing to determine cannabis plant gender
Another method of checking gender is to perform a chemical test of the plant’s leaves. This method can be used on a plant as soon as one week after germination. Chemical testing requires a small amount of plant tissue, such as a punch-out from a leaf. While it is a more expensive option than a visual inspection, it is becoming more common among breeders who want to know the gender of their plants definitively.