Can You Tell if a Cannabis Seed is Male or Female?
W hen it comes to growing cannabis, sex is important. Not that kind of sex! We’re talking about the sex of the plant, and whether it is male or female. The reason for this is simple enough: only female seeds produce flower, also known as the buds you might have in your stash as we speak.
- Cannabis Seeds Explained
- What to Look for When Buying Cannabis Seeds
- How to Germinate a Bag Seed
- Understanding the Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant
Cannabis seeds can be male, female or hermaphrodites. Females produce the resin-secreting flower, and males make small sacs of pollen near the base of the leaves. Over the years, cultivators have learned that un-pollinated females (remember, males produce pollen) continue to make resin as they grow, and flowers that have not been pollinated are much more likely to produce high-potency cannabis. This is the basis of all modern medical and recreational cannabis cultivation, so determining the sex of a plant is highly important. But is there a way to know if a seed is female before growing?
Table of Contents:
- Determining if a Cannabis Seed Is Male or Female
- What Are Feminized Cannabis Seeds?
- Methods for Feminizing Cannabis Plants
- Separating Male and Female Cannabis Plants
- How Important is Your Plant’s Sex?
Determining if a Cannabis Seed Is Male or Female
The straightforward answer is that, if what you’ve got is a handful of unmarked seeds, it’s pretty much impossible to tell which ones are male or female. The only true way to tell the plant’s gender is to plant a seed, then wait for it to mature.
After a period of several weeks, the plant will begin to pre-flower, or form a small bud in the crux of a branch. One of the first signs your cannabis plant is female is the appearance of pistillates that are wispy and generally white in color. Male plants will instead produce pollen sacs that look rounded with distinct splits running lengthwise, a bit like a tiny crab claw. These are the structures that growers typically look for to determine a plant’s sex.
If you’re looking for more precise, science-based methods to tell your plant’s gender, there are several labs that can sex your plant right after germination – eliminating the lengthy (usually around 6 weeks) wait to learn its gender. Portland, Oregon start-up Phylos Bioscience is in the business of studying cannabis genetics, and they sell a “plant sex kit” that’s pretty simple to do, even for the folks that aren’t scientifically inclined. Simply press a cotyledon, or embryonic leaf, onto the kit’s filter paper and send it to their lab. They then test the leaf for the “Y” chromosome to determine its gender, just as would happen for a human male.
What Are Feminized Cannabis Seeds?
While it’s basically not possible to determine the sex of a seed from a random bag of seeds, a practice known as feminizing is quite popular. Feminized seeds are selectively bred to produce only female plants.
While the process is very effective, it’s not perfect. There’s a chance that a small fraction of the seeds produced via the feminization method will sprout hermaphrodites, which are still capable of producing pollen.
Despite the potential for ‘hermies,’ knowing your seeds are female from the beginning is probably your best bet.
There are many companies that sell feminized seeds, but buyer beware, do your research to make sure the seller is reputable, especially if purchasing online. Thanks to modern technology, most feminized seeds from reliable brands will be 100% female as advertised – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people selling low-quality seeds out there.
Methods for Feminizing Cannabis Plants
If you have some experience growing cannabis and would like to bend a crop to your will to ensure that the seeds will be female, there are a few feminizing methods you might try. One such technique is to literally stress out a healthy female plant by interrupting the light cycle during flowering, called Rodelization Feminizing.
In the colloidal silver feminizing method, distilled water is mixed with pure silver and sprayed on female plants. This method works best when the plants are flowering. This results in pollen sacs being formed, which will allow the seeds to produce female plants.
Feminizing via the silver thiosulfate technique involves carefully selecting a nearly mature female plant, then spraying it with a 50/50 mix of sodium thiosulfate and silver nitrate. This triggers a gender change, from female to male. Place this plant back with the others to pollinate other female plants, and female seeds are created.
Separating Male and Female Cannabis Plants
As anyone with seasonal allergies can attest, it only takes a little bit of pollen to have a big impact. The reason that growers are so intent on weeding out male cannabis plants is that a single pollinator can negate an entire potential harvest.
How? The reason is that once pollinated, cannabis plants will cease devoting energy to growing flowers and will tell the existing flowers to stop producing resin, which translates to making less buds and less THC. That energy will be devoted to producing seeds instead. Think of the plant as a battery with a set amount of power. When that supply is spent in one area, it won’t be available for another.
Now consider that a single male plant can spread its pollen to an entire room of females.
If a grow is accidentally pollinated, that means the resources that were spent to bring the plants to that stage — the water, soil, electricity, fertilizers, not to mention the price of the seeds themselves — will have been wasted growing weed that can’t be smoked.
All of those male plants will have to be carefully separated from the grow space and destroyed, or else the growers risk another disastrous accidental pollination. It takes minuscule amounts of pollen to pollinate a plant, so growers must take extensive precautions to eliminate potential contamination. In addition to helping mitigate other contaminants, this is one of the main reasons that many workers will don full-body suits when working in a grow room, ensuring that accidental pollen exposure is kept to a minimum.
How Important is Your Plant’s sex?
How much time you want to spend figuring out the sex of your cannabis plants really depends on how much time and energy you’d like to devote to growing your own marijuana. If you are a medical cannabis patient or caregiver, for example, and need to know what kind of cannabis you are getting every time to keep a reliable supply, buying feminized seeds from a trusted seller is the way to go. It may even be worth it to have your plants tested for sex before they mature. However, if you have some time, consider yourself a green thumb, and want to experiment with your grow, you could simply plant your seeds and see what comes up. Happy growing!
What are your thoughts on feminized seeds? If you’ve used them before, how did it go? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
Erin’s work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let’s Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedIn, WordPress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.
Can You Tell the Sex of Cannabis Seeds from Their Appearance
Of all the things that can trip a grower up, sexing marijuana plants may just be the trickiest. Sexing plants is so important because growers are typically after the female plants, that produce the huge THC covered buds. Or the medicinal relief that CBD strains can bring. With such opposite effects of male and female plants, it’s easy to see just how important sexing plants is. But what if growers didn’t have to wait to sex their plants? While it would certainly make life easier, is sexing cannabis seeds possible?
Can you determine the sex of cannabis seeds?
This has been a question that has become a very hot topic online these days. After a quick search, growers can find multiple charts and explanations on how to sex cannabis seeds.
Unfortunately, there’s not much truth to any of these interpretations. It’s simply impossible to tell just by looking at them what the sex of any cannabis seed is. If it was that easy, feminized marijuana seeds would not be as popular as they are. People could simply buy regular seeds and look at them themselves.
Typically, marijuana plants cannot be sexed until they have already begun to grow. Cannabis seeds will look somewhat identical and plants in the vegetative stage will also look identical,. As the plants move into their flowering stage, they will start to show very clear signs as to what sex they are. While it would be much more convenient for growers to be able to determine sex before this point. The sad truth is that it’s just not possible.
So where do all the myths from sexing cannabis seeds come from?
Common myths on identifying the sex of a cannabis seed
One of the biggest myths of sexing cannabis seeds comes from a popular chart online.
The chart states that one can determine the sex of a cannabis seed by just looking at them. Within the chart, five cannabis seeds are shown. Three of these are female and two are male, supposedly. This chart says to look for a crater at the bottom of the seed. It explains that females will have a depression that is perfectly round. While males will have a crater that is misshapen and not uniform. However, this is simply not true. The craters found in cannabis seeds have nothing to do with the sex of a seed.
This same chart states that females will also roll easily across a table or surface, while males will not. While it does say that a magnifying glass and pair of tweezers is needed to examine the seeds. neither of these tools will make it any easier to determine the sex of cannabis seeds.
While growers may not be able to determine the sex of a seed, does the environment have anything to do with it? This is something else that has been hotly contested online.
Environment determines sex debate
We know that determining the sex of cannabis seeds cannot be done. However, it’s unclear as to whether environmental factors have any place in determining the sex of marijuana plants.
Research is carried out all the time to determine if a plant’s environment has anything to do with the sex it will turn out to be. And while there’s research stating that it does not, there’s just as much research stating that certain species do have their sex determined by the environment. This same research also states that using certain chemical treatments can also reverse the sex of a plant.
While environmental factors may not necessarily determine the sex of marijuana plants or cannabis seeds, it is known that certain environments can change the sex of a plant.
This will mostly happen when a plant is stressed by its environment. When this happens, the plant may think it’s going to die and as a result, will change itself into a hermaphrodite plant. By doing so, it will be able to self-pollinate itself and survive.
Growers know that hermaphrodite plants can be just as harmful to crops as male plants. Therefore, it’s very important that every grower understand how to sex marijuana plants. Particularly if they’re not using feminized marijuana seeds that will give them only females.
While it would be much easier for growers to be able to sex their cannabis seeds, the simple fact is that there’s no way to do it. However, sexing plants early on during their growth period is not only essential, it’s completely possible. Growers can even do it before their plants enter the flowering stage if needed. Then male plants can be removed and growers can enjoy a nice, full crop.
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How to Identify a Female Marijuana Seed
Ask any experienced grower how to produce a hardy marijuana plant and they will say to start with a seed for a good strain. Lighting, soil, nutrients, and water play large roles in the final yield, but starting with a high-quality seed gives growers the best genetics with the highest potential yield possible. Most people find their first seed mixed in with marijuana, but most of these seeds are low quality and may grow to be male plants. The best way to get high-quality seeds is to purchase them from a reputable marijuana seed retailer.
Characteristics of a Quality Marijuana Seed
Quality marijuana seeds have specific characteristics that set them apart. Unfortunately, they can be difficult for consumers to find since most growers avoid seed production in their plants at all costs. Even when a rogue seed is present, it rarely grows mature enough to germinate. Though it is challenging to identify a quality seed for even the most experienced growers, it is vital to be able to do so when using seeds to grow marijuana. Below is an overview of the characteristics of a high-quality seed.
There are several visual indicators that can give a person an idea about the quality of a marijuana seed. Some details are easy to spot while others take a higher level of scrutiny.
A high-quality marijuana seed has a dark color, typically a shade of brown, grey, or black. It should have tiger-like stripes or spots on the entire surface of the seed. If the seed is green or white, it is immature and is not likely to germinate. In the rare circumstance that an immature seed germinates, it takes much longer than it would for a mature seed.
Good quality marijuana seeds have a waxy coating around the shell. This is easy to see if the seed is held up to the light because the shell will have a slight sheen.
Size & Shape
The largest seeds are the best ones to grow. It is easier to pick the largest ones if there are several to compare side by side. Growers should look for the most symmetrical seed that is round or shaped slightly like a teardrop. Underdeveloped seeds are small and have an asymmetrical shape.
A lot of information can be gleaned from the texture and hardness of a marijuana seed. After visually inspecting the seeds, growers can pick them up and feel their shell for the following:
Poor quality seeds have weak shells that are damaged easily. These seeds will have cracks or splits on them that expose the inside. The best seeds have a smooth exterior with few anomalies.
A mature, high-quality marijuana seed has a hard shell that can withstand the pressure of being squeezed between two fingers. Poor quality seeds will disintegrate when squeezed. If this happens, the seed was weak or dead and would not have grown a viable plant if it germinated at all.
How to Determine the Quality of a Marijuana Seed
While seeing and feeling a marijuana seed can give growers a lot of information, it is not always accurate. Even the best-looking seeds can be duds, especially if they have been frozen. Below are a few things growers can do to better determine the quality of their seeds.
Germinate the Seed
The most obvious thing a person can do to show seed quality is to germinate the seed. If the seed sprouts within 5 days, it is a viable seed. It will still take time to find out if the plant will be male or female and whether the strain is high quality.
How to Germinate a Marijuana Seed
The traditional way to germinate a seed is to bury it one-quarter inch deep in moist soil and watch it closely for a sprout. A freshly germinated seed has a very fragile root that is easily damaged when the seed is transplanted. This method allows the seed to germinate without root interference.
Another common way to germinate marijuana seeds is by wetting a folded paper towel or cotton pad and placing the seeds inside of it. It is important not to get the paper towel or cotton pad too wet or it could drown the seeds. Growers should check the seeds after a few days to see which have taken root.
Perform a Float Test
The float test is a more scientific approach to determining the quality of a seed. The test involves filling a drinking glass with spring or distilled water and placing the seeds inside of it. Allow the seeds to soak for one to two hours before determining quality.
After the time has passed, seeds that float can be considered poor quality and discarded. Seeds that have sunk to the bottom of the glass are healthy, high-quality seeds. Once the test is complete, the seeds need to be germinated right away. Their shells will be soft from soaking in the water and will not survive storage.
Source Them Well
The simplest way for growers to ensure they have high-quality seeds is by sourcing them from a reputable seed bank. These companies specialize in breeding a variety of marijuana strains and producing seeds that, with the right care, grow into viable, high-yielding plants. Growers can choose a variety that meets their requirements for potency and desired effects and be sure they are getting seeds that produce the plant they want.
Using an Online Marijuana Seed Bank
Those who live in a state where marijuana is legal for medical or recreational use can sometimes find seeds at their local dispensary. However, online marijuana seed banks have significantly more strains available. Even individuals who live in some states where marijuana has not been made legal to use can purchase seeds online. Several states consider dormant seeds to be souvenirs, so it is legal to purchase and own the seeds as long as they don’t become high-THC plants.
Do Marijuana Seeds Expire?
Many growers who have numerous marijuana seeds need to store them long term if they want to germinate them in the future. However, seeds need to be kept in specific conditions to remain viable. They should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry room, much like the environment in which growers dry their harvested marijuana.
Germinating Old Seeds
Seeds can remain viable for three to ten years if stored properly, but more and more seeds will fail to germinate as time passes. Older seeds will take more time to germinate, so growers should use the float test before assuming the viability of their stored seeds. They can speed germination by soaking the viable seeds in water mixed with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide for 24 hours. It is important to watch them closely for signs of opening, as they will need to be removed immediately to avoid drowning.
Can You Tell if a Marijuana Seed is Female?
Cannabis enthusiasts have been trying to find out how to determine the sex of a marijuana plant by the seed for ages. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if the seed will produce a male or female plant by just looking at the seed. Regular marijuana seeds have a 50% chance of being female, so out ten seeds, growers can expect that 5 of them will probably produce female plants.
What Does a Male Cannabis Plant Look Like?
When growing marijuana, it is important to identify male plants as early as possible. Just one male plant can pollinate an entire field, so it is critical that male plants are removed before they develop pollen sacs. There are certain signs that a young marijuana plant is male, including the following:
Preflowers are the earliest sign of a marijuana plant’s gender. Between four and six weeks, nodes will develop at the joint where a plant’s stem meets the stalk. Female plants develop white hairs at the internodal joints while male plants develop rounded internodal sacs that fill with pollen.
While it is best to identify male marijuana plants by their pollen sacs as soon as possible to avoid accidental pollination, there is another way to determine a plant’s sex. If male and female seeds are planted at the same time, the male plants will grow faster and taller than the female plants. Additionally, male plants have longer stems with fewer leaves, making them look spindly compared to female plants.
Quality seeds are not often found in the bottom of a bag of dried marijuana, but there are ways for growers to ensure they are getting the best seeds available. With a keen eye and a reputable seed bank like i49.net, growers will have hardy, high-yield plants that make them proud of their hard work. Seed banks provide quality marijuana seeds in a variety of strains not typically available from other sources, and many of them can guarantee that the seeds will be feminized and thus produce female plants.
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