Cannabis Plant Anatomy

Colby McCoy
Written by Colby McCoy

For most cannabis consumers, the concept of ‘plant anatomy’ might seem relatively complicated or abstract. Having knowledge of the plant’s anatomy does have its benefits. It can be useful for the average cannabis consumers to obtain a working knowledge of the cannabis plant to help them become more discerning buyers in an already diverse industry that shows no signs of diminishing.

As with all plants, there are two essential components that make up the base of the cannabis plant: the root and stalk. Plant nodes are found on the stalk and are the primary source of stem growth.Along the stalk you’ll also find fan leaves, which act as the poster child for cannabis. You know…those big green leaves you see on magazines and t-shirts? Oddly enough, while they act as the main site of photosynthesis for the plant, fan leaves only contain trace amounts of cannabinoids.

Of course, there are the cannabis flowers, inflorescences, or buds, where most trichomes, and hence cannabinoids and terpenes, are found. Trichomes have also been detected in the stems and seeds of the plant; albeit in a much smaller quantity. [1] The large mass of flowers at the apex of a plant is called the cola. Protecting the buds are finger-like sugar leaves, also possessing a decent congregation of trichomes, glands that act as the major line of defense for the cannabis plant against extreme weather and insects. If one were to look closely behind the sugar leaves, they would see calyxes. Calyxes are teardrop shaped nodules that form around the seeds to protect the plant’s reproductive organs.

There’s the stigma, which is the part of a plant where pollen develops or germinates. And, of course, the cannabis plant has styles, which are stalks that connect the stigma, at the top of the style, to the ovary at the base. Collectively, the stigma, style, ovary, and ovule comprise a pistil. The ovule is housed inside the ovary, and is where the female reproductive cells are located.

Younger stigmas are often white, and with age, there are corresponding color changes, ranging for adolescent yellows, to adult reds and browns. [2] That germinating pollen on the stigma was created in the stamen. Cannabis farmers can use the color as an indicator of when a plant is ready for harvest.

Although cannabis products have become more diverse and creative, one factor remains constant: the cannabis plant itself. Its majestic and almost extraterrestrial appearance, coupled with the medicinal capacity its photochemistry offers, lucidly pinpoints why so many of us are awe-struck, and returning to this ancient plant.


  1. Andre, C.M., et al. “Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules”. Frontiers in Plant Science. 2016; 7(19): 8 [Times cited = 163, Journal impact factor = 4.298]
  2. Cannabis Inflorescence: Cannabis Spp.; Standards of Identity, Analysis, and Quality Control, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, 2014.

Photo courtesy of Civilized. and herb.co

About the author

Colby McCoy

Colby McCoy

Colby McCoy is a recent graduate of the University of Georgia who has written for non-profits, marketing firms, and personal blogs. When not writing he can be found trekking the mountain ranges around Seattle, WA, with his two pups Harry and Riley.

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