History shows time and time again that cannabis is as versatile as it is useful. Yes, weed is primarily used today to get people high, but that wasn't always the case. Textiles, medicines, and even juices are possible byproducts of weed. Knowing the various parts of the cannabis plant and what they do means that you can stop throwing away useful weed products. From stalk to seed, everyone's favorite weed has way more uses than anyone would expect. So read up and get ready to regret all those times you threw away perfectly usable parts of the cannabis plant.
Parts of the Cannabis Plant
The cannabis plant anatomy can generally be categorized into several main categories: male and female, flower and vegetation, and psychoactive and non-psychoactive. Gendering a plant is important as male or hermaphroditic cannabis plants can ruin an entire crop. Female plants are better for psychoactive effects while male plants provide more robust stalks for hemp. The parts of the cannabis plant itself are either vegetative or flower, which simply describes the difference between buds (the flower) and stalks and leaves (vegetative). Cannabis plants without THC will not be psychoactive and are incapable of imparting the same weed high.
Flower, as the name suggests, is the flowering part of the cannabis plant. This part of the plant develops after about three months and is the result of properly nourished and cared for weed. While the flower is considered the most valuable part of the cannabis plant, it is not the only useful byproduct of weed.
- Bud: Refers to the dense collections of cannabis flowers that generally grow at the top of the plant. Cannabis buds boast the highest concentration of THC of any other part of the cannabis plant due to the high density of trichomes. Buds are best used for their psychoactive effects in cannabis products like concentrates, oils, tinctures, and more.
- Seeds: Cannabis seeds occur when a male (or hermaphroditic) plant manages to pollinate a female (or hermaphroditic) plant. Seeds will not get you high and can, in fact, induce a feeling of illness if smoked. Weed seeds serve their natural purpose of reproducing which allows cannabis breeders the freedom to breed and cross strains as they choose.
- Sugar Leaves: The widely-used nickname that refers to the small, trichome-coated leaves that grow on or close to cannabis buds. Not to be confused with the larger fan leaves which are not psychoactive (see below). Sugar leaves, while not as potent as buds, can also be smoked or made into concentrates for edibles, vape pens, etc...
- Trichomes: Crystalline-looking resin glands typically found on the flowering parts of cannabis plants. Trichomes of all sorts grow on mature cannabis buds. Since trichomes play host to most THC found in cannabis plants, the more resinous your plant the better! Trichomes have little use (for humans anyway) other than getting people high, but what a fantastic use it is!
The vegetative parts of cannabis plants can be categorized by their lack of THC crystals. Large fan leaves, the stalk, and the cannabis stem are all considered vegetative due to their presence during the vegetative growing stage of weed. They continue to exist after flowering occurs, but are generally considered less valuable in today's market.
- Stalk: Refers to the thick stem of the cannabis plant, running from roots to tip. Stronger and thicker than other branch stems, the stalk is known for being fibrous and tough. Cannabis stalks have long been used as a textile material called hemp and have only recently fallen out of this use due to the modern war on drugs. Hemp can be used to make sustainably-sourced paper products, rope, clothing, and more.
- Stems: Smaller branches found growing on the side of cannabis plants. Cannabis flowers grow at the tips of these branches, which makes them the only vegetative part of the cannabis plant that can get you high. Cannabis stems are great for making cannabis-infused alcohol since they have just trace amounts of THC. Instead of throwing away your stems next time you trim your weed, try saving them for a rainy day. You can even make cannabis stem tea!
- Fan Leaves: Refers to the stereotypical cannabis leaf you often see being used as a marijuana icon. Fan leaves gather light through photosynthesis and turn it into nourishment for your plant. When not necessary for keeping your cannabis plant fed and happy, fan leaves are great for nutritional juicing. Since they can't really get you high, fan leaves are a good way to take advantage of those densely packed cannabis nutrients. You're already supposed to prune fan leaves, so you might as well do something with them! And if drinking weed leaf juice isn't your thing, fan leaves are also great as compost since their decomposition delivers nutrients to the earth.