Herming: How female plants turn male Cannabis plants are gendered, or for the botanically-inclined, dioecious. Female plants are particularly prized because they form buds that are rich in 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. When it comes to cannabis, female plants produce flowers (or buds) and males produce pollen. Unless you plan on breeding, male cannabis plants…
Herming: How female plants turn male
Cannabis plants are gendered, or for the botanically-inclined, dioecious. Female plants are particularly prized because they form buds that are rich in cannabinoid content. For most growers, maintaining a crop free of male plants is critical to ensuring that female buds are not pollinated.
Like all plants, however, cannabis has an inherent drive to procreate by propagating seeds. One way that the plant achieves this is by herming, when female plants become hermaphrodite to self-pollinate. The tendency to herm means that growers must take extra care to minimize any stressors that may cause the plant to perceive a threat and change its sex.
What is herming, and why does it happen?
Herming can occur when female plants experience conditions of environmental stress. “Female plants don’t actually turn male, they become hermaphrodites,” says Bruce Perlowin , CEO of Hemp, Inc . and seasoned cannabis cultivator. “You have a female plant that develops both reproductive parts so it can pollinate itself.” A hermaphroditic plant, by definition, contains both female and male sex organs .
A hermaphroditic plant, by definition, contains both female and male sex organs. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
According to Perlowin, stress is the fundamental cause of hermaphroditic plants, or ‘hermies.’ “Some examples of stressors would be not enough water, too much water, not enough nutrients, or too much heat. It can happen at any time in the life cycle of a plant from a new plant to a very mature one,” explains Perlowin. The female plant will develop male flowers in response to stress, to ensure seeds are produced before the environmental trigger can kill the plant.
Other stressors that may incite female cannabis plants to become hermaphroditic include disruptions to the photoperiod, dramatic shifts in temperature, disease or pest infestations, the use of toxic pesticides, and physical damage from vigorous pruning.
Herming can also have a genetic component, with some growers viewing plants that are inclined to herm as genetically inferior.
“Herming can also definitely be a genetic problem, but it is not cultivar-specific,” says Perlowin. “You can get the same cultivars from different seed companies, and they will yield different results.” Reputable breeders are more likely to competently sort and select seeds from genetically robust plants with desirable traits.
How can growers prevent hermaphroditic plants?
The vast majority of cannabis growers cultivate the plant to produce sensimilla . Sensimilla refers to female cannabis buds that have not been pollinated by a male cannabis plant. Sensimilla is more potent than seeded cannabis as it contains greater concentrations of essential oils and psychoactive cannabinoids.
When female plants herm, or develop male flowers capable of disseminating pollen, the entire crop is at risk of pollination. Female flowers that have been fertilized by pollen will halt their development to produce seeds, limiting flower production.
Perlowin advises that growers who wish to prevent female cannabis plants from herming must be diligent throughout the plant’s grow cycle. For starters, purchase seeds from a reputable company or trustworthy breeder that understands cannabis genetics. While potential environmental stressors must be monitored and minimized, growers should also examine their plants every day for any unusual growth.
“With hemp and cannabis, you h ave to walk your fields or monitor your plants every single day to ensure that there are no hermaphrodites or pollen on the plants, as it will affect the rest of your grow,” states Perlowin. “It is surprising how fast something can go wrong so it is important to watch closely. If you don’t find these plants, you could be jeopardizing not only your crops, but also those of other growers .”
Finally, swiftly remove any male flowers that appear. If the plant has very few male flowers, those flowers can be removed, but the plant will need to be watched closely. Plants with many male flowers should be eliminated entirely.
“We found that it is better to remove the entire plant than cutting off the problematic branches,” explains Perlowin. “We do this by using a large plastic bag to cover the entire plant. Without shaking the plant, we move the bag down to the very bottom of the plant, seal it, cut the plant down at dirt level, then take it off the property.”
How can you tell a male plant from a female plant?
To a non-expert grower, all cannabis seeds look alike. The gender of cannabis plants becomes more readily apparent when the plant approaches the flowering period .
Author Robert Connell Clarke’s book Marijuana Botany An Advanced Study: The Propagation and Breeding of Distinctive Cannabis presents clear instructions for differentiating male and female plants. The gender of a cannabis plant is located at the nodes along the main stem.
Male plants can be identified most easily when they begin flowering. The flowers initially appear as a curved claw shape, which soon differentiates into a flower bud containing five radial segments. As the flowers develop, pollen sacs emerge that almost look similar to small bunches of grapes. Eventually, the sepals of the pollen sacs will open to release the pollen.
“When you see a pollen sac, you will know that a female plant is turning male,” says Perlowin. “Oftentimes, you can tell before the pollen sack becomes a problem. You should examine the plant from the very bottom of the plant to the top. It is easy to spot when the pollen sacs are at the top of the plant, but be sure to examine if there are pollen sacs at the bottom.” Male plants additionally grow taller than female plants as they mature and have thicker stems and fewer leaves.
Female plants are generally shorter, denser in foliage, and broader than their male counterparts. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Female plants usually take several days longer than males to develop pistils or female sexual organs. The pistils look like small green seed pods and have white v-shaped stigmas, or thin hairs, which extend from them. Female plants are generally shorter, denser in foliage, and broader than their male counterparts.
Can you turn a male plant female?
The sex of a plant is determined by its genetics before germination even begins. With the sex genetically encoded, there is no way to make a male plant female, or a female plant male. There are techniques that can be used, however, to encourage a male plant to display female characteristics. These techniques require the use of chemicals, such as ethylene , to prompt a hormonal response from the plant.
Elevated levels of female hormones in male cannabis plants can trigger female flowering development. The technique is more effective when applied to male plants that have not yet formed mature flowers. It’s also vital to bear in mind that many male marijuana plants are hermaphroditic plants, and distinguishing true males can be very difficult.
Can you clone a female from a male?
A true female cannabis plant cannot be cloned from a male plant. Cloning is a process that is used by breeders to make genetic copies of robust, healthy female plants, reducing the guesswork that sometimes accompanies cannabis cultivated from seed.
For growers who wish to grow female cannabis plants from seed, the availability of feminized seeds can significantly streamline the growing process. Feminized seeds occur as a result of inducing a female plant to herm, then fertilizing another female plant with the pollen. The pollen from the ‘hermie’ contains only female chromosomes, so that no true males can result from the seed.
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.
Follow CLN for all the latest growing tips, tricks and cannabis news.
What do I do with a Male Cannabis Plant?
When it comes to cannabis, female plants produce flowers (or buds) and males produce pollen. Unless you plan on breeding, male cannabis plants will release pollen into the growing area and produce unwanted seeds in nearby female flowers. Cannabis flowers with seeds are usually lower in potency and less desirable. Male plants in a flowering room should removed as soon as they are identified.
You will only get a male cannabis plant is you grow from a non-feminized seed. In today’s world, if you get a clone from a trusted friend or local shop, they will always grow to be a female plant. Male and female plants can be easily identified in early flowering by looking for the following characteristics below:
Male cannabis plants have stamens and female plants have calyxes. To the untrained eye, an early calyx and stamen can look quite similar. As the cannabis plant begins to mature, multiple stamens will begin to appear on the males and the females will have pistols emerge from their calyxes. Over time the stamens will fill with pollen and eventually open, releasing it into the growing environment. Once a plant shows clear male characteristics, it should be removed from the flowering area and potentially used for future breeding projects.