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Cannabis Sex 101: Hermaphrodite and Mixed-Gender Plants (And How to Avoid Them)

Most marijuana growers are familiar with the terms ‘mixed-gender’ or ‘hermaphrodite’ plants, what causes them to develop, and how to avoid them in the garden. In this article, we’ll teach you what signs to look out for.

Whether you’re a newbie grower or a seasoned harvester, learning about hermaphrodites and other mixed-gender plants is not only an interesting phenomenon to observe, but an important part of any grower’s knowledge and education. Recognizing the development of potential mixed-gender plants and what causes them will ensure a better harvest.

Nearly all animal species are produced from one male and one female parent—and their offspring can, in turn, produce either gender. Marijuana seeds are just the same: they are produced by one male and one female parent and are capable of growing into either a male or female plant. It is impossible to determine which plant gender a cannabis seed will produce; however, once a seed enters the ‘flowering stage’ it becomes quite simple to identify its sex after approximately two weeks. Occasionally—and under certain circumstances—a plant will develop traits of both genders, exhibiting male and female characteristics. This is known as hermaphroditism—an undesirable element in any marijuana crop.

Another mixed-gender occurrence is known as ‘bananas’ (or ‘nanners’). Bananas are exposed male pollen sacs (stamen) that begin growing from a female plant that has been exposed to stress. These sacs—normally located on the male plant—are typically encased in a protective layer containing pollen and are not exposed until it is time for them to burst.

Let’s examine the growth stages of cannabis plants more closely in order to understand when, where, why, and how hermaphrodite and mixed-gender plants develop and how to avoid them.

Plant Growth Stages

Seed Stage

The first stage of any future plant is the seed, of course. Cannabis seeds are available in regular, feminized, and auto-flowering types.

Regular seeds are just that: your regular, everyday cannabis plant seeds, capable of producing either male or female plants. Feminized seeds have been developed specifically to eliminate male chromosomes, thus ensuring every plant in your crop will be female. Autoflowering seeds do not require the strict light/dark ratio of hours in order to move from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage. They simply do so with age, and this means that they are usually ready to harvest within 10 weeks of planting and require the shortest flowering time.

Do male cannabis plants grow taller than females?

Males tend to grow faster and higher in the first stage of growth than do the females. Male plants have a longer intermodal space as well. Male plants also get a woodier stalk sooner than do females.

How can you tell a male plant from a female plant?

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.

Are female cannabis plants more bushy?

On the flip side, female cannabis plants are usually more compact and bushy than males. Please keep in mind that these traits are not guaranteed, and shouldn’t be the only way to sex cannabis plants!

How long does it take for male pollen sacs to open?

It isn’t until a couple weeks into flowering (when the light cycle changes to 12 hours of darkness) that males start to release pollen.

How can you tell if a seed is female?

Male plants will have small pollen sacs for the purpose of spreading seeds while the female plant will have stigmas, which catch the pollen that male plants spread. It is best to identify the sex of the plant before the plant’s reproduction cycle become active.

What do male pollen sacs look like on cannabis?

Male Cannabis Seeds Luckily, these male pollen sacs can be distinguished pretty easily. As they look like small balls hanging from the side of the plant; instead of the upward facing hairs from the female plant. When left to grow, these balls will eventually open up like a flower and release pollen into the air.

Do male cannabis plants need 12 12?

When you are ready for your cannabis plants to flower, a 12-hours of light and 12-hours of darkness schedule is standard. Nighttime provides darkness, keeping cannabis on somewhat of a natural clock.

Can a female plant producing seeds without male?

Feminized seeds produce only female plants, and when they germinate there will be few males among them if they are produced correctly. If a branch of one female is turned “male,” there will be pollen to fertilize the other plant, and to create seed when no male is around.

How do you tell if a female plant has been pollinated?

If you don’t want to cut the swollen bract open, keep an eye on the color of the stigmas which are commonly referred to as “pistils”. The white hair-like stigmas will shrivel up and turn darker in color shortly after the female plant has been pollinated.

What happens if my cannabis gets pollinated?

A study by Meier and Mediavilla, 1998, found that pollination decreased the yield of essential oils in cannabis flowers by 56%. Today, most marijuana is sinsemilla (Spanish for “without seeds”) and seeded crops are considered inferior, commanding a lower price in the marketplace.