Cannabis is fairly unique in the plant kingdom considering it is in the group of only about 6% of plants on the planet that are dioecious. Dioecious plants can either be male OR female but not both. Hermaphrodites, prevelant in some cannabis cultivars, are a situation in which either a male plant or a female plant produce flowers of the opposite sex. As a cannabis cultivator, it’s important to develop the skill to quickly and accurately identify males, females and hermaphrodites.
Indisputably, females are the easiest of the three to positively identify. Females are identified by the emergence of little white hairs, as pictured below.. With a 10x loupe, females can be identified very early in the flowering process. Typically, they are visible to the naked eye around day 7-10 after the onset of the flowering cycle.
Male pollen sacs will usually begin to emerge around 6-8 days after the onset of the flowering cycle. Males are usually the first to show their sex but we always recommend a little patience before making the final call. Watch the nodes for small ball shaped structures to form. The telltale sign occurs when a single sac becomes a small cluster. Males are quite easy to identify once they begin to mature and before they open. It’s VERY important to destroy them before the sacs open. A little bit of pollen can ruin an entire crop! If you are growing “regular” seeds, you should expect approximately 50% of your plants to be male. This is not a rule but it is a statistical probability. It’s possible, albeit statistically rare, to get all males in a 10 pack of seeds. It’s no different than the odds of humans having a girl or a boy. Don’t believe anyone who states that certain growing methods or treatments increase or decrease the odds of getting males. Seeds are formed with XX chromosomes (female) or XY chromosomes (male) and this can’t be changed during, before, after germination.
Definitely the most contentious of the three, hermaphrodites are prevalent in some cultivars and not so common in others. Stress can trigger hermaphrodites as the plant’s natural “last ditch” effort of self preservation. The stress isn’t always identifiable but the main causes are light intensity, light cycle interruption and heat. Hermaphrodites are much more common in indoor gardens than outdoor gardens. Typically, the plant will be first identified as a female and then shortly after the flowers start to form, pollen sacs will form at the base of the nodes and then work their way into the female flowers. In our facility , we have identified three types of hermaphrodites. We refer to them as non-prolific, prolific, and late-term rodelization sacs. Non-prolific hermaphrodites usually show up as a deformed looking sac at the node. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish from a bulbous female part. If you observe these, the smartest thing to do is pick them off and keep a close eye on the plant. More often than not, the sacs will not come back and you can let them continue to flower. We don’t suggest breeding with plants that exhibit this trait, but at least you get the chance to save a crop. Prolific hermaphrodites are the ones that cause trouble. The pollen sac clusters will form inside the female plant, typically around the 3rd week of flower. These can’t be picked out and they can’t be stopped. The only option is to cull the plant. If you have other plants from the same seed batch keep a close eye on them! Rodelization typically occurs in plants that are past their harvest window. These are identified by single anthers showing from inside the flower and often appear bright green or yellow. It’s not often that this trait is prolific, but it can tarnish the aesthetic of the flower.
Conclusion: Learning to identify females, males, and hermaphrodites in the garden is a necessary step in becoming a competent cannabis farmer. Remember, It is the cultivators responsibility to observe their plants daily and cull all positively identified culprit plants.