The Cannabis Plant 101: Basic Biology of the Plant

The Cannabis Plant 101: Basic Biology of the Plant

At TOKE, we believe that consumers should know as much about the cannabis plant as possible, including its biological composition.

This is not only important for enjoying the plant, but helpful to know for those in Ontario who choose to take advantage of the privilege to grow four legal cannabis plants per household.

Here, we’ll share some information about the important components of the plant from seed to flower, and will also touch on plant gender, as this is a crucial component of growing smokable flowers that contain THC.

Cannabis Seeds

Every plant starts with a seed, with every seed being a different strain, or cultivar being the more scientific term. Seeds contain the genetics of particular plants, and can be the result of pure strains or a special strain that has been bred by combining the genetics of two different cultivars.

When someone gets a package of seeds, its hard to tell the gender, which is why some people may use feminized clones or purchase only feminized seeds.

The seed germination process refers to the very start of a cannabis plant’s growth cycle and is process of the seed cracking and sprouting a seedling.

It’s important to know that not all seeds germinate, with the germination rate being around 80%. Once planted, the sprout is called the tap root (the main root that digs into the growing medium), with this root beginning the whole growing process and life cycle of the plant.


The xylem is responsible for pumping water and minerals from the roots to the rest of the plant, a sort of plumbing system for the plant.


The cotyledon is an embryonic leaf that occurs in seed-bearing plants. Here’s where we’ll take you back to basic science: The green appearance of cotyledons is an indication of the presence of chlorophyll, a chemical that allows the small leaves to conduct photosynthesis in the early stages of growth. Soon after, the first set of true leaves will emerge.

Main-Stem and Branches

The stem and branches emerge from the roots and support the cannabis plant’s growth up towards the sun or lights. Naturally, the stem is the number one vascular highway, carrying water and minerals from the roots up through the rest of the plant.

Fan Leaves

The most important function of the fan leaves is that they act as the solar panels of the plant, absorbing light to turn into energy. The fan leaves also help to distinguish between Indica and Sativa cannabis. Dark, wide leaves usually indicate you’re growing an indica flower, while light green, and more slender leaves may indicate a sativa, although most cannabis cultivars are hybrids, so the difference may not be so apparent.


A cola refers to a cluster of buds that grow tightly together at the flowering site of a female plant. While smaller colas occur along the budding sites of lower branches, the main cola forms at the very top of the plant where they have more access to the sun or to light. The cola is where it’s at in the cannabis plant.

The cola is made up of many parts, these include the calyxes, which hold the plant’s reproductive organs; the sugar leaves, which cover the calyxes; pistils, the female reproductive organs; and trichome resin glands, which hold which hold the THC.

Stigma and Pistil

The pistil is the part of the cannabis plant that contains the reproductive parts of a female flower. The vibrant, hairlike strands of the pistil are called the stigmas. Stigmas serve to collect pollen from males. The stigmas of the pistil begin with a white coloration and progressively darken to yellow, orange, red, and brown as the plant matures through its grow process.


The flowering stage is when your plant is ready to bloom. You first may notice a small nodule in between the main stem and branches, calyx, which is the first part of the plant that forms when the plant transitions into the flowering stage.

Male vs. Female Plants

Cannabis plants can be male, female, or both (hermaphrodite), but what you are most likely familiar with are the flowers of a female plant. Cannabis plants show off their sex by what grows in between their nodes.

Female Plants

They say that the female is the queen of the cannabis world, and it couldn’t be more true. Female plans produce large resin-secreting cannabinoid and terpene-rich flowers.

Male Plants

Male plants produce small pollen sacs near the base of their leaves. Traditionally and out in nature, the male plants pollinate the females to initiate seed production, but when growing at home, you don’t want your male plants mixed in with your female plants as this will lead to cross-pollination.

Hermaphroditic Plants

If you hear someone say their grow has “hermed out”, it means that they have grown hermaphrodic plants. These are rare and contain both female and male sex organs that allow the plant to pollinate itself during flowering (this is often a result of the plant being under stress).

In the cannabis plant kingdom, the female plant rules, as these are the plants that are grown by Canada’s Licensed Producers and passed on to retailers like TOKE for Canadians to enjoy.

Learn More Plant Science with TOKE

At TOKE, it is a big goal to ensure we’re always able to answer our consumers’ questions about plant growing and plant science while we provide information about our products. It’s important to know that we don’t give out professional advice about personal growing, but you’re welcome to come talk grow with us.

We look forward to guiding you through learning about the cannabis plant and all the aspects of the mighty plant that we have the privilege of enjoying as consumers.