Cannabis Plant Anatomy

Cannabis Plant Anatomy

If you’re a cannabis consumer, chances are the part of the cannabis plant that you’re most interested in are the buds. After all, the female cannabis plant’s resinous buds are where you find THC and other cannabinoids, which are responsible for the effects of cannabis – along with terpenes, the flavour compounds also found in buds.

But what about the other parts of a cannabis plant? As it turns out, there’s a lot more to cannabis than just the buds. Cannabis leaves, roots, and seeds all have their own purpose as well. Keep reading to learn more about the different parts of a cannabis plant.

Cannabis Seeds

Parts of the cannabis plants: seeds

You might have encountered a cannabis seed in your buds before, or worse – discovered a seed after hearing a popping sound while smoking a joint. Although nothing to be alarmed about (it merely means the female plant it came from was pollinated, either from itself from a male plant), seeds can be unpleasant when they’re found in cannabis meant for consumption. However, many growers deliberately cultivate male and female plants together in order to yield cannabis seeds. This is typically done to create “in-house” strain genetics, meaning unique phenotypes of the cannabis plant that are truly the cultivator’s own.

Cannabis Leaves

Another part of the cannabis plant you probably don’t want to encounter in your buds are the leaves. Some sugar leaves (the trichome-covered ones that cover the buds) here or there are fine, and even desirable as they contain THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. What you don’t want with your buds, on the other hand, are fan leaves. These are the iconic, large cannabis leaves with rigged edges and (typically) 5 or 7 points; generally recognized as the symbol of cannabis.

Fan leaves only contain trace amounts of cannabinoids, so they probably won’t get you high. However, the cannabinoids found in raw cannabis leaves are in acid form (for example, THCA and CBDA) because they haven’t been decarboxylated (heated). Cannabinoid acids have unique properties, and while research into their effects is just beginning, initial findings are intriguing. For example, one study’s findings “suggest that THCA may be a more potent alternative to THC in the treatment of nausea and vomiting.”1 So, it might be worth trying some cannabis fan leaves in your next smoothie – or even juicing them!

Cannabis Roots

Roots, an essential part of the cannabis anatomy

If you thought cannabis roots are destined for the compost bin after harvesting, you might be surprised to learn they may have certain beneficial applications. While the taste can be bitter, some people like to make tea with their cannabis roots. Why, you ask? It’s because cannabis roots contain terpenes, as well as plant sterols that may have clinical applications. Research on cannabis roots is still in its infancy; as this study notes “further research is required to study the active compounds in cannabis roots and explore their potential therapeutic applications.”2

Other parts of the cannabis plant include:

  • Cola: A cola is a group of buds growing together. The main cola usually forms at the top of the cannabis plant, with smaller ones growing along the lower branches where each budding site occurs.
  • Pistil: A pistil houses the reproductive organs of the cannabis flower.
  • Stigma: Stigmas are hair-like strands located in the pistil that collect pollen from male plants. They tend to be white to start off, although as they mature they will darken to various shades of orange, red, and brown. If you’ve examined one of your buds recently, you might have noticed these vibrant, coloured hairs. While they play an important role in plant reproduction, they won’t affect the potency or flavours of the cannabis.
  • Bract: The part of the plant that houses the female’s reproductive organs. They’re green and tear-shaped, and are enveloped in resin glands, allowing them to produce a high concentration of cannabinoids. In fact, the bract has the highest concentration of cannabinoids compared to all other parts of a cannabis plant.
  • Calyx: Closely linked to the bract, the calyx is the translucent layer over a female plant’s ovule. The calyx is so small that it can’t be seen by the naked eye.

What about trichomes?

Trichomes are a part of the cannabis plant rich in cannabinoids

If you’ve ever given your bud a close inspection, particularly a strain like Sensi Star and Ultra Sour, you’ll notice they’re covered in a frosty layer of crystals that seem to shimmer in the light. No, it’s not a trick of the eye or an indication that you’ve consumed too much of the product. Actually, this blanket of crystalline resin is made up of something called trichomes. Trichomes are oil glands that originally evolved to protect the plant; they also happen to house a major part of the plant’s cannabinoid content. Not only that, but they ooze the aromatic terpenes that end up flavouring each and every unique cannabis strain.



  1. Rock EM, Kopstick RL, Limebeer CL, Parker LA. Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid reduces nausea-induced conditioned gaping in rats and vomiting inSuncus murinus. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2013;170(3):641–8.
  2. Ryz NR, Remillard DJ, Russo EB. Cannabis Roots: A Traditional Therapy with Future Potential for Treating Inflammation and Pain. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 2017;2(1):210–6.