You can be an avid cannabis consumer and still be clueless about what the living plant looks like or how it grows. This was me six years ago before I became a cannabis farmer. I’ve realized this lack of knowledge is common, especially in a time when not all of us have access to live cannabis plants.
“I always thought you smoked the leaves,” is a more common musing than you would think. Education is one of our most empowering tools as consumers, and a brief look at the botany of the plants will only help inform your experience.
Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant Diagram from Kitchen Toke
Cannabis flowers are made up of calyxes, pistils and sugar leaves. They’re home to the plant’s highest concentration of trichomes—crystalline resin glands that produce the bulk of its valuable chemical compounds. Richest in cannabinoids and terpenes, this is typically the component harvested, dried and cured for consumption. In raw form, they have high concentrations of THCa and CBDa.
Calyx – the tear drop-shaped home to the plant’s
Pistil – the tiny hairs that cover the flowers and range in color from pale yellow and deep rust to hot pink. Pollen from male plants collects here.
Cola – clusters of flowers.
Part of the cannabis flower structure, also found on smaller stems between flower nodes on the plant. When flower is trimmed to make product, the sugar leaf material is removed. This is done only out of cosmetic considerations.
Named for the sugar-coated appearance that results from
their thick coating of trichomes.
Smaller, more tender, it is host to many more trichomes
than fan leaves.
As a raw product, trimmed leaf material has an ideal ratio
of chlorophyll-rich green plant matter and trichomes.
Trimmed material is sold separately for cooking and baking.
Typically not rich in cannabinoids or terpenes but are still nutritious. If consuming raw, remove the stiff center vein of each leaf.
A crucial part of the plant’s respiration process.
Grows as large as genetically possible to photosynthesize
and transpire optimally.
Typically discarded during harvesting for consumable cannabis, but valuable in the hemp industry to be processed into fibers. Stalks and stems are woody, fibrous and contain almost no trichomes.
Stalk – main part of the cannabis plant branches out into stems.
Nodes – future bud sites.
Nicole Graf is the author of “Grow Your Own,” and co-owner of Raven Grass in Olympia, Washington.Illustration by Agata Wierzbicka