If you’re reading this, it’s a safe bet you’re already pretty familiar with cannabis (aka: our favorite plant). But even if you’re intimate with the cannabis flower—the part that we smoke—there’s much, much more to this miraculous bud than meets the eye. If you really want to get, well, down in the weeds, let us take you on a little guided tour of the cannabis flower!
Understanding the Cannabis Flower: A Little Backstory
We talk a lot about the various compounds found in the cannabis plant, the cannabinoids and terpenes that interact with our bodies to fight pain and anxiety (not to mention delivering the distinctive “high” that gives it its fame). But what about the cannabis plant itself? Before we can talk about the cannabis flower, we need to introduce this miniature medicine factory.
In many regards, cannabis isn’t much different from any other plant. It grows from a germinated seed, sending down a slender taproot that eventually grows into a complex root system designed to draw water up from the soil. Aboveground, the stem sprouts leaves covered in tiny pores called stomas, which take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen (O2). After the plant is firmly established in the ground and it has leafed out, it waits for a signal—in this wild, the shorter days of late summer—to begin flowering. And that’s where things get really exciting!
Understanding the Cannabis Flower: A Miniature Medicine Factory
Did you know that cannabis plants can be male or female? While the males are essential to the breeding process, they don’t contain much of the cannabinoids and terpenes we seek. So the cannabis you enjoy is typically female.
The female flower—what used to be known as “bud”—is part of a complex system that works to support the creation of healthy, medically active flower. Here are the essential parts of the puzzle:
- Cola: Sometimes known as a “bud site,” colas are clusters of female flowers that grow tightly together.
- Flower: As we mentioned, the cannabis flower is the main source of the beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes we love the plant for! In healthy specimens, they’re dense and covered with a potent, frosty-looking coating.
- Trichomes: That frosty coating? It’s made of tiny structures called trichomes: clear, miniscule, mushroom-shaped glands that produce aromatic terpenes to repel pests, and cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, CBN and others. While the cannabis flower you buy includes the trichomes, they can also be separated to make products such as hash and kief.
- Sugar leaves: These cute little leaves are what the cannabis flower forms around. Because they’re coated with sticky resin, they’re often used to make pre-rolls, potent concentrates, and other cannabis products.
- Bracts: Similarly, bracts are green teardrop-shaped leaves that surround the cannabis plant’s female reproductive organs. While bracts make up a small proportion of the weight of the plant, they contain the highest concentration of cannabinoids found in the entire cannabis plant.