Whether you’re a seasoned dispensary owner or a novice cannabis consumer, everyone can benefit from a better understanding of cannabis anatomy. Here’s an overview of the structure of this unique plant.

Commercial Cannabis Strains Are Female

If you’re not already a plant connoisseur or knowledgeable cannabis grower, it may surprise you to learn that flowering plants reproduce sexually, cannabis included. This means that cannabis plants can be male or female as well as the rare hermaphrodite.

Commercial cannabis plants are almost exclusively female. That’s because the female plants are responsible for producing the highly sought after, large, and dense resinous flowers rich in cannabinoids and terpenes. In contrast, males produce smaller pollen sacks that are not nearly as potent as their female counterparts.

Now let’s take a look at the different parts of the female cannabis plant, starting at the soil.

Root Structure

The roots provide a critical foundation for all plants. They ferry water and nutrients from the soil to the rest of the plant, as well as provide an anchoring structure and a place to store the products of photosynthesis.

The taproot is the largest, most central part of the root structure. It emerges from the seed during germination and branches out as it grows. Lateral roots emerge from the main taproot. Finer, smaller root hairs create further branches. A healthy plant will have a dense network of bright, white roots with a large number of fine root hairs.

Stem and Nodes

The stem emerges from the soil and supports the weight of the cannabis plant. It also helps transport water, nutrients, and sugars within the plant.

The points at which the stem branches are called nodes. The nodes are where the first flowers appear.


When it comes to cannabis, there is perhaps nothing more iconic than the leaf of the plant. Cannabis leaves are composed of multiple, serrated, veined leaflets that fan out from a central rachis.

Larger leaves (known as fan leaves) create energy for the plant via photosynthesis and also help regulate the plant’s temperature and moisture level. However, fan leaves are removed before harvesting. Smaller sugar leaves that emerge from the flower itself are resin-covered and left intact.


The flower represents the female reproductive organ of the plant. It’s a complex structure made up of several parts.

The cola refers to the dense, central cluster of flower buds located at the top of the main stem and largest branches of the plant. The central cola at the top of the main stem is usually considered to be the most resinous and potent.

Each flower is made up of tightly packed clusters of bracts—small, tear-drop shaped, modified leaves that surround and protect individual ovule or unfertilized female seeds.

Two hair-like structures called stigmas protrude from each ovule. The stigmas are responsible for catching pollen from male plants. They can range from white in color to dark orange or brown depending on the age of the plant.

Lastly, each bract is coated in resinous trichomes. These structures are highly concentrated in terpenes and cannabinoids.