Like most living things, cannabis comes in both male and female varieties. In the world of cannabis, the primary focus is on female plants, but male cannabis plants play just as critical a role in the production of the juicy cannabis buds we know and love.
You can’t smoke male cannabis plants, but that doesn’t mean only female cannabis plants have value. Male cannabis plants are useful for fiber production, for instance, and you can’t breed cannabis without male plants. Learn all the uses of male cannabis plants—along with what male cannabis plants are not—in this guide.
What is the difference between male and female cannabis plants?
Male and female cannabis plants grow differently. Instead of bearing buds, male cannabis plants start exhibiting swollen pollen sacs as they reach maturity. The pollen in these sacs has the potential to turn “virgin” seedless female cannabis buds into seed-bearing “mother” buds. Even cannabis plants that have only taken on male characteristics without originally having male genetics can pollinate themselves and nearby females, making it necessary to identify and remove males early in the cannabis cultivation process.
How do you determine the sex of a cannabis plant?
Called “sexing,” the sex of a cannabis plant is usually determined by visual inspection. Even during the vegetatitive phase, cannabis plants will exhibit small structures called “pre-flowers” at their nodes. The pre-flowers of female cannabis plants are thin and delicate with small protruding hairs.
The pre-flowers of male cannabis plants, on the other hand, look like small, wrinkled seeds. Any cannabis plants displaying male pre-flowers should be immediately separated from plants that have been sexed as female.
What are some early signs of a male cannabis plant?
Pre-flowers are often observable on the first nodes cannabis seedlings produce. By the time a cannabis seedling has produced 3-4 nodes, new nodes will certainly be accompanied by pre-flowers, at which point male plants can be visually identified. Start looking for pre-flowers on cannabis from the moment the first node becomes visible—time is of the essence when separating male and female cannabis plants.
Can a female plant turn male?
A female cannabis plant cannot become completely male, but it can become hermaphroditic, which occurs when female cannabis plants take on male traits. Female plants with male traits often self-pollinate, bearing seeds that reduce the potency of cannabis flower and make it more difficult to smoke. As a result, cannabis growers go to great lengths to prevent their plants from becoming hermaphroditic.
What are hermaphrodite cannabis plants?
Hermaphrodite or “hermy” cannabis plants are female plants that display male traits. Cannabis plants usually go hermy due to stress or disruptions to their growth cycles. Cannabis hermaphroditism can also be caused by disease and nutrient deficiency. Hermaphroditic cannabis plants bear partly formed seeds, making their buds less desirable for smoking.
How to make a male plant female: Is there a way?
It is not scientifically possible to transform a male cannabis plant into a female cannabis plant. Even cannabis hermaphroditism works in the opposite direction: It makes female plants take on male traits, not the other way around.
Once a female cannabis plant has taken on male traits, it’s sometimes possible to reverse hermaphroditism by removing the source of stress that originally spurred the change. Generally, though, even experienced growers have no choice but to simply trash hermy crops and move on.
Reversing hermaphrodite plants: 3 methods
Now that your female cannabis plant is hermy, there might not be anything you can do. Give these three methods a shot, though, before you conclude all is lost:
Remove the source of stress
Whether it’s a light leak, heat damage, or pest stress, start by stopping whatever factor made your female plants go hermy in the first place. If you caught the hermaphroditism in your cannabis plants early enough, male traits may disappear over the course of the maturation process.
Remove male sex organs
Some growers also recommend removing any observably male-shaped sex organs (pre-flowers) from female plants that appear to be going hermy. This approach doesn’t do anything about the source of the problem, but it does directly stop hermaphroditic cannabis plants from self-pollinating.
Amputate the affected limb
In many cases, hermaphroditism only affects a single branch or side of a cannabis plant. If part of a cannabis plant displays male sex organs but the remainder does not, it might be worthwhile to cut off the entire hermaphroditic section. Extreme stresses like these can kill cannabis plants or reduce their yield, but that’s better than losing the entire plant.
How to use male cannabis plants
Despite not making for great smoking material, there’s still a lot you can do with male cannabis plants. Learn the dos and don’ts of using non-female cannabis:
1. Can you smoke male plants?
No, do not smoke male cannabis plants. Instead of bearing buds, male cannabis plants have pollen sacs, which do not contain high concentrations of cannabinoids.
These pollen sacs do not taste good when smoked, and you could hurt yourself if you smoke too much male cannabis. The abundant cannabinoids, terpenes, and other oils found in female cannabis flower have been smoked without much issue for millennia, but even ancient pot smokers knew not to light their male plants on fire and inhale.
2. Can you make edibles with male plants?
You could technically use male cannabis plants to make edibles, but those edibles wouldn’t get you high or have any other noticeable effects. Your treats would smell and taste like weed all for nothing, so using male plants to make cannabis edibles is not recommended unless you’re a particular fan of the plant’s culinary qualities.
3. Can you use male plants to breed cannabis?
Yes, male plants are integral components of the process of cannabis breeding. As with most living things, reproduction cannot take place without both males and females, and the same goes for cannabis.
Breeders keep male and female cannabis plants in separate, sealed areas to prevent accidental pollination. When the time is right, males and females are allowed to mingle, and if everything goes well, those females will bear buds filled with pollinated seeds breeders can then use to grow the next generation of plants.
4. Can you use male cannabis plants for fiber?
Yes, male cannabis plants are just as utilizable for plant fiber as female cannabis plants. In fact, male cannabis may be even more desirable for fiber production since they don’t bear buds. Separating bud material from fiber is a hindrance when producing cannabis biomass, but with male cannabis, the whole plant can be harvested and processed as a whole.
5. Can you use male cannabis plants as houseplants?
Some people think male cannabis plants make good houseplants. Many jurisdictions will view those plants as marijuana even though they’re male, though, so you should stay within your area’s cannabis regulations if you decide to grow male plants for decorative purposes.
Male cannabis plant FAQ
Let’s finish up with a few commonly asked questions regarding male cannabis plants:
Does CBD come from the male plant?
No, male cannabis plants do not contain high concentrations of CBD, THC, or any other cannabinoid. CBD comes from female cannabis plants just like THC, but the cannabis plants CBD comes from have been selectively bred to contain low concentrations of THC. Male cannabis plants aren’t useful for much aside from breeding and fiber production.
Do male cannabis plants have nutritional value?
Yes, male cannabis plants have some degree of nutritional value, but unlike female plants, they do not bear seeds. The seed is the most nutritious part of the cannabis plant, and it’s the only part that contains fatty acids and protein.
Whether taken from male or female plants, cannabis leaves offer high concentrations of a few essential vitamins and minerals. The stalk of the cannabis plant is generally considered inedible. You should prefer female cannabis plants for culinary purposes except for salads and other dishes that use the leaves, not the seeds of cannabis.
Are male cannabis plants useful as mulch?
Yes, you can use male cannabis plants as mulch, and you won’t be wasting much. If you can’t find anything else to do with your male cannabis plants, you can always just compost them and use them to grow other plants. Since males only have value for breeding or fiber anyway, becoming nutrients that will help new female plants thrive and bear delicious buds isn’t that bad of a fate.
What is sexing cannabis?
There’s nothing risqué about sexing cannabis. This is simply an industry term for separating male cannabis plants from females. Sexing cannabis generally isn’t that hard, but if you make any mistakes, you could accidentally pollinate your female plants. Getting your hands on a new generation of seeds isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but only “virgin” cannabis females bear the clean, cannabinoid-rich buds you want to smoke.