This weekly series of posts from Best Buds is intended to provide a casual yet educational look at the world of Cannabis. We provide information on all things weed – history, strains, recipes, medicinal benefits – anything you every wanted to know about your favorite plant. We hope to answer all questions and dispel any misconceptions about cannabis. Best Buds wants you to be the most informed consumer you can be!
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Episode 1: What exactly is Marijuana?
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, weed, bud, herb (among its hundreds of other names), is the collective term for a group of greenish-gray plants native to India. There are three recognized species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. However, there is still controversy on the classifications of these plants; often, all three species are recognized as belonging to C. sativa1.
An annual plant that can grow up to 12 feet or 5.4 meters tall, it is one of the most recognizable and cultivated crops in the world. It is thought to have originated from Central Asia, possibly in an Indian region just north of the Himalayas1. There are two types of flowers – male and female – but the female version is the one you usually harvest to stash in your mason jars and roll in your papers. When you look at the bud, or flowery part of the plant, you’ll notice that there are sugary crystals and chunky bits surrounded by small leaves. The plant can be a bit confusing, so let’s take a closer look at what exactly makes up the cannabis you love to consume so much.
As mentioned before, the female version of the plant produces the flower part that one usually enjoys. The flowers, which produce resin, are cut into the more rounded or pointed buds that you are probably familiar with. Males pollinate females to begin seed production, but the buds we consume come from the seedless female versions, called sinsemilla, which make cannabinoid-rich (and seedless) buds. Sometimes, plants that have both female and male parts (called hermaphrodites) can self-pollinate, which is undesirable for growing as the sinsemilla plants cannot properly develop into their happy little seedless lives2.
Now let’s examine the parts of the plant: (refer to the diagram above)
Nodes: Sections where long, skinny stems protrude out from the main stem and grow their large and famous fan-like leaf structures. The leaves are arranged in a palmate manner, like a hand, and it is a symbol that has been plastered all over clothing, bumper stickers, and accessories all over the world3.
Cola: A cluster of buds that bunch up together. The main budding cola, called the apical bud, sits on top of the plant. However, there can be other colas that appear along budding sites near the lower branches.
Pistil: Region that contains the reproductive parts of the plant.
Stigma: The hair-like strands of the pistil. They collect pollen from males to begin the fertilization process. They start off as white but begin to darken as the plant matures.
Bract: The capsule that actually contains the female reproductive parts. They look like tear-shaped leaves and are covered in glands that produce resin. The resin contains the highest concentration of cannabinoids (compounds that can sometimes produce the well-known effects of consuming marijuana) in the plant.
Calyx: A translucent layer enclosed by bracts that sits over the ovule at the base of the flower.
Trichome: Tiny, almost microscopic outgrowths of hairy material that appear on the plant. When you examine a cannabis flower, you can find a curious, resin-like substance on it that can sometimes be shiny and sticky. This layer of crystal resin can especially be found on the bud. When dried up, this is commonly referred to as “kief.” The kief is secreted by mushroom-shaped glands, called trichomes, that are found on leaves, stems, and the calyx. Originally, the trichome’s purpose was to protect the plant against predators and elements. They are more lovingly known to be the factories that produce terpenes, THC, CBD, and other compounds for which cannabis is grown and harvested. The production of hash also depends on the trichomes and the sugary resin they secrete.2
Cannabis has been grown for many centuries, with the first written account of medical marijuana use dating back all the way to the 28th century B.C3. In future posts, we will discuss the chemical compounds produced by the plant, dive further into the history of its cultivation, and explore the different ways it is consumed. Stay tuned next week for another episode of Best Buds Blogs!