Hermaphroditism in Cannabis plants. So, what now?
Among cannabis plants we can find dioecious and monoecious specimens, that is, individuals that only show a defined sex and others that contain flowers of both sexes in the same plant. Originally they were all monoecious, as is the case with almost all varieties of industrial hemp as well as the vast majority of vegetables on the planet.
In the past this was not a problem, because cannabis was used for making fibres and the seeds were eaten, so every plant was valid. Then they started smoking the flowers after removing the seeds, as well as producing hashish centuries later, and they soon realized that female plants were much better for these purposes, or that they barely showed any male flowers.
It was the human hand that began to isolate the best females for its own use, and by selection and crossing the dioecious traits were fixed in some pure varieties. From the best stable Landraces came the first hybrids, and from them most of the polyhybrids we know nowadays. The vast majority of cannabis seeds nowadays are of well-defined sex, but there are still genetics that can show hermaphroditism and this is what we will see here. What is a hermaphrodite cannabis plant and what can we do with it?
📲 Meaning of Hermaphrodite
I guess we’ve all been there at one time or another, we have arrived to the crop and among all the plants we saw something strange. Something that you do not expect, a plant that has strange things in the buds and when you approach to see it well your predictions are confirmed, it is a hermaphrodite sex flower, but what is hermaphroditism?
The definition of hermaphrodite in marijuana plants means specimens containing both sexes in the same flower. This process is also called Monoceia. This can be a big problem if you want to smoke the buds, because male flowers normally pollinate female flowers and your buds will contain seeds. So, is hermaphroditism bad? It is for us, although we have to understand that sometimes it is a positive reaction that the plant shows on certain situations.
Picture showing the different sexes of cannabis plants*
⭐ Types and causes of Cannabis Hermaphroditism
- Environmental stress
- Culture Stress
- Chemical agents
- The most common cause of weed plants showing hermaphrodites is genetic. As we saw before, the ancestors of all the current varieties were hermaphrodites, but they have been working over the years to stabilize their sex. Many times plants contain hermaphrodite genes in a recessive way, that is, some specimens may not show it, but these same specimens may pass it on to the offspring. It is also the case of varieties that always show pure females when grown optimally, but can end up showing male flowers in stress situations.
- Environmental stress hermaphroditism is quite common too, but in this case it has to do with Darwin’s theory of evolution. It may seem like a negative thing, since it can ruin your crop, but it is actually a system of adaptation to the environment, since it happens when the female plant perceives that it can die due to environmental irregularities, so it produces male flowers to self-pollinate and procreate as soon as possible.
- Crop-induced stress can be caused naturally or by the grower himself/herself. Pure Afghani genetics have minimal water requirements, because they are used to dry and unfertile soil, and when you try to grow them in a rainy area they often show hermaphroditic signs. It also happens the other way around, of course, if you bring a Mexican to Afghanistan it’s normal for it to get stressed out too and it can end up hermaphroditing. This can be seen very well with some hybrids when they are over-fertilized, or when they suffer from water stress due to drought, excess irrigation or an inadequate PH in the nutrient solution.
- Hermaphroditism caused by over-ripening can be suffered by 90% of today’s commercial cannabis varieties. It is a kind of survival system of the plant, which when it perceives that its death is near and has not been fertilized, creates some male flowers to self-pollinate and try to continue with the lineage. There are many sexually stable females that endure many types of stress without showing any hermaphroditic signs, but in the case of over-ripening they end up producing hermaphrodite flowers.
- Cannabis has the ability to reverse or invert its sex thanks to certain chemicals. This is because there are some elements that have the capacity to inhibit the ethylene production of the female specimens, and therefore show male flowers capable of producing pollen. An example of this type of hermaphroditism is STS which is used to produce feminized seeds. Plants reversed with silver thiosulfate, colloidal silver or other chemicals, we call them hermaphrodites, although they are not really like that, because when they start to generate male flowers they stop producing female flowers, so maybe we could call them sequential hermaphrodites or just intersex plants.
Image of an intersex cannabis plant, where you can see a female flower next to a male one*
Difference between hermaphrodite and intersex
We usually call all plants containing both sexes hermaphrodite and it’s actually like this. But we must differentiate between those that produce both female and male flowers separated in different areas, which would be intersex ones, from those that form male and female flowers in the same bud.
➕ How to take advantage of a hermaphrodite plant?
The best thing you can do when you detect a hermaphrodite plant in your crop is to carefully remove it so as not to spread the pollen in case it has opened the flowers. But that doesn’t mean that you have to cut it down and throw it away, because sometimes you can get some use out of the plant.
Some specimens can take out 1 or 2 male flowers and nothing else, it happens sometimes with pre-flowers, in the fourth or fifth knot usually, that can be taken out and the plant will continue to flower as a female many times. It is convenient to keep an eye on these specimens if they are mixed with other females, in case at some point they take out some little banana (male flowers that come out in some hermaphrodite buds).
There are also some hermaphrodite plants that can take out a few small bananas in a bud, visible and that can be removed with tweezers. In these cases it is also better to separate them carefully and, depending on the development of the buds, choose whether to bring forward the harvest or keep them under supervision until they finish their cycle. Once you’ve removed the bananas, you can use that weed like any other.
If it is a plant that shows signs of continuous hermaphroditism during the first weeks of flowering, it is best to cut it directly if there is a danger of pollination of other females. If this happens to you, you should know that you can use the plant to make rubbing alcohol, for example. However, if you have to cut it with a more advanced flowering stage, I suggest you try to make BHO, because if the buds already have resin I feel that this is a better way to take advantage of a hermaphrodite.
And if they are seeds from a hermaphrodite plant, can I use them?
One of the factors that influence hermaphroditism is the genetic as we saw before, it is one more inherited characteristic that runs from generation to generation. Therefore, seeds that come out of hermaphrodite marijuana plants have a good chance of also being hermaphrodite.
Sometimes we find some seeds among the whole harvest of a plant, which usually come from self-pollination, they are the so-called S1. This happens when a little banana comes out and fertilizes a small area of a bud, so only a few seeds come out, sometimes only one. These seeds are feminized and very similar to the plant from which they come out, they always come out female, but they are always prone to produce some male flower between their buds as well.
🚀 How to avoid that a plant becomes hermaphrodite?
This is not always possible, because there are some varieties that have it very marked, intrinsic. But there are many others that only have a tendency to hermaphroditism, or a greater ability to produce flowers of the opposite sex. This tendency has a lot to do with the ability of genetics to withstand stress, those that are sexually pure, very few, endure much more stress without showing changes in their sex. If you want to stop them from showing it, consider the following factors:
- Don’t go crazy with nutrients
- Check the pH and regularly calibrate your meter
- Daytime temperature around 75º F. (24º C.) and at night around 64.5º F. (18º C.)
- Keep the crop clean, pests also stress
- Strict photoperiod and no illumination of the plants during the night period
- Don’t delay the harvest, you know that over-ripe ends in hermaphroditism
- Be careful with phytosanitary products, some are very strong and can stress the plant
- Don’t put too many plants in too little space, root stress is also bad
You’ve seen that hermaphroditism in cannabis is not a bad thing in itself, even if it bothers us. At least you know how to handle it and how you can take advantage of these plants in case this happens. I hope you liked this post, and if so, I’d like you to share it.
Do you know what hermaphroditism is? How to differentiate it from intersex? In this post we disclose those and other doubts…
What To Do With A Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plant?
Many things can affect your grow of the cannabis plant. Feminized seeds can save you the time and expenses of sexing the plant resulting in shorter grow times and less materials used. One thing that can affect your grow (especially with feminized cannabis plants) is a hermaphrodite cannabis plant. What are hermaphrodites?
Hermaphrodite Definition: noun (1) an organism (plant or animal) having both male and female reproductive organs. (2) An organism having both male and female organs. Therefore, is capable of producing both male and female gametes. Sometimes the cannabis plant will produce male organs on a female plant. This can infrequently happen with your feminized cannabis seeds. Most feminized seeds will not become hermaphrodites.
More likely than not, you will not get any hermaphrodites cannabis plant from your feminized seeds.
The two things that can cause hermaphrodites in the cannabis plant are an environmental stress or a genetic tendency. Some strains of feminized cannabis plants have a genetic tendency to be hermaphroditic and some strains have an extremely rare amount of occurrences.
Seed from a reputable breeder will have a rare amount of genetically caused hermaphrodites. If you have multiple hermaphrodites in your garden then it is most likely an environmental issue that caused them to get hermaphroditic. If you have just one hermaphrodite it is most likely caused by genetics. Some strains have a tendency toward being hermas. Doing some research on the strains you plan to purchase will help make sure you don’t pick one of those strains. There are many strains of the cannabis plant with extremely stable genetics.
What things can you do to lower the chances of having a hermaphrodite in your cannabis plants?
Several things can cause your cannabis plant to get shocked and become hermaphroditic, such as light leak during the flowering stages of the light cycle. Severe variations in the PH levels or fertilizer can also cause the plants to create male sex organs. Variations in temperature may cause the problem. Watering incorrectly can shock your plants as well as the introduction of hormones improperly or at the wrong time. Growing past the recommended harvest time can also cause hermaphrodites. If you are going to change something in the grow process it is usually best to do it slowly if you are growing indoors this is much easier. Outdoor grows should not have any problems with hermaphrodites but the climate cannot be controlled as exactly as indoors.
In this video from Jorge Cervantes you can see the release of male pollen:
What should I do if I get a hermaphrodite cannabis plant or plants?
The male sex organ of the cannabis plant looks like little bananas. If you find sites on your branches that have little bananas on them, the first thing you should do when you find male sex organs on your cannabis plant is to isolate the plant away from the rest of the female cannabis plants. An isolation tent or another room away from the other females is a good ways to segregate the hermas. Make sure to always tend to the hermaphrodite cannabis plants last because you do not want to bring the pollen back in to the room with your female plants. You can just get rid of the plant but that is a waste of time and resources. Pulling the male sex organs off with tweezers is a good option. It is also prudent to take the affected bud or branch entirely off. Often the sex organs “bananas” do not open on feminized cannabis plants but you should treat them as if they are open and take care not to bring that pollen back in to the females. It takes ten to fifteen days for the cannabis plant to develop the male flowers, so you will have to monitor the plants for at least that long in order to remove all of the male sex organs. The pollen is released if the banana like pod opens, so be careful to dispose of them quickly.
Male cannabis plant losing pollen.
Hermaphrodite can occur when you wait too long to harvest so how do you know when it is time to harvest your cannabis plant?
Trichromes are the small glands on the cannabis plant and can tell you when to harvest your plants. When using a 60X by 100X illuminated pocket microscope the trichromes will go from clear to milky and then amber. You can also take a good digital photo and enlarge it until you see the trichromes. Some digital cameras have a macro setting, which would do the trick. You can harvest when 50% or more of the trichromes are milky or translucent. Some people like to wait until the trichromes become amber in color. Some sativas are better if harvested when you get to the milky stage; it has more of a heady effect than a physical one. If you wait until the glands turn amber it will have more of a sedate, physical high. This could make a Sativa lose some of its qualities. Some of the blueberry and blackberry strains have purple glands but mostly they will be amber in the last stage. Mostly you would want a mainly amber hue on Indicas or Sativa/Indica hybrids. Waiting too long can cause the cannabis plant to go in to “survival mode” and generate male organs in order to pollinate itself.
Hermaphrodites are used to make feminized cannabis seeds
Feminized cannabis seeds are often produced by introducing a hermaphrodite to a number of female plants. This is usually achieved by using hormones to invoke one or more of the females to generate male organs. Make sure to check out our video section if you want know how to make your own feminised cannabis seeds. The resulting seeds will be predominantly female or feminized seed. Feminized seed is an extremely economical choice for growing cannabis plants. Feminized seeds will have a 85% to 99.9% chance of being female. Non-feminized seeds will have a 50% to 70% chance of being female. In most cases you will not have any hermaphrodites. If you do end up with hermaphrodites, it is most likely from some environmental shock. Shorter grow times and less maintenance are a great reason to use feminized seeds. Feminized seeds can streamline your grow process by not wasting time determining sex and does not waste resources on male plants. A stable grow process without wild fluctuations is the best plan for maximum yields of your cannabis plants and will almost guarantee you do not get hermaphrodite.
Many things can affect your grow of the cannabis plant. Feminized seeds can save you the time and expenses of sexing the plant resulting in shorter grow times