When growing weed, most growers are fully focussed on achieving optimal harvest results. That is why they tend to concentrate their efforts on the flower buds that develop in the flowering phase, sice these contain the cannabinoids and terpenes that determine the effect and flavour of the weed. Still, growers should also have some basic knowledge on the stems and branches of cannabis plants. This blog zooms in on their function and anatomy, as well as exploring their use for human consumption.
Location Of Cannabis Stems And Branches
At the risk of stating the obvious, a discussion of cannabis stems and branches should start out by determining where they are. The appearance of cannabis plants can vary considerably depending on strain genetics, but broadly speaking, all variants have similar branches and stems.
The stem or stalk of a cannabis plant is the upright part of its ‘frame’. The stem begins right above the roots and ends at the top branches. This is the section that races upwards throughout the growth phase of the cannabis life cycle. The plant’s branches start their growth from the stem, at the points where the nodes develop.
Main & Side Branches
In cannabis plants, branches are in fact extensions of the stem. Whereas the stems determine the height of cannabis plants, branches make up their width. Wherever nodes line the stems, main branches usually branch off to either side and then grow upwards, potentially splitting into further side branches.
From the moment when cannabis seeds germinate, these pairs of branches start to develop into the eventual canopy shape. Main branches divide into side branches, and so on, until the final plant structure takes shape. The characteristic marijuana fan leaves then grow from these branches. During the flowering phase, female plants develop cola buds with trichomes full of active compounds at the same nodes where branches emerge.
Nodes & Internodes
Cannabis stems can be divided into internodes, or internodal spaces. These are the sections separating the plant’s nodes. In other words, every cannabis plant has an internode between every pair of branches sprouting from the nodes. It’s important to watch these nodes closely at the onset of the flowering phase, as this is where the male reproductive organs emerge in case of male or hermaphrodite cannabis plants hidden among your feminized specimens.
Functions Of Cannabis Branches And Stems
The primary function of cannabis stems and branches is to provide support and the right shape. As plants get heavier while they grow, its supporting framework must remain strong enough for the leaves and flowers that emerge. Quite a few grow techniques revolve around manipulating this structure for improved harvest yields. This is usually done by giving a plant a more open structure for improved light distribution, or by changing its overall shape to make it fit a grow room or tent.
Firmness and flexibility are integral parts of this structure. Cannabis plants have to stay strong and sturdy yet flexible enough to prevent stems and branches from snapping in a storm, or because of passing deer and neighbours. Plants balance these two qualities through a combination of the strong fibre making up the stems and branches (firmness), the process of osmosis that keeps cells firm, and the hollow space within stems and branches for flexibility under duress.
Stems and branches also govern transport of water and nutrients throughout the plant. Water is absorbed by the roots and then driven upwards to the leaves by the xylem, a one-way system of microscopic tubes located within the stems and branches. Nutrients can be transported both up and down by the phloem, a second vascular system situated closer to the outer wall of the bark.
What Can You Use Cannabis Stems And Branches For?
Since the dawn of mankind, cannabis flowers have been used both for recreational and medicinal purposes. And yet, cannabis, or actually hemp, has also been employed and grown throughout history for the fibre in its stems and branches. This so-called fibre hemp grows fast and easy, enabling rapid production of extremely strong fibres. These fibres have been and are being used for all sorts of products, ranging from textile and rope to sails and modern construction materials. These days, for example, hemp fibre is applied in construction as prefab blocks used for building strong, sustainable, high-insulation walls. In fact, hemp cultivation used to be so important back in the day that many countries enforced mandatory cannabis plant production quota on farmers – a far cry from the situation we find ourselves in today…
Cannabis stems and branches have limited use for human consumption. These parts of the plant hardly contain any cannabinoids, so making hash or edibles from stems and branches is unlikely to produce much of an effect. Of course, you could still use them for their flavour as a herbal twist to home-brew tea, but don’t count on getting high from it.
Once the harvest is drying (usually hanging upside-down by its branches – that’s yet another function!) you could simply toss all the leftover stems and branches in the bin. That would be a real waste, though, since stems and branches of cannabis plants are just as great for making compost as the leaves. Making your own cannabis compost gets you balanced and natural soil life for next year’s grow: a clever, economical, and sustainable use for those stems and branches!
Training & Techniques
Cannabis growers use various techniques that revolve around manipulating branches and stems. Take the Screen Of Green method for example, which involves spreading the branches using a wire framework to improve lighting of the lower leaves. Low Stress Training is a technique that manipulates branches with a gentle touch. Supercropping is about bruising and twisting branches on purpose without tearing the outer bark. If you get it right, the plant will continue growing upwards from there, allowing better adjustment to grow room dimensions as well as improved light distribution for the whole plant.
In indoor cannabis growing, limiting the height of stems and branches Is often a prime concern, especially for sativa genetics that tend to shoot up to the roof. Growing cannabis outdoors poses its own unique set of challenges. Perhaps plants should not grow over the hedge for privacy reasons? If so, the techniques listed above can also work out in the open. In the open air, storms are a substantial risk, so you may want to support your plants’ stems with some bamboo just in case. Just be careful not to fix them too tightly or you’ll risk cutting of sap flows and damaging your plant.
Right after germination and throughout the early vegetative phase, cannabis stems and branches are at risk of a phenomenon known as stretching. Stretch occurs when a seedling races up to the light too fast, resulting in flimsy, thin, elongated stem development. Thoughts on how to prevent and counter stretching are discussed in this separate Grow Blog.
Let’s Get Growing
Now that you know the basics of cannabis stems and branches, you have a more solid backbone to work with – as will your plants. That means it’s high time to start that new grow – you’ll find the finest genetics in our online catalogue, from roots to stems and from branches to the buds we’re all aiming for!