To growers, cannabis buds, flowers, or flower buds are the most interesting part of the entire plant. The flower buds of female cannabis plants hold most of the active compounds that determine the effects of the high. A strain’s medicinal potential and flavour are also concentrated in its cannabis buds. But just what constitutes a flower; and why don’t the flower buds of marijuana plants resemble regular flowers? It’s time we had a closer look at the biology of cannabis flower buds.
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Flowers Are Sexy
Flowers exert a special kind of attraction over us, and over many other animals as well. This makes perfect sense, as flowers are all about deliberately captivating us by their amazing looks and scents. Flowers are quite an extravagant development from an evolutionary perspective: spectacularly beautiful in all their fragrances, colours, and shapes, yet at the same time, they are a considerable investment for any plant that has to spend its energy wisely.
Flowers are meant to draw the attention of animals that benefit the flowering plant. Every single plant in the floral kingdom is built specifically to attract specific species of animals at exactly the right time; usually to help pollinate a specimen and secure its reproductive success. As a consequence, the evolution of flowers often runs parallel to the development of specific insect species and other useful animals.
That means flowers are sexy in a literal sense. Inside a flower le the plant’s reproductive organs, but its exterior appearance is what physically attracts the animals that it needs. This attraction is both visual due to the dazzling colours and shapes flower can have, as well as olfactory due to the intoxicating allure of floral scents. On top of that, many flowers produce nectar as a special temptation intended to lure in the right pollinators.
Humanity has been under the seductive sway of flowers for ages, too. We use them in rituals, to win the hearts of those we love, to brighten up our homes, and to turn our gardens into a paradise. This is why we have been cultivating flowers for so long: cannabis buds are definitely not the first Dutch flowers that brought us international fame.
The English word ‘flower’ traces its roots to the Roman flower goddess Flora. Before it was commonly used, however, the word ‘blossom’ was the preferred nomenclature.
In addition to their charming scent and appearance, many flowers are edible too. Don’t be surprised when you find a daffodil or courgette flower on your plate in a fancy restaurant. Flowers are also widely used in medicine, both for traditional folk remedies and for the development of state of the art prescription drugs.
And on top of all these wonderful uses, we still haven’t even mentioned what this blog is all about: the cannabis buds growers consider to be the best flowers of all. The flowers of cannabis plants embody nearly all the floral applications and purposes mentioned above; even though most growers simply love them for their psychotropic effects upon consumption.
Are Cannabis Buds Even Flowers At All?
If you want flowers in your garden, you’ll have to get seeds. Since growing weed is basically about flowers too, ordering cannabis seeds is your best guarantee for harvesting ganja flowers. If you manage your grow correctly, that is, because you’ll only get cannabis buds on female plants if they make it through their flowering stage.
Even though we usually just say ‘bud’, cannabis buds are flowers in every sense of the word. They may not look much like what you find at your regular florist, but then again, cannabis is no regular plant. Besides, nature holds such an incredible wealth of different flowers that you’re likely to overlook the flowers of lots of other species, too.
The flowers we call cannabis buds contain the highest concentrations of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. The branches, leaves (particularly their veins), and even the roots all contain minor concentrations of active compounds; but these are so low that you’ll need a considerable amount of plant material to produce any effects.
The majority of the terpenes that determine the scent, taste, and subtle effects of weed, as well as the flavonoids, are all concentrated in the flower buds. You can find them in the trichomes: tiny glands filled with sticky resin that produce the most valuable compounds found in cannabis. That is why the flower gets harvested by growers once the buds have ripened to perfection.
Once these buds have been dried and cured, they are ready for consumption. Before we get to that point, however, the floral blooms of our cannabis buds still have a long way to go.
The Purpose Of Cannabis Buds And Other Flowers
Ask any connoisseur what the purpose of cannabis buds is, and nine times out of ten, the answer will be ‘to enjoy of course’. An understandable answer to be sure, and not even wrong; yet biologically speaking, all flowers, including cannabis buds, serve reproductive purposes.
Female cannabis seeds grow up to be female plants that form reproductive organs meant to collect pollen spread by males. This process is called pollination. After pollination, the female plant gets fertilised. If that happens, she starts to produce her own cannabis seeds using the reproductive organs hidden inside her flowers.
As a grower, you’ll generally want to avoid pollination, as cannabis buds without seeds produce more cannabinoids and therefore stronger effects. Unpollinated flowers that do not produce seeds are called ‘sinsemilla’, which is Spanish for ‘without seeds’. Breeders, by contrast, are all about cannabis plants with seeds. They need strong seeds to crossbreed new strains using plant breeding techniques.
Cannabis is a cross-pollinating plant species. That means reproduction requires both a male and female plant to succeed: sexual reproduction, in other words. Self-pollinating species, on the other hand, develop both male and female reproductive organs on the same plant. That makes cannabis a dioecious plant, i.e., comprising both sexes.
Although males do not produce the flower buds we see in females, they do produce pollen sacs that release their genetic contents for the wind to carry along. Technically speaking, males definitely grow flowers; they just look completely different from those you see on females.
In some cases, usually due to high stress environments, cannabis plants will also develop both male and female flowers, or reproductive organs. If that happens, we call them hermaphrodites, which interestingly, biologists also call ‘bisexuals’ or even ‘perfects’. To growers, however, hermas are far from perfect: if you don’t spot them in time, they can pollinate themselves as well as the rest of your grow.
As we can see, cannabis buds serve two purposes for the plant. They use their pistils to collect male pollen, and they create seeds in their […] which they then help spread to let a new generation carry the parent genetics into the future. Many of the flowers we love to see in our gardens or vases serve a third purpose that explains their exceptional beauty: they help attract pollinators such as bees, hoverflies, and other insects.
Cannabis plants do not need such attractiveness, since they pollinate using the wind. This is probably why we see so few romantics trying to charm their sweethearts with a fresh bouquet of cannabis flowers…
Flowers After Pollination
Once a flower is pollinated, the pistils lose their function. Grains of pollen grow downwards toward the [….] or ovary to fertilise an ovum (female reproductive cell). Thee fertilised ovum cells are connected to the […] that works like a placenta. That means after pollination, flowers such as cannabis buds contain a genuine embryo: a cannabis seed!
After the seeds are ready for dispersal, the rest of the flower withers and dies. In the case of cannabis, which is an annual plant, the entire plant dies off. Still, you are unlikely to see this happen in any grow room or tent. Here, unpollinated sinsemilla cannabis buds are harvested as THC levels peak and flavour is most intense: time to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Are Cannabis Buds Fruits??
As soon as a flower starts to form seeds (you could call the flower ‘pregnant’ at this point), she starts to produce a fruit. The floral kingdom has thousands of ways to do so: fruits are almost as varied as the number of fruit-bearing species.
This may sound odd. You’re only just getting used to the fact that cannabis buds are actually flowers, and now we’re calling them fruits as well… Fact is, however, that fertilised flowers will not start to bear fruit until they get ‘knocked up’. Fruit, by definition, is simply any means by which nature protects seeds, and to help it find a good place to grow.
The reproductive cells of male pollen grow on to penetrate the ovary located in the lower part of the female flower. This organ contains the ovum cells, each of which can develop into an individual seed. You will recognise the placenta in a paprika: cut it in half to reveal the white stringy structures to which the seeds are attached.
When the seeds are ready, the function of cannabis buds shifts once more. The flower (fruit!) now becomes a ‘biological vector’ that helps the seeds spread. This process, known as zoochory, revolves around ‘seducing’ animals into eating the seeds, or carrying them away (in their fur or otherwise) move the seeds to new locations. This helps create space between plants of the new generation, which helps prevent unnecessary competition and colonise new territory.
Perhaps it is a relief to know that growers will go to great lengths to prevent such ‘unwanted pregnancies’. Most cannabis buds will not grow into fruits, since they remain without children. Whether that is a matter of free will or forced contraception is for you to decide, however…
Bud, Node, Or Cola?
On top of the flower/ fruit/ bud complexities, there is some confusion about the difference in weed jargon between the notions of buds, nodes, and colas. Sure, the community calls the flowers buds, but in fact, they are also nodes. Flowers, leaves, and side branches sprout from structures called nodes (nodia) found on the stems of plants. So which is the most accurate term: bud, node, or flower?
Before answering, let’s complicate the matter by adding another word commonly used by cannabis growers: cola. It’s a bit of a specialist’s term, but it can be useful nonetheless. A cola is the site where multiple flowers, or flower buds, appear in concentrated clusters.
If you look closely at a female cannabis plant, you will notice how her flower buds consist of many tiny drop-shaped interspersed by small ‘sugar leaves’. These drop shapes are the actual buds in the overarching flower structure we call cola. Whenever you hear someone mention a ‘main cola’, they usually mean the biggest flower of the plant, which usually forms on the central stem of cannabis plants.
You will recognise cannabis bud structure in the close-up of a cola flower below. If you look at cannabis flowers in bloom, the characteristic drop shape keeps appearing: these are the miniature flowers that together make up the entire cola.
The Heavenly Stench Of Cannabis Buds
No matter whether you think that weed stinks or find it the most delicious scent in the world, we can all agree that cannabis buds tend to produce strong aromas. As mentioned, this is due to the various terpenes found in the trichomes on the flowers. These aromatic compounds each have their own subtle effects on our minds, but cannabis plants don’t produce them to attract human connoisseurs like other flowers use scent to lure in pollinating insects.
The sometimes outright dizzying fragrances representing a cannabis plant’s terpene profile have evolved in nature as a repellent meant to keep harmful animals at bay. It is difficult to determine whether the smell of cannabis buds also serves to attract larger animals to help spread seeds, and if so, which species.
The concept works in nature, though: many species of deer love to nibble on cannabis buds, for instance, and lots of birds feed on cannabis seeds. These are highly nutritious due to the energy supply they contain to help young seedlings on their way.
Quite possibly, larger animals love to munch on buds because they get some kind of benefit out of the compounds they pack inside. We can safely rule out that they could get high on the cannabinoids, however, since buds don’t contain any THC at all before the cannabinoid acids inside are heated for decarboxylation.
From a functional perspective, the sticky, stinky trichomes serve an altogether different purpose: they protect the flowers from external threats. The resin inside the microscopic glands acts as a barrier for all sorts of pests, but it mainly serves to shield the vulnerable parts of seeds and flowers against harmful UV radiation.
Grow Techniques For Better Cannabis Buds
Since growers tend to direct all their efforts at harvesting the maximum amount of cannabis buds, various techniques have been developed and perfected to grow as many large flowers as possible in the shortest amount of time. You can read more on these techniques in our dedicated Grow Blogs, including topics such as SCRoG, SoG, LST, topping, and FIM. As you will see, having the right knowhow and techniques handy can be very useful in maximising harvest potential.
Growing Cannabis Buds In All Colours And Flavours
So, has this extensive lowdown on cannabis buds has sparked your interest in growing some prime flowers yourself? You can find dozens of strains In our collection, suited for growing the finest flowers both indoors and outside. Remember that even the most beautiful flower starts out as a modest seed – and here at Amsterdam genetics, you will find genetics to grow cannabis buds in any colour, scent, or flavour anyone could ever ask for!
If you want to learn more about the biology behind all those fascinating cannabis plants, be sure to keep reading our latest blogs. Beyond that, growing great flowers is a matter of picking your favourite seeds and indulging in our premium floral delights!