Overview of the Cannabis Plant

What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a flowering plant native to Central and South Asia that is dioecious, meaning it can either be male, female or both. Male cannabis plants produce seeds and pollen, while female plants produce the highly desirable flowers or “buds”. These flowers produce sticky, smelly resin filled glands known as trichomes. Trichomes contain the highest concentration of cannabinoids, the substances known to contain psychoactive and medicinal properties. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the mostly widely recognized cannabinoid and the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. These trichomes also contain what are known as terpenes, the essential oils of the cannabis that give the plant its many distinct aromas and flavors. Furthermore, terpenes can enhance or alter the psychological and physiological effects of cannabis. Terpenes, cannabinoids and other compounds work together in synergy to regulate the body’s endocannabinoid system, a process known as the entourage effect.

cannabis plant up close trichomes
cannabis plant growing

Cannabis growth cycle

In the wild, cannabis is an annual plant that begins its vegetative stage in early spring and concludes with flowering in late fall. Depending on the strain, cannabis grown outdoors has an average seed-to-harvest cycle of roughly 6-9 months while those grown indoors average 3-5 months. For most licensed cultivators, indoor growing is legally mandated and the most logical way to grow because of the expediated timeline

Indica, sativa and hybrid

Cannabis primarily comes in one of two species, indica or sativa. Indica is a shorter, bushier plant with leaves that are shorter and wider. This species is ideal for obtaining a body “high” to be used for pain relief, deep relaxation, aide in sleeping and stimulating appetite. Sativa is a taller, less dense plant with leaves that are longer and narrower. It is known to produce a head “high” resulting in increased alertness, creativity, energy and be uplifting and euphoric. 

Although the cannabis industry oftentimes refers to the terms “indica” or “sativa” to describe cannabis, decades of breeding between the species have made these designations no longer necessary. Thousands of different strains have been created, yielding a genetic spectrum of varying medicinal effects. What exists in the middle of this spectrum is a species known as a hybrid. Hybrids are typically categorized as being either sativa-dominant, even split (or balanced), or indica-dominant. 

cannabis indica and sativa

Ruderalis and hemp

There is another, much shorter cannabis species called ruderalis as well. This variety contains very low levels of THC, higher concentrations of CBD and is prized for its capability of being auto-flowering. Auto-flowering means that the plant produces flowers when it is mature enough as opposed to waiting for the Fall season or changes in temperature or light spectrum. Because of this, ruderalis is used primarily in breeding projects with indica and sativa strains and rarely seen in commercial grow settings. 

Hemp is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant that contains less than 0.3% THC and was made legal federally with the passing of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. It contains a large percentage of CBD (cannabidiol), a cannabinoid with a wealth of medicinal benefits of its own. These kinds of CBD products are available over the counter for consumers at our sister store, Evergreen Wellness. 

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