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The Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant and Its Life Cycle

Published On:
July 6, 2022

Read time:
4 Minutes

a close-up of trichomes, giving a microscopic look at the anatomy of cannabis plants

Cannabis is having a huge moment in the spotlight. According to 2021 reports, a total of 14,207,079 packaged units of cannabis were sold across Canada for medical and non-medical purposes. 

Because of how far the cannabis industry has come, it’s only right that we take some time to appreciate its roots—don’t you think? True North Cannabis Co. is here to walk you through the anatomy of a cannabis plant and its life cycle

Cannabis Plant Anatomy 

In the world of commercial cannabis, it’s the female cannabis plants that take centre stage. After all, they are the ones responsible for producing the resinous flowers rich in terpenes and cannabinoids—which are used to create your favourite cannabis products!

Let’s take a look at the individual parts that make up the anatomy of a female cannabis plant:

The Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant


Not only does the stem act as the physical support for the plant, but it’s also responsible for transporting water, sugar, and nutrients across its various parts. 


The points where the stem branches out are called “nodes.” 

Fan Leaves

Next up in our guide on the anatomy of a cannabis plant, we have its most iconic part: the fan leaves. These serrated, veined leaflets that fan out from the centre of the cannabis leaf convert light energy into chemical energy for photosynthesis


Unique to female cannabis plants, the flower is its reproductive structure. There are several parts that make up the flower:

That dense and central cluster of flower buds that sits at the top of the plant is called the “cola.” It’s the most potent part and contains the most resin.

You’ll notice that each flower on the cola features clusters of small, green, tear-drop-shaped leaves. These are known as “bracts” that protect unfertilized female seeds and contain high numbers of cannabinoids.

Next on our guide on the anatomy of cannabis plants are the resin-rich trichomes that cover each bract. It is this part of the anatomy of the cannabis plant that has high concentrations of terpenes (what make certain strains smell or taste different from one another) and cannabinoids (compounds found in the cannabis plant that can interact with the endocannabinoid system).

The reproductive parts of the flower sit on the pistil. Here, you’ll find thin, hair-like strands called “stigmas” that catch pollen from male plants.

 Thousands of cannabis plants in pots in a grow facility

Cannabis Plant Life Cycle 


Stage length: (3 to 10 days)

The life cycle of a cannabis plant all begins with the seed or germination stage. You’ll know that seeds are ready for germination when they are hard, dry, and brown. The ones that are white or green and still squishy in texture are not likely to germinate.

To encourage germination, the seeds are usually watered in a paper towel. 


Stage length: (2 to 3 weeks) 

Once the seeds have sprouted, it has officially turned into a seedling! To support the developing anatomy of cannabis plants, it’s time to move it into a growing medium, such as soil. 

At this stage, you’ll notice that the seedling’s stem will grow upward. Also, the cotyledon (seed leaves) and fan leaves will start to grow from the stem. 

During the seedling stage, maximum light and the necessary water levels are absolutely vital. 

Until cannabis plants develop the full number of blades on new fan leaves (about five or seven blades per leaf), they are still considered seedlings. 


Stage length: (3 to 16 weeks) 

When the cannabis plant starts to develop a thicker stem, more nodes, leaves and branches, that’s when you know it has reached the vegetative state. The need for a much larger pot also becomes evident. 

An increase in warm water, nitrogen, and potassium-rich nutrients are all necessary at this point. 


Stage length: (8 to 11 weeks)

The flowering stage is when the resinous cannabis buds develop. It all starts with the pistils growing out, which causes the buds to become thicker. 

In the latter stage of flowering, trichome density increases, and the plant becomes very sticky. 


Once the buds have transitioned from a white colour to a reddish-orange hue, that’s the indicator of it being ripe. To ensure maximum taste and effect, harvesting usually takes place when the pistils are dominantly brown in colour. 

a person rolling a joint with freshly ground cannabis buds

Enjoy The Best Products That Stem from Cannabis Plants 

Discovering the anatomy of cannabis plants and their life cycle will make you realize that all great things really do take time. Treat yourself to the best offerings that stem from nature’s favourite herb when you drop by True North Cannabis Co.’s dispensaries.

We’re Ontario’s fastest-growing retail shop that offers the lowest prices on all cannabis products. Drop by any of our locations and discover our extensive range of flowers, pre-rolls, edibles, concentrates, vaporizers, and topicals

Check out our daily promotions and start shopping for steal deals today!

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