Hermaphrodite cannabis plants can seriously damage the quality of your crop. Find out what you need to know about identification, prevention, and treatment. Dealing with a possible "hermie" in your grow room? Click here to learn everything there is to know about cannabis hermaphrodites and how to save your harvest. This is what you need to know to distinguish Male, Female and Hermaphrodite cannabis plants in your garden or grow room – and avoid seeds in your harvest.
How To Deal With Hermaphrodite Cannabis
Understanding hermaphroditism in cannabis is key to becoming a more capable and experienced grower. It’s something most cannabis cultivators will encounter at some point, so it pays to be informed. Find out how to identify and deal with hermaphrodite cannabis plants, and how to prevent them from ruining your precious crop in the future!
- What Is Hermaphrodite Cannabis?
- What Causes Hermies?
- How and When To Identify Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants
- How To Determine if Your Cannabis Plant Is a Hermie
- What To Do if You Spot a Hermie Cannabis Plant?
- How To Avoid Hermies (in the Future)
- How To Deal With Hermaphrodite Marijuana Plants
Cannabis plants are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female plants. Whereas many plants can pollinate themselves, dioecious plants require a member of the opposite sex for reproduction.
However, the cannabis plant has a fascinating adaptation that allows females who suspect a lack of male pollen to develop male sex organs and pollinate themselves. Known as hermaphroditism, this trait is key to the species’ survival in the wild, but it doesn’t bode well for good harvests! So read on to discover why hermaphrodite cannabis plants appear, and what to do if you find them in your grow room or garden.
What Is Hermaphrodite Cannabis?
Hermaphrodite cannabis plants are those that exhibit both male and female sex organs. It is a natural adaptation designed to facilitate self-pollination, in case of environmental stress or little breeding potential. Some strains are genetically predisposed to it, but in other cases it is purely a behavioural response to the plant’s environment. With this in mind, there are two distinct types of hermaphrodite plants to consider.
True Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants
True hermaphrodite plants are those that are genetically predisposed to it, such as Thai sativas. These plants develop full, distinct male and female sex organs. At some nodes, flowers with stigmata (pistils) will grow, whereas pollen sacs with stamen will protrude from others.
Bisexual flowers occur when a plant senses dire environmental stress during the flowering stage. When they suspect they will not be pollinated from elsewhere, they develop exposed stamen (commonly known as “bananas”) directly on the flower in order to pollinate themselves.
What Causes Hermies?
As mentioned, there are genetic and environmental causes for hermaphroditism in cannabis. For those that are genetically predisposed, it is as simple as that. Some strains simply have a greater chance of becoming true hermaphrodites. It is unclear whether you can do anything to influence it in a particular marijuana plant.
Though, for most strains, avoiding bisexual flowers means keeping your plants as happy as possible. The more stressed they are exposed to, the more likely they are to turn hermie.
Some of the major stressors are:
- Disruption in flowering stage photoperiod (e.g. light leaks)
- Too hot or cold
- Too little water
- Physical stress, such as training during the flowering period
- Incorrect fertilisation
- pH imbalance
What do all of these have in common? Each makes the likelihood of plants surviving much less, and therefore the plants respond by trying to fertilise themselves in order to continue their line. It’s genius. But it can be annoying as a grower.
Another factor that can trigger hermaphroditism is waiting too long to harvest. If the flowers go too long without being pollinated, this tells them there are likely no male plants nearby, and that if they want to produce seeds, they’ll need to pollinate themselves. So harvesting on time is crucial to avoiding hermies, and to achieving top-quality bud.
Are Feminized Seeds More Sensitive To Hermaphroditism?
If you buy feminized cannabis seeds from a good breeder, they should be no more likely to become hermaphroditic than regular seeds.
However, if sourcing from an unreliable breeder, the risk of hermaphrodite plants is higher, as one way of breeding feminized cannabis seeds is to force plants to become hermaphrodites—and seeds from a hermaphroditic plant have a greater chance of becoming so themselves.
One thing to bear in mind, though. Even in cases where feminized seeds are more likely to produce hermies compared to regular seeds, you’re still likely to end up with more female plants using the former type than the latter; with regular seeds, about 50% turn out to be male plants.
How and When To Identify Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants
Accurately identifying a hermaphrodite cannabis plant on time will prevent it from affecting the rest of your grow. So learning the difference between males, females, and hermies is key to successful cultivation.
Whichever they turn out to be, it is impossible to tell (without DNA sequencing) the sex of your plant before the pre-flowering stage. So when you switch your lights to 12/12, be prepared to get eagle eyed on those nodes!
How To Determine if Your Cannabis Plant Is Female
Female cannabis plants are what most growers are after. It is these, after all, that produce cannabinoid-rich flowers responsible for cannabis’ iconic high.
So, how do you spot a female cannabis plant? Once they enter the pre-flowering stage (about 4–6 weeks after germination), their first pistils will appear at the nodes. The nodes are the parts of the plant where the branches meet the stem, and it is from these that female flowers (and male pollen sacs) will grow. Pistils appear wispy and white at first, before amassing into clumps of calyxes.
How To Determine if Your Cannabis Plant Is Male
Male cannabis plants tend to grow faster than females, and as such you may be able to identify their sex within 3 or 4 weeks of germination (or when plants have around 5 to 6 nodes). This gives you an extra opportunity to remove them before the females can be pollinated. However, if you don’t spot them, the pollen sacs will soon be mature enough to open and fertilise the females.
Like with females, male sex organs will appear at the nodes too. Unlike the fine white pistils of a female, male pollen sacs appear like small green balls, which then grow into bundles of pollen sacs. This distinction makes spotting them fairly easy, fortunately.
How To Determine if Your Cannabis Plant Is a Hermie
But how do you tell if your plant features both male and female sex organs? This depends on what type of hermie it is.
How To Spot a True Hermie
To spot a true hermie, you’ll look for the same signs as above. It’s likely the male organs will begin to develop a couple of weeks before the female. So, once you see pollen sacs developing, you can remove it. If it’s a hermaphrodite, pistils will appear a couple weeks later.
How To Spot Bisexual Flowers
This is much more difficult, and you have far less time to act. Pollen sacs appear and split open about a week or two after forming. This gives you ample time to spot and remove them. Bisexual flowers, on the other hand, will grow hard-to-spot stamen directly on the flowers. These tiny “bananas” are difficult to distinguish, and can pollinate immediately. It is worth investing in a pocket microscope to check your flowers out, else you could ruin your whole crop.
What To Do if You Spot a Hermie Cannabis Plant?
There are a few things you can do if you spot a hermie. These depend in part on what kind of hermie it is, and how far into the grow you are.
If you find a true hermie—those that develop separate male and female sex organs—the simplest solution is to remove the plant immediately. Either destroy it, or, if you have room, rear it in a sealed environment and harvest the seed-laden flowers.
Another option, which comes with the greatest risk but yields the greatest rewards, is to cut off the pollen sacs as they develop. If you’re careful, you can spot them long before they split, and you can remove them as you find them. Do this successfully, and you can harvest unpollinated flowers come harvest time.
If you find bisexual flowers during the flowering stage, you only really have two options (unless you want to let it pollinate your flowers). Either remove the plant, then kill it (or grow it in isolation); or, harvest it immediately. This second option is safe, and means you get some yield from the plant, even if it’s not the highest-quality bud you’ve ever smoked. It should be free of seeds if you catch it early enough, too.
Can You Smoke Hermaphrodite Weed?
If you opt to harvest your hermaphrodite plant, you can absolutely smoke it—though it is likely to be of worse quality than most bud. If harvested early, it will not be as mature, and thus less potent than mature flowers to boot. And if it’s developed seeds, the plant will have redirected energy to seed production, rather than trichome (THC, CBD, terpenes) production. Nevertheless, it should still get you high.
How To Avoid Hermies (in the Future)
Avoiding hermaphroditic cannabis is fairly simple if you control seed choice and the plant’s environment.
First, find marijuana strains that are not predisposed to hermaphroditism. Most commercially available feminized cannabis seeds (from good breeders) will almost always develop into females. In the same vein, don’t grow cannabis plants from seeds you’ve found in other flowers! These are likely to be the result of hermaphroditic pollination, and may well themselves become hermaphrodites.
In order to avoid bisexual flowers and the pesky bananas that come with them, treat your weed plants well! If growing indoors with a proper setup, this should be fairly simple. Just don’t stress them too much, and they should be fine. Outdoors, you have less control. Given that, hardier strains are more well-suited to outdoor growing, as it will take comparably more stress for them to develop into hermaphrodites.
Finally, ensure that you harvest the buds on time!
Taking Cuttings To Avoid Hermies
Another way to avoid hermies is to take a cutting from a healthy flowering plant. By doing this, the new clone will develop the exact qualities of the mother plant. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that it’s still possible for environmental stress to trigger bisexual flowers in this new plant—but it won’t be a true hermaphrodite.
Note: You can’t clone autoflowering marijuana plants successfully.
How To Deal With Hermaphrodite Marijuana Plants
As a grower, it’s important to be aware of how hermaphroditic plants appear, and what to do if you come across them. But you shouldn’t live in fear of them. If you choose good-quality cannabis seeds, the chances of a true hermaphrodite appearing are slim indeed. And avoiding bisexual flowers is mostly within your control. Sometimes though, things go wrong.
If you do end up with hermies in your grow, acting fast is key to saving the rest of the crop from pollination. Check regularly, and when you spot them, remove them! Whether you harvest, grow, or kill them at this stage is up to you!
Luke has worked as a cannabis journalist and health science researcher for the past seven years. Over this time, he’s developed an advanced understanding of endocannabinoid system science, cannabis phytochemistry, and cultivation techniques.
Cannabis Hermaphroditism: What Is It, And How Can You Deal With It?
Do you think you might have a “hermie” threatening to ruin your entire harvest? If so, you’ll need to act fast. In this article, we’ll teach you everything crucial about hermaphroditism in cannabis plants, including how to spot it, deal with it, and prevent it in the future.
WHAT IS HERMAPHRODITISM?
Cannabis is a dioecious plant species. Unlike other flowering plants, it produces distinct males and females. However, cannabis can also be hermaphroditic, producing a single plant with both male and female sexual organs.
WHAT CAUSES HERMAPHRODITISM?
There are a number of different causes of hermaphroditism in cannabis plants. These include:
Sometimes, cannabis plants can inherit hermaphroditic genes. This can occur naturally or as a result of breeding, the stress of which can introduce hermaphroditism into a strain.
• Seed manipulation
The poor handling and manipulation of seeds can also increase the chances of a plant being hermaphroditic. This can include feminization, an unnatural process used by seedbanks and breeders to guarantee a high percentage of female plants in their seeds. Done correctly, feminization will only produce female plants. Done poorly, some hermaphrodites can occur.
Plants naturally seek out environmental conditions that allow them to grow healthy and strong. When those conditions aren’t met, they suffer from stress. For cannabis, this stress can push a plant to become hermaphroditic.
HERMAPHRODITISM AS A SURVIVAL INSTINCT
In order to better understand hermaphroditism in cannabis plants, it’s important to realise that, in some cases, hermaphroditism is a survival mechanism.
The whole production of sinsemilla cannabis is very unnatural. It takes female cannabis plants and forces them to go unfertilised for extremely unnatural amounts of time. This is essentially what forces the plant to rev up its production of THC and terpenes, giving us the extremely potent and aromatic buds we seek.
And that’s not to mention the many training techniques that cannabis growers use to manipulate their plants, pushing them to produce bigger yields. Even breeders use unnatural techniques (such as inbreeding) to produce their seeds and create strains that are extra potent, high-yielding, and homozygous.
Now, is this good or bad? Well, that’s an interesting topic that unfortunately lies far outside the scope of this article. For the purpose of this read, it’s simply important that you realise that cannabis cultivation isn’t exactly “natural”, and that this can influence why some plants turn out hermaphroditic.
WHAT KIND OF STRESS CAN CAUSE CANNABIS PLANTS TO BECOME HERMAPHRODITIC?
There are many ways to stress cannabis plants. These include:
• Temperature and humidity
Cannabis plants naturally like temperatures of around 20–30°C and relative humidity of 40–70%. If the temperature or humidity of your grow room is too far out of these ranges, this can be enough to turn your plants into hermaphrodites.
As you probably know, lighting is super important for cannabis plants. If your plants are too close to their light source, or your lighting schedules are all over the place, this can also stress your plants. Light leakage during dark periods is also a big stressor and should be addressed immediately.
Cannabis plants need the right nutrients to produce great bud. Over/underfeeding can stress your plants, affecting their ability to develop properly and potentially increasing the risk of becoming hermaphroditic.
Using a growing medium that is too acidic or alkaline is another big stressor for cannabis.
• Poor growing medium
Your growing medium houses your plants’ roots, helping them absorb nutrients and water. A poor growing medium can cause root problems, which, you guessed it, causes stress for your plants.
• Poor training techniques
Training techniques like fimming, topping, LST, super cropping, and countless others work by stressing cannabis plants in a good way, encouraging them to take up more nutrients, or grow in a specific way that can help improve yield. When done incorrectly, however, these techniques can affect a plant negatively.
• Long flowering times
Sometimes, female plants that have gone long stretches of time without pollination can start to produce pollen in an effort to self-fertilise.
Remember, plants need a specific set of conditions met in order to grow and develop properly, and cannabis is no different. When we grow weed, especially indoors, we’re responsible for meeting these conditions. We also walk a fine line of pushing our plants and manipulating them in ways that benefit us in terms of higher yields, more potent and flavourful bud, and more.
Getting this wrong can result in stress for our plants, which in turn may push them to become hermaphroditic, especially if the plant we’re growing already has a genetic disposition to hermaphroditism.
HOW TO SPOT A “HERMIE”
A hermaphrodite cannabis plant can destroy an entire harvest of cannabis buds by releasing pollen into your grow room and fertilising your females. When this happens, females will focus their energy on producing seeds rather than big, resinous buds.
Hence, it goes without saying that you need to catch any hermaphrodite plants as quickly as possible. Some plants will show signs of hermaphroditism early on when they just start producing flowers. You’ll see these plants developing both male and female flower structures. These can form on different branches or on the same branch, and some hermaphrodites even develop both structures at the same bud site. These are called “true hermaphrodites”.
Alternatively, some plants may become hermaphroditic toward the end of their bloom cycle. This can be the result of a plant trying to make one last attempt at pollinating itself before dying. Thus, while many growers tend to become a lot more hands-off during the bloom cycle, it’s important to regularly check on your plants and keep an eye out for hermaphroditic flowers during this final stage of life.
Plants that turn hermaphrodite late in the bloom phase usually develop what some growers call “bananas”. This is the male stamen (exactly like those you’d find inside a male pollen sac), which has protruded through the female flower and can release pollen at any moment. Technically speaking, these are mixed-sex buds, rather than true hermaphroditic plants.
HOW TO DEAL WITH HERMAPHRODITE CANNABIS PLANTS
True hermaphrodites, like male plants, need to be culled early to avoid having them pollinate your other females. Plants with mixed-sex buds, on the other hand, can be harvested.
If one of your plants has produced “bananas” toward the end of its bloom phase, you may want to consider harvesting the plant and keeping its buds, which should still be seedless. Depending on how far along your plant was, they may still produce a perfectly fine smoke.
HOW TO PREVENT HERMAPHRODITE CANNABIS IN THE FUTURE?
Unfortunately, there’s no telling whether a plant has hermaphroditic genes. The only thing you can do to prevent hermaphroditism is this: give your plants the best possible growing conditions and avoid stressing them at all costs. If you use training techniques (both low and high stress), make sure you know what you’re doing.
Finally, always make sure you buy your seeds from a reputable cannabis seedbank whose breeders do their best to minimise hermaphroditism when breeding new strains.
How To Spot: Male, Female and Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants
You don’t have to be an expert on the plant to at some point have encountered the term ‘feminized’ in relation to cannabis seeds. As the name suggests, this means cannabis plants can be either female or male and in some cases have both sexes. This is what you need to know to spot Male, Female and Hermaphrodite cannabis plants in your garden:
Male Or Female Cannabis Plants
Before we dive into the more complicated matter when it comes to sexing a cannabis plant, let’s start with some basics. Cannabis plants are so called ‘dioecious plants’ (‘di-‘ is ‘two’ in Greek; ‘oikia’ means ‘house’). This means they produce either male of female reproductive organs, known as the flowers. In contrast to ‘monoecious plants’, which produce two different types of flowers on the same plant.
The cannabis plants most consumers know and love are often female. As these are the plants that produce the smokeable flowers – the dried buds – but which can also be grown at home. These weed flowers, buds, or ‘colas’ are covered in trichomes / resin which holds the plant’s active components, like cannabinoids and terpenes. Male cannabis plants however are less popular with consumers, as their only task in life is to release pollen into the air.
Feminized Cannabis Seeds
When pollen from a male cannabis plant reaches a female cannabis flower, the female flower will start producing seeds with traits from both plants involved. That’s great for growers that like crossbreeding strains and develop their own cannabis varieties. But if you’re growing for your personal consumption, you might want to avoid pollination. Not only do seeds add a harsh taste to your smoke. Producing them also takes a lot of energy from the plant. Costly energy that should rather be put into the development of cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
The best thing you can do to guarantee you’ll grow female cannabis plants, is to purchase feminized cannabis seeds. In contrast to regular cannabis seeds, which will grow 50/50 males and females, feminized seeds guarantee for 98% to grow into female cannabis plants.
So even if you use feminized seeds, it is advised to keep a close eye and determine the sex of the plant as soon as you can. As there’s always a small chance at finding a male plant in your garden which could screw up your harvest, or for the plant to turn from female to hermaphrodite and develop both sexes on one cannabis plant; as we’ll explain later on.
Female Cannabis Plants
The sex of cannabis plants can be determined by looking for the first signs of bloom on the plant. These are visible a few days to a week after you switch your light to 12/12 and give your plant the sign to switch from the growth stage to the flowering stage of its life cycle . Outdoors, the same signal is given by nature as soon as the days grow shorter than 14 hours after the summer solstice.
Female cannabis plants are easy to spot once they start showing the first signs of flowering
Female weed plants are distinguished by the development of bracts with small white hairs (stigma’s) on their nodes. A node is the part of the plant where branches and leaves emerge from the stem. After a while, the female plant starts pushing out more and more of these hairs until they swell up from the bottom up. This means the plant is now forming ‘calyxes’ that eventually stack up to become the flower as we know it.
Pollination And Seeds
These ‘calyxes’ remain empty as long as the plant is not pollinated by a male plant. When it does get pollinated, these calyxes will fill up to hold and protect the plant’s babies: seeds. It is even thought that the resin on weed plants serves only that purpose in nature: to protect the plant’s offspring from burning in the sun.
Discover our Feminized Chocolato cannabis strain (White Choco x Gelato) here!
Male Cannabis Seeds
Male Cannabis Plants are recognized by the formation of pollen sacs on the plant’s nodes. This happens around the same time as female reproductive organs should be forming. Although female plants tend to develop their reproductive organs a bit faster. Luckily, these male pollen sacs can be distinguished pretty easily. As they look like small balls hanging from the side of the plant; instead of the upward facing hairs from the female plant.
Male Cannabis Plants form small ball-shaped pollen sacs on their nodes
When left to grow, these balls will eventually open up like a flower and release pollen into the air. As we’ve explained, this pollen is only interesting when you’re trying to make your own strains or seeds. If you’re not making seeds, make sure to remove every male plant from your garden or grow room before this happens. Do it with the upmost care, as rocking the plant could force it to release the pollen.
Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants
The first paragraph of this article explains cannabis plants grow only one set of reproductive organs. Although there is still a ‘but’ to this. Because there always remains the possibility that female cannabis plants form male reproductive organs too. This usually happens when the plant(s) experience excessive stress. And in times of stress, they try to guarantee the survival of their species. Cannabis plants can do so by turning hermaphrodite, or ‘herma’ in grower terms.
Hermaphrodite cannabis plants develop both female and male reproductive organs
Because when cannabis plants turn ‘hermaphrodite’, they do so in order to pollinate themselves. Turning hermaphrodite is an evolutionary strategy of cannabis plants, designed to save the species in hard times.It allows the plant to produce seeds no matter what; even when there are no males around (for example, because the source of the ‘stress’ killed off all male plants).
How To Prevent Stress From Turning Female Cannabis Into Hermaphrodites
Some cannabis strains are more sensitive to stress than others. Stress can arise from a number of sources, from overly enthusiastic pruning and topping to environmental factors like excessive temperatures, water shortage or surplus, soil acidity or overfeeding and lack of nutrients. It is good to know that cannabis is called a ‘weed’ for a reason: this is a hardy species with great natural resilience. Still, most cannabis seeds you can order online are crossbreeds cultivated for specific traits like taste or THC content. Years of crossbreeding and hybridization have created some strains that are more prone to stress than their natural ancestors.
When growing strains that are sensitive to stress, growers run a risk of their cannabis plants developing hermaphroditic traits – like the well-known Original Glue (Gorilla Glue #4). In our online seeds catalogue, you’ll find certain strains that are particularly resistant to stress.
Removing Sex Organs From Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants
If for whatever reason you do spot hermaphrodite cannabis plants, all is not lost. You just have to act fast and be cautious. To avoid hermaphrodite cannabis plants from pollinating themselves, carefully remove the male reproductive organs that form on the nodes. You can do so by gently taking a pollen sac in between two fingers and twisting/pulling it off. Wash your hands thoroughly before you go near your female plants – you don’t want to cause accidental pollination because of your dirty fingers! This way you can still have a satisfying harvest from any hermaphrodite, without having to pluck the seeds from your buds.
TIP: If you want to try and create your own unique strains, you can learn more about growing regular seeds in this blog.
TIP: For anyone trying to avoid raising hermaphrodites, check our info on the benefits of buying feminized seeds here.