Cannabis Flower – Breaking Down the Components

Of all the flowers in the world, there is one type that stands out above the rest – the cannabis flower. Whether you’ve realized it or not, any marijuana you’ve smoked over the years is produced by the cannabis plant.

However, not all cannabis plants produce these beautiful flowers. It is the female cannabis plant that produces the cannabis flower used to create medicinal marijuana, and only certain varietals.

The following article will outline the crucial information to know about the cannabis flower and the different cannabis strains that produce them.

Cannabis Flower Anatomy

What exactly makes up these flowers? There are a handful of practical terms that help us understand the physical features of the buds. 


cannabis flower pistils

Have you ever looked at the tiny hair-like structures that emerge from buds? Those are called pistils. 

These pistils can range in colour, from red and yellows to orange and brown. The colouring of these pistils changes throughout the flowering stage and helps determine the bud ripeness.


cannabis floret

Female plants create clusters of individual flowers called florets.

These florets, also called colas, are surrounded by bracts, which are specialized leaves commonly associated with flowers. The various surfaces of these cannabis flowers produce glands called trichomes. 


cannabis trichomes

These glands are where cannabinoids and terpenes accumulate and are released.

There are three major types of trichomes, stalked, sessile, and bulbous.

Stalked glandular trichomes rise above the surface of the stalks. Sessile trichomes sit directly on the surface or epidermis of the flower. Lastly, bulbous trichomes are smaller storage cavities for cannabinoids and terpenes. 

The density of trichomes is highest on the calyces, which are a modified type of leaf. Growers pay close attention to these trichomes, and the changing of colours that indicate maturation is used to find the perfect harvest timing.

Plant Inflorescence

The combination of branch and flower is called a plant inflorescence. During the flowering stage, these inflorescences branch according to regular patterns.

These inflorescences form on each major branch of the cannabis plant.  Often growers refer to these as simply colas, with one primary cola that grows above all the rest. 

Sugar Leaves

sugar leaves

The final feature of the cannabis flower worth noting is the sugar leaves. These are small leaves that are often trimmed from cannabis buds and sometimes gathered to create trim. 

The remaining sugar leaves you find on your cannabis contain relatively high concentrations of cannabinoids.

There is tremendous variety in the appearance of cannabis flowers. Just like with all the other beautiful flowers in existence, each one looks unique. 

That said, some commonalities can be identified between the major types of cannabis plants, called chemovars, cultivars, or strains. 

In the following section, we’ll explore the physical differences between cannabis strains and their respective flowers.

Types of Cannabis Flower

When it comes to cannabis plant genetics, there are three primary types. These are indica, sativa, and ruderalis.

The combination of two or more of these strains produces what we call a hybrid strain. 

Below, we’ll dive into the physical characteristics of each.

Indica Strains

The indica strain is native to the Middle East and Eurasian Steppe. With plenty of sun exposure, this strain grows bushy and wide. With a harsh and dry climate, this strain’s genetics also became incredibly hardy.

The indica strain is generally short and stocky, with broad leaves that spread out wide. Compared to sativa strains, indica strains grow faster and produce a higher yield.

Sativa Strains

As the cannabis plant spread to Africa and Europe, the sativa strain evolved several standard features. Compared to indica plants, sativa grows much taller, up to 12 feet high or more. 

However, they are also skinnier and sparsely covered in leaves. The flower of the sativa strain is generally smaller and more popcorn-like. Sativa strains require longer growing and flower periods and tend to produce smaller yields.

Ruderalis Strains

The ruderalis strain is considered the runt of the litter. This strain may have resulted from cultivated strains breaking away and re-emerging in nature. 

To this day, the ruderalis strain can be found on the sides of roads and randomly growing in city streets. This variety is certainly resilient, as it can grow anywhere and spread without human intervention.

The ruderalis strain developed auto-flowering characteristics, meaning it flowers according to a set time-frame, not according to the sunlight schedule itself. 

This fantastic feature of the ruderalis strain was bred into many of the hybrid strains we’ll now discuss.

Hybrid Strains

Hybrid strains are created by breeding two or more different strains of cannabis. Often, these hybrids come in either sativa-dominant or indica-dominant varieties. 

If you’re buying hybrid seeds, you’ll likely see the term auto-flowering used on some products. As we learned above, this means that ruderalis genetics were bred into the variety, forcing it to flower based on time, not sunlight. 

At the same time, other strains begin their flowering stage when the days and nights each last 12 hours, a signal that summer is coming to an end.

Terpenes – An Experience-Influencing Factor 

cannabis flower hand

The genetics of specific cannabis strains are crucial in the properties and effects that patients will experience. 

Another feature hidden within the cannabis flower that impacts multiple aspects of its presentation is compounds known as terpenes

Terpenes are aromatic oils and compounds produced by plants that give them their unique aroma and smell. In cannabis plants, these terpenes are produced by resin glands found within certain types of trichomes. 

Each cannabis strain will have its own specific blend of terpenes responsible for its smell and flavour. It may not seem necessary, but the terpenes of a strain can be incredibly important to the overall cannabis experience. 

There are claims that they also influence the effects, as well. Take the terpene limonene, for example.

Limonene is found in lemons and multiple cannabis strains and has a very distinctive smell. It also possesses several beneficial properties such as enhancing mood and decreasing anxiety.

The link between terpenes and the unique properties of cannabis strains has been named the “entourage effect.” This theory posits that certain terpenes found in cannabis plants may work synergistically with our endocannabinoid system and the various cannabinoids present in cannabis flower to provide different effects.

Cannabis Flower – More than Just a Plant 

In summary, we discovered that there are four major varieties of cannabis strains – sativa, indica, ruderalis and hybrid. 

The most commonly sold strains are hybrids by far, as finding pure sativa or indica strains can be difficult. 

After many generations of breeding and cross-breeding by master growers, we have managed to experiment with blending the genetics of various different parent strains to produce a vast array of hybrid strains now available on the market.

Additionally, we gained context and detail surrounding the various cannabis flower anatomy components. 

The next time you get to look at some cannabis, pay attention to the colourful pistils and white crystalline indications of trichome density. 

We hope you can use this information to pick out the best strains for you and the features you love most in cannabis flower.

Sirona Pharma

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