When you smoke or vaporize cannabis, you are lighting up the plant’s sex organs. At the heart of these reproductive parts are long pistillate hairs. These hairs are like the light switch for seed production. Once they’re touched with pollen, they begin to transfer energy from bud development to seed development. But, cannabis pistils are also a red flag for growers. This plant organ will sound the signal when harvest time comes around.
What are pistils?
Pistils are the female sex organs of the cannabis plant. The pistils contain an ovary, from which a seed develops when pollinated.
Pistils are long, seductive pollen traps that come in various shapes and styles. They are often covered with sticky resin to capture and grab onto pollen from insects, birds, or the wind.
Where are cannabis pistils?
The pistils in cannabis are easy to spot. An abundance of brightly colored hairs is considered a mark of high-quality bud. All of those red-orange hairs are a part of the cannabis pistil. They are called pistillate hairs or stigmatic hairs.
When a female cannabis plant is deprived of a male counterpart, it continues to develop large, resin-coated flowers. The abundance of pistillate hairs is a sign that the herb has been well-nourished and grown with expertise.
However, the pistillate hairs only lend minorly to the overall potency of any cannabis sample.
The color of the pistils change as the plant matures. Early in development, pistils are white. Some may have tinges of purple or green depending on the cannabis strain.
Yet they slowly begin to dry out and curl. They transform to yellow, then orange, then red. Watching the color of the pistils is a way to judge when flowers are ready to harvest.
For most strains, pistils begin to turn red between seven and eight weeks of flowering. Though, this rate varies between cannabis varieties.
Sativa flowers often take longer to mature than indica flowers.Typically, harvest time comes after at least half of the pistillate hairs have darkened and curled.
Identifying a female plant
Pistils help growers recognize the sex of a young plant. Cannabis plants begin to develop small preflowers as early as three weeks after the seed begins to germinate. These preflowers will either develop female or male reproductive parts.
A long, white pistil will emerge from a forming calyx at the point where a major branch meets the stalk. This location is also called a node.
If the flower is a male, a small, closed and rounded bud will form instead. Once the sex of the plant is identified, most growers separate the males from the females.
The rounded buds that are smoked and vaporized today are the dried flowers from an unpollinated female plant. Keeping males and females together ensures pollination, and the female plant will begin to develop seeds.
Seeds lower the shelf value of dried bud sold in dispensaries, coffee shops, and social clubs. When the female plant begins to develop seeds, it spends more energy developing seeds than it does producing large, cannabinoid-laden flowers.