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From stem to stigma: the anatomy of a cannabis plant

Cannabis is a broad term used to describe the various products derived from the leaves, flowers, and resins of the Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants, or hybrids of the two.


Originating at the stem, this flowering leaf surrounds the seeds and becomes part of the flower as it matures.


Containing the pistils, stigma and trichomes, the calyx is a thin layer of cells that protects the seeds. It is the first part of flower to develop.


Tight clusters of flowers grow together to form a cola. The main cola is located at the top of the plant.

Flower (Bud)

Carrying the highest concentration of active compounds, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, the flower is the female reproductive organ of the cannabis plant. It is the part of the plant that is most often used by humans.

Fan leaves

Fan leaves do not contain cannabinoids but are responsible for collecting sunlight and water for food energy.


Responsible for the collection of pollen from a male cannabis plant, the pistils are the highly-visible hair-like filaments that range in colour from white to burnt orange.


Providing structure and support for the leaves and flowers, the stem is the transportation network for fluids and nutrients. It is the hub of production for new plant tissue.


Acting as a sticky trap to receive the male pollen that initiates seed production, the stigma is the receptive area of the pistil.

Sugar leaves

Part of the flower, sugar leaves are small leaves that are coated in cannabinoid- and terpene-rich trichomes.


Named after the Greek word for ’hair,’ the flower’s strand-like translucent glands produce resinous chemicals such as cannabinoids and terpenes—an essential part of the plant’s biological defences.

Learn more about the different types of cannabis plants in our feature article about the differences between indica and sativa plants.

Did You Know:

Health Canada packaging and labelling rules help to keep Canadians safe and make cannabis products less appealing to minors. They also ensure that you know where products come from. Always buy cannabis from licensed cannabis retailers. There is no guarantee of the potency or purity of cannabis products bought illegally.

Remember, what works for others may not work for you. Educating yourself and cautious experimentation will help you find your way.



Health Canada.

Cervantes, J. (2006). Marijuana Horticulture. Vancouver, WA: Patten Publishing.

Graf, N. & Sherman, M. & Crain, L. (2017) Grow Your Own. New York, NY: Tin House Books.

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