During the early flowering stage, take a stroll around your grow room or garden with a magnifying glass or jeweller’s loupe. Inspect a few nodes on each plant to see how far along into the flowering process they are. At this stage, you won’t see any obvious flowers or pollen sacs. Instead, you’re looking for young pre-flowers. Although these tiny structures look similar, they have distinct features that allow growers to tell them apart.
Male pre-flowers look like tiny green eggs or “balls”. These young pollen sacs will look smooth and won’t possess any fine hairs, or any distinct point. Later into the flowering stage, pollen sacs begin to form larger and denser clusters. They’ll become easy to identify with the naked eye by this point. However, pollen sacs usually begin to disperse their contents around 2–3 weeks after forming. Be sure to remove them from your space with haste if you don’t plan on crossing your plants.
From psychoactive cannabinoids to aromatic terpenes, cannabis features many traits that make it unique within the plant kingdom. However, the uniqueness of the plant doesn’t stop at the phytochemicals it produces.
IDENTIFYING FEMALE CANNABIS PLANTS
“Banana” hermaphrodites get their name from their physical characteristics. Instead of producing separate organs, they develop a bare pollen-producing stamen within the female flower. This naked appendage drops pollen directly onto buds to ensure self-reproduction. These stamens share a similar shape and colour to a certain tropical fruit, hence their name.
Growers identify plant sex by identifying pre-flowers, which are small structures that form at the nodes during late vegetation.
Female cannabis plants are the main focus of casual growers looking to harvest a personal stash. But, depending on their genetics, female plants can look drastically different from one another. Some remain small, producing dense canopies and significant lateral growth. Others grow in excess of 3m, produce massive harvests, and look more like trees than regular garden plants.
Even if you have all of these bases covered, plants can still pollinate themselves due to poor genetics. Plants with a bad genetic history and too much genetic variation are prone to becoming hermaphrodites. For this reason, it’s important to shop with reputable companies that offer high-quality seeds with stable genetics.
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.
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.
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.
HOW TO DEAL WITH HERMAPHRODITE CANNABIS PLANTS
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.
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.
There are many ways to stress cannabis plants. These include:
Choosing the Right Cannabis Breeder
Commercial breeders and seed banks use chemical stimulation to create feminized seeds. What that means is they put specific compounds on developing female plants to force them to produce pollen. You can actually do this yourself at home.
Unfortunately, some cannabis seed breeders are more trustworthy than others. The great ones have created stabilized strains that have been bred over several generations to produce a consistent product without any problems with plant sex.
It’s important to understand that hermies can happen a couple of different ways. And the different types of hermies affect what genes are being passed on to the seeds.
The pollen sacs on this masculinized female plant have opened and pollen has spilled onto the leaf below
There are different ways to feminize seeds, but only some methods produce seeds that turn hermie on you.
If the breeder hasn’t tested their strains extensively in many situations, they won’t know whether their seeds tend to hermie or not. If they have carelessly bred plants that have a tendency to herm, then it’s really likely that at least some of the resulting seeds will have the same problem.