Hemp plant structure is, for the most part, the same as it is for marijuana as both of which are different forms of the genus, Cannabis L. In fact, the only distinction between hemp and marijuana is the THC content in each. Hemp plants contain less than .3 percent THC dry weight while marijuana plants contain any amount of THC above .3 percent. We’ll discuss cannabinoid development in more detail later, but first, let’s take a look at the hemp plant structure during the vegetative growth stage.
Hemp Plant Structure During Vegetation
The hemp plant is very much like most other flowering plants. Born from seed, the vegging hemp plant includes a root system; long, thin stems; and an intricate alternating of leaves that grow from nodes along the stalk. Leaves increase in size as they move up the stalk during vegetative growth.
The goal of the vegetative plant growth is to increase its size before it begins to flower. As such, vegetative growth is an excellent opportunity to prune and train plants, which will encourage them to grow bushier and thus produce a higher output. Hemp plant structure is vital in this stage.
Structure of Flowering Hemp Plants
Hemp is a photoperiodic plant. In other words, hemp plants detect changes in light duration and spectrum then respond by developing either pollen (male plants) or flowers (female plants). Though both are valuable for different reasons, CBD hemp farmers prefer female-only plants because they produce the highest cannabinoid concentrations. Conversely, industrial (fiber or seed) hemp farmers usually opt for either males or a combination of both. More accurately, industrial farmers often choose “regular hemp seeds,” whereas CBD farmers should exclusively grow feminized (female-only) hemp seeds.
When the light cycle triggers a hemp plant into flowering, its hormone levels change drastically. Male plants begin developing pollen sacks about a week into flower during the “pre-flower” stage. Conversely, female plants will grow stigmas or small sticky “hairs” that serve to collect pollen and to protect the pistil, or the plant’s reproductive organ.
If a male hemp plant fertilizes a female, the ovule (which connects to the base of two conjoined stigmas) will develop into a single fruit, or seed, called an achene. Pollinated buds can produce anywhere from 50 to more than a thousand seeds depending on the size of the cola, or hemp flower.
Unfertilized female hemp plants produce the highest levels of cannabinoids and terpenes. Their hemp plant structure develops in the resinous, mushroom-shaped trichome glands that coat the hemp flower (the bract) and surrounding “sugar leaves” (bracteoles) that encompass the flower.
Though the bract holds most of the weight of a hemp flower, it is the trichomes that produce the most abundant cannabinoid levels. As such, it is the sticky trichomes that constitute the bulk of hemp cannabinoid extractions.
Hemp Flower Cannabinoid Production
Cannabinoid production begins immediately into flower and peaks between 65 and 75 days into the grow cycle on average. However, mature plants are more likely to contain THC concentrations above the .3 percent maximum threshold. Hence, many CBD hemp farmers choose to harvest early lest their crops turn hot. Frequent crop testing helps keep farmers abreast of climbing THC levels. This helps determine the best time to harvest hemp for optimal potency. Additionally, frequent testing ensures farmers remain compliant with state and federal hemp cultivation standards.
Final Thoughts About the Hemp Plant Structure
It is fascinating to watch the development of a hemp plant. From a small seed to a densely floral bush, CBD hemp plants produce beauty and bounty when cultivated properly . Indeed, strong female hemp plants are the key to a profitable hemp crop.
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