The life cycle of cannabis

Cannabis is an annual, dioecious, flowering plant, part of the Cannabaceae genus of flora. The cannabis plant is a hardy and robust plant that grows in most parts of the world. It was first documented by the Chinese as early as 3000BC for its medical properties and since then has been known to grow on all continents.

Cannabaceae is indigenous to Asia and been used for its fibers and as a nutritional supplement, even a staple in the diet, for thousands of years. Only in recent years, since the 1960’s, has it become a firm favorite as a non-toxic, psychoactive, recreational activity. Cannabis has been used by many cultures, creeds, and colors from most countries on the planet for its “high” as well as its medicinal effects. Cannabis contains the compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effect.

Although popularized during the “Hippie movement”, it was used in the Western World during the early 19th and 20th centuries for its fibers and oils. Hemp (Sativa) has been an important industrial resource due to the many remarkable benefits of the plant.

Cannabis has many medicinal properties and can be used to treat symptoms from diseases such as Arthritis, HIV/Aids, cancer, dravet syndrome,  Alzheimer’s, asthma, chronic pain, nausea, and other medical diseases.

It’s also a great nutritional supplement. Seeds can be turned into flour or oil, or used in hundreds of recipes. Not only do the cannabis seeds taste delicious, they have high nutritional content, rich in essential amino acids, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and fiber.

The Plant

Species within the genus, Cannabaceae, might be disputed, but there are three recognized categories: Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis.  Sativa cannabis tends to be taller and bigger than the other two species. Its leaves are longer and thinner, almost fingerlike, and it is found in equatorial regions. Sativa plants require longer flowering periods than the shorter flowering Indica. Indica cannabis plants are shorter than Sativa, and the leaves a lot broader than other species. Indica variety is found in sub-tropical regions like Pakistan and Afghanistan. The third species was found in Eastern Europe and Russia.  Called Ruderalis, it’s known as an auto-flowering plant. Ruderalis strains are also very small and have much smaller leaves than both Sativa and Indica varieties. There are thousands of combinations of cannabis strains offered by seedbanks, known as hybrids.

It all Starts with a Seed

A cannabis seed lies dormant until it is exposed to water and warmth. The endosperm of the seed contains enough calories to begin the life cycle of cannabis. A single tap root will split the seed shell and start searching for water and nutrients in the soil. Just after this, a single stem shoots upwards, searching for sunlight and air. This beginning stage of cannabis is known as the germination phase and lasts up to 3 weeks of its growth cycle.

1. Seedling Stage

The seedling stage can last from 3 to 6 weeks and is characterized by fast root and leaf growth. The duration of the seedling stage depends on many factors, namely: environmental factors and the cannabis genetics you start with. Two rounded cotyledon leaves will grow from the stem, followed by a single finger-like serrated leaf. This true leaf will develop more fingers on each leaflet, anything from 5 to 13 during the cannabis life cycle. A strong root system begins simultaneously and is responsible for nutrient and water uptake.

2. Vegetative Stage

This stage, you can literally watch the plant grow. The cannabis plant should be settled in its environment, and with good inputs such as light, water and nutrients, the growth rate is increased. With an increased amount of foliage, the plant is able to absorb more sunlight and carbon dioxide, which increases growth rate. Some cannabis plants are known to grow more than 2 inches per day during this period.

The duration of the vegetative stage is primarily controlled by light exposure. Cannabis requires more than 12 hours a day of light exposure to continue vegging. Once light drops below 12 hours a day, it will trigger cannabis to start flowering. This naturally occurs outdoors during changes of the season from summer to winter or manipulated indoors by growers changing electrical lights to less than 12 hours on.

3. Flowering Stage

The flowering state occurs after reduced light exposure and enables the plant to start sexually maturing. It will either be a male or female sex. Male plants produce pollen sacks and female plants grow pistils that turn into flowers or buds. The flowering cycle also depends on the cannabis genetics you start with and can last for 6 weeks or more.

The male plant’s pollen is naturally used to pollinate female pistils, creating seeds. Most growers do not want their precious females to be pollinated with seeds, unless you are breeding and wanting your own seeds for your next growing season. Males are usually removed by growers, therefore females can focus on growing resinous flowers, rather than plant energy being used up producing seeds.

At the end of the flowering stage, the females pistils will start turning brown, and this signifies the end of the cannabis plant life cycle. Harvesting cannabis depends on the grower and what they want to achieve from a point of taste, potency, smell, and other factors.

Further information and conclusion

Seed to flower can range from 6 weeks through to more than 12 weeks for long flowering Sativa. Indica strains flowering stage is shorter and averagely takes 8 weeks to complete the cycle. Popular hybrid strains are created for different traits within the genetics, whether for yield, potency, cannabinoid profile or taste. Mixing the yield of a larger Sativa plant with the shorter flowering time of Indica makes a lot of “cents” to growers. Cannabis plants can yield from a few ounces to many pounds of cannabis flower.

I hope you have enjoyed this article about the cannabis life cycle. It’s an interesting hobby to plant and look after your homegrown harvest. Check the legality and limitation of growing cannabis in your state or country. Good growing!