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Early Signs of Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants

If your plants turn hermie, it can cause problems in your grow room. By learning to identify the early signs of hermaphrodite cannabis plants, you can save yourself a lot of hassle. Knowing what a hermaphrodite plant looks like, what it means, and how to deal with it could be the difference between saving your harvest and losing it altogether.

What is Hermaphrodism?

You may have heard of the rare condition in humans where someone displays both male and female sex organs. An estimated 1.7% are born with traits of both genders – but the condition exists in the plant kingdom, where it is far more common.

In plants, hermaphrodism is often a necessary tool to ensure the survival of plants and helps ensure they can reproduce in environments where they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. But in cannabis plants – and especially in your grow space – hermaphrodism is a problem and one you’ll have to eliminate promptly. Hermaphrodite cannabis plants – also referred to as ‘herms’ or ‘hermies’ – can seriously jeopardise your harvest of cannabis flowers.

What is Hermaphrodite Cannabis?

Cannabis is a dioecious plant that can grow as male or female. Hermaphrodite weed plants turn monoecious and display both male and female characteristics. That means buds or flowers, but also pollen sacs. It’s a highly undesirable trait among cannabis growers because when growing cannabis, you’re most likely growing sinsemilla – seedless cannabis – for its buds. Hermaphrodite marijuana plants can easily pollinate the rest of your crop, and if that should happen, you’ll be waving a tearful farewell to your harvest.

Hermaphrodite cannabis does have its uses, just like male cannabis plants do – mostly to breeders. But it’ll never compare to the potency of female marijuana. It lacks the high content of THC and other cannabinoids found in the trichomes of female flowers, rendering it essentially useless for smoking or making other consumable products.

How to Spot the Early Signs of Hermaphrodite Cannabis

Similar to sexing a male, you’ll look at the nodes to determine the gender of your weed plants. The nodes are the area between the main stem of the plant and the offshoot branches. In that area, a male cannabis plant will display pollen sacs, which look like little green balls. Female cannabis plants will develop wispy white hairs at this spot, and these will become pistils – the plant’s female reproductive organ. But hermaphrodite plants put on a different type of show altogether.

In the earlier stages, hermies will develop both male pollen sacs and bud sites at the nodes. As you closely inspect your plants, look for balls, fine hairs, and banana-like structures. Though tiny, the banana-like structures are often referred to as ‘nanners’ and grow in small clusters, just like a bunch of bananas. Nanners are not considered true hermaphrodites because they don’t display male parts and female characteristics in different parts of the plant – but they’re just as much of a hindrance.

When to Check the Sex of your Plants

After the vegetative stage, your cannabis plants will enter the pre-flowering stage. It’s here that they’ll gear up for the big stretch they take to support the flowering phase and all those juicy buds. At this point, either toward the end of veg or at the beginning of flowering, you’ll want to regularly check your plants for indicators of sex. In the earliest stages of the big reveal, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s coming, but in the coming days, those structures will develop, and you’ll soon know whether your crops are showing up male, female, or hermie plants.

You might even notice another early tell of hermaphrodism in your grow area – stunted growth. If you see a plant lagging way behind the others, get to it and check the nodes as soon as possible because this could be an indicator of a hermie cannabis plant. The hermie process results in less energy available for plant growth and stretch, meaning you’ll likely find your hermie is the shortest plant in the room.

Don’t rely on your plants making it to the flowering stage without herming, and assume you’re in the clear. Hermie traits can appear late in the life cycle as a response to stress, so keep a close eye on your flowering plants and regularly check for signs.

What Causes Hermaphrodite Weed?

Hermies are the result of two driving forces – stress and genetics. If your plants are unduly stressed, there’s a good chance they will become hermaphrodites to ensure their survival. Anything from incorrect lighting, temperature, disease and incorrect nutrient distribution can cause your cannabis plants to take umbrage and develop hermaphrodite characteristics. High temperature and too much light will stress your plant, and it will turn hermie in a last-ditch attempt to make seeds.

It’s disappointing for you and can be maddening, but don’t get angry at the plant – it’s fighting to stay alive, and unfortunately, this is one of the common survival mechanisms of plants. It’s actually genius when you think about it – but it’s a trick of little value to us as cultivators.

The good news is that hermaphrodite cannabis plants are avoidable. It’s a simple case of setting up your environment correctly, monitoring it closely, and making changes if things get out of control. Keep your grow space at the right temperature, stick to the correct lighting schedule, and dole out nutrients correctly and appropriately. Keeping on top of the critical aspects creates the right environment for healthy plant growth and keeps the dreaded hermaphrodism at bay.

What Harm is a Herm?

The cost of letting a hermaphrodite plant hang out with your chicks can be high – and not the kind of high we like. As time goes by, those sacs will open up and release pollen. That pollen will quickly find its way to your girls, where it will swiftly cause them to switch that bud-making energy to seed-making energy produce seeds. Once that happens, kiss your yields goodbye. You’ll harvest much less in buds and a fair amount of seeds.

Removing hermaphrodite cannabis plants as soon as you find them is important. Keep them away from your females, and if you’re growing for buds, destroy your hermies well away from the rest of your crop. Keeping them away will eliminate the chance of accidental pollination, which can still happen after removal.

How to Avoid Hermaphrodite Plants

As always, solid genetics is your best starting point. If you grow from seed, always obtain feminized seeds from a reputable marijuana seed bank specialising in quality genetics. Then, it’s a case of creating and keeping a stress-free environment where your plants can thrive happily without excess light, heat, etc. Monitor all levels regularly, and remember that herming can occur late in the process. Avoid light leaks, and keep your light schedules strict. Do not disturb your plants’ dark stage with light under any circumstances. If you’re sleeping and someone comes in and turns the bedroom light on, you’re going to object, and cannabis plants are the same!

If growing from clones, ensure you take from a solid mother plant with no hermaphroditic tendencies. A reliable mother plant will resist turning hermie even when subjected to stress. Be sure to deal with pests, pathogens and any nutrient deficiencies promptly.

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Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.

Duncan Mathers