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Cannabis Hermaphroditism: What Is It, And How Can You Deal With It?

Do you think you might have a “hermie” threatening to ruin your entire harvest? If so, you’ll need to act fast. In this article, we’ll teach you everything crucial about hermaphroditism in cannabis plants, including how to spot it, deal with it, and prevent it in the future.

WHAT IS HERMAPHRODITISM?

Cannabis is a dioecious plant species. Unlike other flowering plants, it produces distinct males and females. However, cannabis can also be hermaphroditic, producing a single plant with both male and female sexual organs.

WHAT CAUSES HERMAPHRODITISM?

There are a number of different causes of hermaphroditism in cannabis plants. These include:

Genetics

Sometimes, cannabis plants can inherit hermaphroditic genes. This can occur naturally or as a result of breeding, the stress of which can introduce hermaphroditism into a strain.

Seed manipulation

The poor handling and manipulation of seeds can also increase the chances of a plant being hermaphroditic. This can include feminization, an unnatural process used by seedbanks and breeders to guarantee a high percentage of female plants in their seeds. Done correctly, feminization will only produce female plants. Done poorly, some hermaphrodites can occur.

Stress

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.

HERMAPHRODITISM AS A SURVIVAL INSTINCT

In order to better understand hermaphroditism in cannabis plants, it’s important to realise that, in some cases, hermaphroditism is a survival mechanism.

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.

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.

Now, is this good or bad? Well, that’s an interesting topic that unfortunately lies far outside the scope of this article. For the purpose of this read, it’s simply important that you realise that cannabis cultivation isn’t exactly “natural”, and that this can influence why some plants turn out hermaphroditic.

WHAT KIND OF STRESS CAN CAUSE CANNABIS PLANTS TO BECOME HERMAPHRODITIC?

There are many ways to stress cannabis plants. These include:

Temperature and humidity

Cannabis plants naturally like temperatures of around 20–30°C and relative humidity of 40–70%. If the temperature or humidity of your grow room is too far out of these ranges, this can be enough to turn your plants into hermaphrodites.

Lighting

As you probably know, lighting is super important for cannabis plants. If your plants are too close to their light source, or your lighting schedules are all over the place, this can also stress your plants. Light leakage during dark periods is also a big stressor and should be addressed immediately.

Nutrients

Cannabis plants need the right nutrients to produce great bud. Over/underfeeding can stress your plants, affecting their ability to develop properly and potentially increasing the risk of becoming hermaphroditic.

pH

Using a growing medium that is too acidic or alkaline is another big stressor for cannabis.

Poor growing medium

Your growing medium houses your plants’ roots, helping them absorb nutrients and water. A poor growing medium can cause root problems, which, you guessed it, causes stress for your plants.

Poor training techniques

Training techniques like fimming, topping, LST, super cropping, and countless others work by stressing cannabis plants in a good way, encouraging them to take up more nutrients, or grow in a specific way that can help improve yield. When done incorrectly, however, these techniques can affect a plant negatively.

Long flowering times

Sometimes, female plants that have gone long stretches of time without pollination can start to produce pollen in an effort to self-fertilise.

Remember, plants need a specific set of conditions met in order to grow and develop properly, and cannabis is no different. When we grow weed, especially indoors, we’re responsible for meeting these conditions. We also walk a fine line of pushing our plants and manipulating them in ways that benefit us in terms of higher yields, more potent and flavourful bud, and more.

Getting this wrong can result in stress for our plants, which in turn may push them to become hermaphroditic, especially if the plant we’re growing already has a genetic disposition to hermaphroditism.

HOW TO SPOT A “HERMIE”

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.

Hence, it goes without saying that you need to catch any hermaphrodite plants as quickly as possible. Some plants will show signs of hermaphroditism early on when they just start producing flowers. You’ll see these plants developing both male and female flower structures. These can form on different branches or on the same branch, and some hermaphrodites even develop both structures at the same bud site. These are called “true hermaphrodites”.

Alternatively, some plants may become hermaphroditic toward the end of their bloom cycle. This can be the result of a plant trying to make one last attempt at pollinating itself before dying. Thus, while many growers tend to become a lot more hands-off during the bloom cycle, it’s important to regularly check on your plants and keep an eye out for hermaphroditic flowers during this final stage of life.

Plants that turn hermaphrodite late in the bloom phase usually develop what some growers call “bananas”. This is the male stamen (exactly like those you’d find inside a male pollen sac), which has protruded through the female flower and can release pollen at any moment. Technically speaking, these are mixed-sex buds, rather than true hermaphroditic plants.

HOW TO DEAL WITH HERMAPHRODITE CANNABIS PLANTS

True hermaphrodites, like male plants, need to be culled early to avoid having them pollinate your other females. Plants with mixed-sex buds, on the other hand, can be harvested.

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.

HOW TO PREVENT HERMAPHRODITE CANNABIS IN THE FUTURE?

Unfortunately, there’s no telling whether a plant has hermaphroditic genes. The only thing you can do to prevent hermaphroditism is this: give your plants the best possible growing conditions and avoid stressing them at all costs. If you use training techniques (both low and high stress), make sure you know what you’re doing.

Finally, always make sure you buy your seeds from a reputable cannabis seedbank whose breeders do their best to minimise hermaphroditism when breeding new strains.

Dealing with a possible "hermie" in your grow room? Click here to learn everything there is to know about cannabis hermaphrodites and how to save your harvest.

What To Do With A Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plant?

Many things can affect your grow of the cannabis plant. Feminized seeds can save you the time and expenses of sexing the plant resulting in shorter grow times and less materials used. One thing that can affect your grow (especially with feminized cannabis plants) is a hermaphrodite cannabis plant. What are hermaphrodites?

Hermaphrodite Definition: noun (1) an organism (plant or animal) having both male and female reproductive organs. (2) An organism having both male and female organs. Therefore, is capable of producing both male and female gametes. Sometimes the cannabis plant will produce male organs on a female plant. This can infrequently happen with your feminized cannabis seeds. Most feminized seeds will not become hermaphrodites.

More likely than not, you will not get any hermaphrodites cannabis plant from your feminized seeds.

The two things that can cause hermaphrodites in the cannabis plant are an environmental stress or a genetic tendency. Some strains of feminized cannabis plants have a genetic tendency to be hermaphroditic and some strains have an extremely rare amount of occurrences.

Seed from a reputable breeder will have a rare amount of genetically caused hermaphrodites. If you have multiple hermaphrodites in your garden then it is most likely an environmental issue that caused them to get hermaphroditic. If you have just one hermaphrodite it is most likely caused by genetics. Some strains have a tendency toward being hermas. Doing some research on the strains you plan to purchase will help make sure you don’t pick one of those strains. There are many strains of the cannabis plant with extremely stable genetics.

What things can you do to lower the chances of having a hermaphrodite in your cannabis plants?

Several things can cause your cannabis plant to get shocked and become hermaphroditic, such as light leak during the flowering stages of the light cycle. Severe variations in the PH levels or fertilizer can also cause the plants to create male sex organs. Variations in temperature may cause the problem. Watering incorrectly can shock your plants as well as the introduction of hormones improperly or at the wrong time. Growing past the recommended harvest time can also cause hermaphrodites. If you are going to change something in the grow process it is usually best to do it slowly if you are growing indoors this is much easier. Outdoor grows should not have any problems with hermaphrodites but the climate cannot be controlled as exactly as indoors.

In this video from Jorge Cervantes you can see the release of male pollen:

What should I do if I get a hermaphrodite cannabis plant or plants?

The male sex organ of the cannabis plant looks like little bananas. If you find sites on your branches that have little bananas on them, the first thing you should do when you find male sex organs on your cannabis plant is to isolate the plant away from the rest of the female cannabis plants. An isolation tent or another room away from the other females is a good ways to segregate the hermas. Make sure to always tend to the hermaphrodite cannabis plants last because you do not want to bring the pollen back in to the room with your female plants. You can just get rid of the plant but that is a waste of time and resources. Pulling the male sex organs off with tweezers is a good option. It is also prudent to take the affected bud or branch entirely off. Often the sex organs “bananas” do not open on feminized cannabis plants but you should treat them as if they are open and take care not to bring that pollen back in to the females. It takes ten to fifteen days for the cannabis plant to develop the male flowers, so you will have to monitor the plants for at least that long in order to remove all of the male sex organs. The pollen is released if the banana like pod opens, so be careful to dispose of them quickly.

Male cannabis plant losing pollen.

Hermaphrodite can occur when you wait too long to harvest so how do you know when it is time to harvest your cannabis plant?

Trichromes are the small glands on the cannabis plant and can tell you when to harvest your plants. When using a 60X by 100X illuminated pocket microscope the trichromes will go from clear to milky and then amber. You can also take a good digital photo and enlarge it until you see the trichromes. Some digital cameras have a macro setting, which would do the trick. You can harvest when 50% or more of the trichromes are milky or translucent. Some people like to wait until the trichromes become amber in color. Some sativas are better if harvested when you get to the milky stage; it has more of a heady effect than a physical one. If you wait until the glands turn amber it will have more of a sedate, physical high. This could make a Sativa lose some of its qualities. Some of the blueberry and blackberry strains have purple glands but mostly they will be amber in the last stage. Mostly you would want a mainly amber hue on Indicas or Sativa/Indica hybrids. Waiting too long can cause the cannabis plant to go in to “survival mode” and generate male organs in order to pollinate itself.

Hermaphrodites are used to make feminized cannabis seeds

Feminized cannabis seeds are often produced by introducing a hermaphrodite to a number of female plants. This is usually achieved by using hormones to invoke one or more of the females to generate male organs. Make sure to check out our video section if you want know how to make your own feminised cannabis seeds. The resulting seeds will be predominantly female or feminized seed. Feminized seed is an extremely economical choice for growing cannabis plants. Feminized seeds will have a 85% to 99.9% chance of being female. Non-feminized seeds will have a 50% to 70% chance of being female. In most cases you will not have any hermaphrodites. If you do end up with hermaphrodites, it is most likely from some environmental shock. Shorter grow times and less maintenance are a great reason to use feminized seeds. Feminized seeds can streamline your grow process by not wasting time determining sex and does not waste resources on male plants. A stable grow process without wild fluctuations is the best plan for maximum yields of your cannabis plants and will almost guarantee you do not get hermaphrodite.

Many things can affect your grow of the cannabis plant. Feminized seeds can save you the time and expenses of sexing the plant resulting in shorter grow times