A Discussion of Cannabis and Sex for the Modern Medical Marijuana User
Cannabis. Marijuana. What ever you want to call it. Today we are going to look at Cannabis and Sex. Marijuana botany. The genetics of weed.
Now, this is a subject that could get way more complicated than I could have ever begun to imagine, so I promise to try and keep this as simple as I can.
Marijuana is a plant made up of cells. Each cell has a core. Within each core are 10 couples of chromosomes. This set of 20 paired chromosomes are called the ‘diploid condition’ or (2n). Of the 10 couples within the core of the cell, only one coupled set of chromosomes are responsible for the gender of the marijuana plant. A female plant will have two x chromosomes and a male plant will have one x and one y chromosome. And, just to throw in a little bit more information than is needed; it is assumed that chromosome 8 is the sex chromosome. Not that I could really demonstrate any of that here very easily so lets just know that we learned something and move on.
OK, before we go any further, we will need to learn a little bit about the ‘reproductive organs’ of the marijuana plant. You certainly cant talk about cannabis and sex without talking about reproduction. After all, that is what it is all about.
Below you will see images of both the male (left) and female (right) flowers of the cannabis plant:
As you can see above, the male marijuana flowers look like little balls or pods. These little balls or pods contain the pollen. The female marijuana flowers (ovules) are made up of the v-shaped pistils and small leaf matter you see on the right.
OK, back to the x’s and y’s.
All cells of the cannabis plant that are made up of vegetative matter (non-reproductive matter) will have the diploid condition (discussed above). The reproductive matter is a little bit different from the norm. Reproductive cells of the marijuana plant have gone through a process called meiosis. Meiosis is a cellular process that results in the number of chromosomes being reduced to one half. This process is called ‘reduction division’. With reduction division (meiosis), the extra 10 chromosomes simply fail to replicate in the reproductive cells of both the male and female marijuana plants. The resulting 10 unpaired chromosomes are known as the ‘haploid condition’ or (n). Once cells are made that contain the 10 unpaired chromosomes (once the plants are beginning to flower) the plants are ready for pollination.
What happens next is the male haploid condition cells (pollen) are introduced to the female haploid cells (ovules) and each of the unpaired 10 chromosome cells from each plant bond together.
How am I doing so far? Haven’t lost you yet have I? Don’t worry, we are done with most of the tough terminology for now. Let’s get back to the discussion of cannabis and sex.
The sex of a marijuana plant is determined the moment of fertilization. The female chromosomes link up with the chromosomes of the male. However, it is only the male chromosomes that determine the sex of the plant. A female haploid will always have an x in their 8th chromosome, it is up to the genetics of the male haploid to decide whether it pairs an x or a y onto the female chromosome. If the male chromosome is an x chromosome, the plant will be a female. If it is a y chromosome then the plant will be a male.
Now that we have covered the very basics… have you heard of the term polyploid yet. Yes, No? Great (either way)… lets briefly touch upon the subject.
Polyploid is the mutation of a plant cell whereupon additional chromosome sets are acquired naturally. From our discussion so far, you now know that the term haploid describes a cell containing a single set of chromosomes and that the term diploid describes a cell containing two sets of chromosomes. The reproductive cells of a marijuana plant are called haploid cells. Marijuana vegetative plant cells (non-reproductive) are almost always diploid, in nature. Polyploid states in marijuana plants are usually triploid (3n) or tetraploid (4n;) either of which can occur under natural conditions and/or as a result of new breeding techniques. These addition states can be simply and individually described as triploid or, tetraploid, or can all be more generally grouped under the term polyploid. Personally, I have seen and photographed a naturally occurring triploid marijuana plant, and it was amazing to watch it grow and flower. In the near future, I will get those images up and out to the public for viewing.
There has not been a lot of scientific studies done on polyploid marijuana, however, I have read of such theorized benefits as increased overall THC production, larger plants, stress and bug resistance as well as an increased ability to adapt to climate and nutrient changes. Only time will tell, but with the rapid expansion of legalized forms of marijuana use in America, one can only surmise that future testing on polyploid marijuana will happen in the not-so-distant future. It sure will be fun to learn more about that particular topic. I’ll be sure to add additional content when such information becomes available.
Well, that about covers the very basics for our discussion of cannabis and sex. Please… if you have additional topics that you would like me to add to this discussion, just shoot me an email or make a comment. I will make it happen… eventually. For now, let’s move on now to a discussion of Cannabis Varieties.