Hermaphroditism, causes, origins and curiosity

Hermaphroditism or monoicism is the phenomenon by which an individual of a given species can reproduce both male and female gametes simultaneously or subsequently. Etymologically, the term hermaphrodite derives from Hermaphrodite, a character from Greek mythology son of Hermes and Aphrodite who, having merged with a nymph, appeared to possess physical traits of both sexes.A hermaphroditic (or bisexual) Cannabis plant develops both male and female flowers. While this is a natural characteristic of the cannabis plant, it is considered, for the purpose of cultivation, an unwanted trait, when cannabis is used as a product for consumption, since an enormous quantity of seeds is obtained but the quantity and quality of the final product is reduced. Hermaphroditism can have two origins, one genetic and the other environmental.

Genetically some plants are more prone to hermaphroditism than others. This can be explained by the genetic origin of the plant in question or it may depend on the techniques used when producing feminized seeds, so a male is reverted to a female and genetic information relating to maintaining the other “sleeping” sex, sooner or later they will manifest, so sometimes some plants can manifest the characteristic of hermaphroditism. It may also happen that the male, subjected to feminization techniques, if he grew up undisturbed, could have already manifested a genetic and chromosomal hermaphroditism so that when he puts out female flowers following exposure to colloidal silver, genetic information will pass to offspring and they will manifest even more in later generations.

Without linking hermaphroditism to a genetic origin, a cannabis plant can also become hermaphrodite after the influence of a state of stress. When the plant feels that the flowering conditions are too difficult, hermaphroditism is a natural and effective way to make this stressful period shorter, by pollinating female flowers with the pollen of some clusters of male flowers (commonly called ‘bananas’). Stress that greatly increases the risk of hermaphroditism can have several causes, including:

The photoperiod change, especially the interruption of the dark period during flowering, too much heat (approximately above 27 degrees Celsius, extreme environmental conditions). Harvesting  too late. Mechanical stress: breaking of branches, damaged roots, pruning during flowering. Problems related to irrigation (excess or lack), excessive fertilization, harmful insects and diseases, stress related to the watering temperature (cold or hot water), the use of toxic phyto products such as pesticides or fungicides.

To avoid finding oneself with hermaphroditic cannabis plants, the main rule is to avoid any kind of stress during their flowering period, only then will we limit the damage as much as possible. Trimming and transplanting should be carried out during the vegetative phase  or,  in any case,  before flowering, before the flowers begin to develop.

In order to reduce the chances of developing hermaphrodite plants you should: maintain good environmental conditions in your growing area, perfect hygiene and check that your plants are not infested with insects or red spider mites, water regularly with a balanced nutrient solution and at the end of flowering, check the trichomes so as not to forget when it’s the best time to harvest.

When you have decided which plant to grow for your next crop, read carefully each comment and consideration from other growers who chose that plant, as well as warnings and advice, recommendations for that type of plant, so you can have all the information on these seeds and make the right choice and understand if in that genetic line there may be traits related to hermaphroditism.

As we have said before it is very important to check the plants and be careful to look for male flowers from the beginning of flowering, during this period these male flowers are easy to observe for their usual yellow colour and banana shape. It is also the time to check for insect pests, molds or other problems to avoid bigger problems in the future. If a plant shows male and female flowers from the beginning of flowering, it will have to be, unfortunately, culled  immediately from the growing  space, otherwise it could pollinate the entire cultivation and transmit the characteristic of hermaphroditism to the next generation as well as turning the flowered buds into seeds and  lose a high percentage of trichomes and resin.

When a plant becomes hermaphrodite in full bloom we have two options:

If the plant produces only a few male flowers we can remove them with a pair of tweezers sterilized with alcohol, spray water on it, as the water makes the pollen inactive and continue to look for any male banana-shaped flowers.

If the plant has instead produced numerous male flowers it must be immediately culled from cultivation because it cannot be recovered in any way, indeed it will tend to pollinate all the females and  its seeds will not be even useful for a new cultivation as they will retain a very high probability of generating other hermaphrodite plants. The technique of keeping only female plants and increasing the production of resin avoiding fertilization from male pollen plants is called ‘sinsemilla’ .This term derives from spanish and means ‘without seed’ or “seedless”.  In fact, the female plants will produce more and more resin and trichomes in the hope that some males will get to pollinate them because the resin that is naturally sticky will be able to capture the little pollen that the wind will bring, so the more resin there is, the more likely it is to catch pollen. But be careful. Don’t deceive your plants for too long to avoid the risks mentioned above. Have a good one!

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