What is Cannabis Flower?

Joe Evans
Joe Evans - Content Writer

Jul 05 2021 - 5 min read

Cannabis has gone by a lot of different nicknames over the years. Bud, nug, grass, weed, pot, ganja, reefer, herb, chronic are just a few of the most common slang terms for cannabis that come to mind. As the cannabis industry has evolved from an underground, illegal black market industry sold by sketchy dudes on street corners to a legitimately recognized form of natural, healing medicine, however, researchers and cannabis industry professionals have done a great job of breaking down the many unique aspects of the cannabis plant.

Here at Leafwell, we’re in the business of connecting medical cannabis patients with their medicine. Part of that mission is making sure our readers understand the ins and outs of how their medicine works, how to use it properly, and provide a deeper understanding than the standard stoner fun facts. Today, we’re going to focus on breaking down what exactly cannabis flower is, how and why it works the way it does, and how patients can utilize cannabis flower to live their healthiest lives!

Cannabis bud / marijuana flower - Exodus Cheese x Blue Headband by Homegrown Cannabis Co.
Exodus Cheese x Blue Headband cannabis bud – a unique marijuana cultivar from Homegrown Cannabis Co.

What Exactly is Cannabis Flower?

With the maturity and diversity of cannabis-infused product options available in legal and medical markets throughout the country, it’s more important than ever to break the different aspects of the cannabis plant down in ways that are simple and accessible. After all, a medical patient could have a really bad time if they’re going to the dispensary looking for a nice 1:1 CBD THC disposable and end up walking out with something totally different.

So what exactly is cannabis flower? Well, simply put, it’s the part of the cannabis plant that people have been smoking for thousands of years now. If you’ve gone to the dispensary to buy some pre-rolls or have ever taken a hit from a blunt or joint your buddies were passing around, you know firsthand what cannabis flower is.

Cannabis flower is the so-called “bud” or “nugs” that are typically ground up and smoked. Huge portions of your local dispensary’s menu are likely devoted to different indica, sativa, or hybrid forms of cannabis flower, so it’s pretty hard to miss. Even the disposable vape pens full of THC-infused oil or the concentrates typically used in bad rigs are derived from cannabis flower. But what exactly is it?

It might come as a surprise to many that, at least when it comes to cannabis plants and the flower they produce, sex matters. Female cannabis plants produce the best quality flower, which means they’re generally more sought out and coveted than male plants (which have uses of their own, and strong fathers can help breed excellent new cannabis varietals). When it comes to smokable, usable cannabis flower, female plants are really the only option when it comes to overall quality. As long as they’re kept separate from male plants, they’ll keep on produced top-notch flower for medical patients everywhere to enjoy.

While there’s still debate as to whether it’s better to have virginal or sexually experienced female plants when it comes to producing top-notch flower, the science is clear about the role of female plants in that process. And, in general, sensimilla (unfertilized, female, seedless buds) are generally better,

Male cannabis indica plant.
Male cannabis indica plant. By RR Khalid. From Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

Sativa vs. Indica vs. Hybrid Flower – Is There a Difference?

In the past, people differentiated between cannabis types by: a) their growth pattern (sativas tall, large and taking up to 14 weeks to grow, indicas short, stout and taking up to 8 weeks to grow); and b) their effect (sativas more “up” and energetic, usually higher in THC and THCV; indicas more “down” and relaxing, with a high THC and CBD content). Hybrids are a mixture of indicas and sativas, taking growth and effect aspects from both.

However, these categories are rough distinctions at best, with many saying that the “sativa”, “indica” and “hybrid” labels are meaningless. This is because, when you test a plant for its chemical constitution, you will find that there are more similarities than differences between an indica and a sativa. Hybridization of cannabis strains has made indicas and sativas even more similar still.

What does seem to matter, however, is what environment the plant was grown in. A Blue Dream grown in California may be quite different from a Blue Dream grown in Colorado, despite having the same genetic base. This is because the type of soil, amount of sunlight, the humidity, the altitude and any other environmental factors can affect what cannabinoids and terpenes the plant produces. This can be seen when cannabis is in the wild, too. For example, a Kush variety growing near some mountains in India will grow like a sativa at low altitudes, but like an indica at higher altitudes.

With all this being said, it is still possible for breeders to create their own type of cannabis and breed for specific traits. Terpenes in particular can make a particular variety distinct (e.g. Bubblegum or Blueberry, which have unique terpene profiles), so the smell and flavors can carry on to the next generation. Similarly, growers and breeders can select for plants high in CBD content, and create new cannabis varietals high in CBD via selective breeding.

Hence, trademark “strains” are preferred to be called “cultivars”, as “strains” is a misnomer – Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica are more similar than different. You can breed all sorts of interesting cannabinoid and terpene profiles regardless of the genetic base being used – it just takes time, skill and patience to develop specific profiles, and even then they can change from environment-to-environment and generation-to-generation, even if it’s ever so slightly.

On the whole, though, it is best to remember that the distinctions made between indicas and sativas are mostly arbitrary. The only true test of a particular variety’s effects are the cannabinoid & terpene test results, and trying it out to see what effect it has on you personally, taking into account that the method of ingestion will have different effects as well (eating Gorilla Glue would be different to vaping it, for example)..

Feminized Bubblegum cannabis strain/varietal from Homegrown Cannabis Co.
Bubblegum feminized cannabis variety by Homegrown Cannabis Co.

How Can Cannabis Flower Be Used?

When it comes to how a medical patient can utilize the cannabis flower that they either grow at home or buy at their local dispensary, the options are virtually endless. Cannabis flower can, of course, be smoked using a joint, blunt, pipe, or bong for immediate and effective results. It can also be utilized to create cannabis-infused oils like RSO or other vapable oils. If you’re feeling ambitious and creative or just live an active, healthy lifestyle and want to avoid smoking, you can even make that cannabis flower into a whole assortment of different edibles! Cannabis flower is popular due to this versatility.

Cannabis flower is the heart and soul of the overall cannabis industry. As long as you have some flower, you’ll be able to enjoy the healing power of medical cannabis in nearly any form you want!

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Written by
Joe Evans
Joe Evans

Joe Evans is a journalist, writer, editor and contributor for Leafwell. He has, to date, more than 5,000 articles published online under his byline on topics like cannabis, local and National news, politics, automotive news, sports, pop culture and even a cult.

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