What Are Feminized Cannabis Seeds?
The first thing a grower must do before embarking on the journey of growing cannabis is – of course- to get their hands on some seeds. The general story goes like this: you buy a regular packet of seeds and you plant all of them at once. Now, because of marijuana’s rare ability to be either male or female (rather than hermaphrodite), half the seeds you plant will show female characteristics, while the other half are male. Until now, this is basic botany. Where do feminized cannabis seeds fit into the picture, you might ask? Well, I’m getting to that.
For newbie growers, it might seem kind of silly to be keeping around male plants. They don’t make buds! But alas, male plants are kind of important if you’re involved in a breeding program. But honestly, most of us who just want to enjoy something homegrown and want to avoid the bills associated with actually paying for weed are not interested in harvesting seeds. We want to harvest big buds. This is where feminized seeds join the conversation.
The question was bound to arise among home growers: how can I make all of my plants female? And it’s not such a silly question. What a heart-wrenching moment it is when you realize your plants are male and have to tear them out of your garden. What a waste! Some clever Dutch geneticists – it’s always the Dutch – developed a method to make cannabis seeds feminized. This means that out of a bag of feminized cannabis seeds, all of them should grow up to be lusciously flowering females.
Sounds exciting, right? Finally! The answer for home growers who weren’t interested in breeding the next big hybrid strain appeared in the 1980s. And if you’re at all interested in cannabis genetics, the creation of feminized cannabis seeds is quite an interesting story.
A crash course on marijuana botany
In order to understand how breeders arrived at a cannabis seed that you knew was going to be female before you even planted it requires a bit of background information about marijuana botany.While most plants are hermaphrodites (having the qualities of both genders in a single plant), marijuana plants are, for the most part, dioecious. This means that separate plants within the cannabis species will have the female and male characteristics. This is why some plants grow up to be males and others grow up to be females.
Inside that tiny hulled ball that we call a marijuana seed lives all of the genetic information for the entire life of that plant – including whether it will be male or female. In some very special circumstances, a marijuana plant that has been growing up as a female will start to grow pollen sacs and, all of a sudden, start looking very manly. This usually happens when the environment is altered in some way, causes the plant to freak out and enter survival mode.
When a female plant is under a lot of stress, its defense mechanism is – essentially – to grow some balls. This means it starts producing pollen sacs, which pollinate its very own buds causing seeds to occur. Why is all this scientific jibber jabber so important? Because it is exactly this observation that led Dutch geneticists to believe that they could create the very first feminized cannabis seed.
Dutch Passion and the feminized seed
The explanation above is a prime example of how no one really “invented” the feminized seed, but rather that humans started mimicking a natural process. The observation of a marijuana plant’s behavior under stress led geneticists to believe that a seed created from “female” pollen must have a greater chance of growing up to be female.
It all started with cannabis genetics pioneer, Henk van Dalen, creator of Dutch Passion (one of the biggest seed companies in Europe). In the 70s and 80s, home growing weed became increasingly popular, and growers were facing the conundrum – not interested in male plants, how to grow only females? Henk originally observed that when he left female marijuana plants flowering for a little bit too long, they started to develop pollen sacs at the end of their life cycle.
Because these plants were, indeed reaching the end of their life cycles and didn’t have enough time to self-pollinate (as I described earlier), Henk collected this pollen and used it to pollinate other female plants. Of course, those plants then went on create seeds which – low and behold – was the feminized cannabis seed. We know this now and it makes a lot of sense, but this was literally the lightbulb moment for Henk and the future of cannabis genetics. When the first batch of seeds all came up female, it was a huge surprise. When it kept on happening, Henk had stumbled upon a miracle and marijuana genetics were changed forever.
Why would anybody buy regular seeds?
Any grower who has a little bit of time and a lot of patience can create their own feminized cannabis seeds. In fact, after Dutch Passion released feminized seeds as a product for the first time, many breeders followed suit. Now it’s common practice for seed companies to sell feminized cannabis seeds as a part of their inventory stock. So why might anybody bother to buy regular seeds ever again?
Actually, male cannabis plants serve a very specific purpose if you aren’t just in the business of growing weed to smoke it. If you are involved in any kind of breeding program, it’s important to have a male garden for genetic variety. Plus, any breeding program needs males and females so you can choose which traits you like the best and make babies out of them. Regular seeds definitely still have their purpose, at least on a commercial level.
At a personal level, feminized cannabis seeds made growing weed at home that much easier, and took a lot of the confusion and difficulty out of the process. Feminized seeds aren’t without their disadvantages, though. If they haven’t been properly created, they carry a greater likelihood of being hermies. If you are on the market for feminized seeds, make sure you pick a breeder that you trust!