What is Cannabis Pistil and Why Are Pistils so Important?

A pistil is a female cannabis plant sex organ. To the ordinary decent home grower, a pistil is a hair that protrudes from a calyx on a female flower. They are also known as stigmas. The first pistil that you see are small, wispy hairs on the joining branches of the cannabis plant.

The pistil is the combination of the stigma and the ovule. It is only found on female plants. The stigma is the part of the female plant that looks like an antennae. Its purpose is to help the plant become pollinated. When the plant is fully developed, these will change to an orange color. They are covered in a sticky resin.


Nature has designed the cannabis plant’s pistil to be the optimal pollen trap. The pistil is long and covered in sticky resin that traps the pollen.

Various strains of cannabis have pistils that look slightly different but all perform the same functions. Pollen is spread to the pistil via birds, insects, the wind, and rain. Instead of focusing on producing more resinous flowers the female cannabis plant begins to develop seeds. The cannabis will be less potent, and seeds will form in the bracts that contain the ovule. 

The pistil of the cannabis plant features brightly colored hairs that are often bronze or orange. A high-quality bud’s pistil boasts a large number of hairs. The longer the pistil is denied pollination from a male, the more it will produce cannabinoid and terpene-rich resin in an attempt to trap pollen.

As the cannabis bud matures, the color of the pistil changes. When the pistil first emerges, it is white but upon maturity, it takes on a purple and green coloration. Pistil colors vary and depend largely on the cannabis strain.

Why Are Pistils Important?

The importance of pistils is two-fold. First, they help us identify the sex of our cannabis plants, and second, they can be used to indicate when we should harvest during the flowering stage.

Sexing Plants

If pistils are present post-germination, then you have a female plant. If they are not, then the plant is male and should be removed immediately to prevent other plants being pollinated.

Typically, after 3–6 weeks into the vegetative cycle, the first few pistils should appear, at random, among nodes on the stem. However, in some strains, their appearance can be delayed, not showing until at least eight weeks.

Female plants and intersex plants will display pistils. Unfortunately, intersex plants will also produce pollen and are as great a threat to your females as a rogue male cannabis plant. Moreover, stress can cause any cannabis plant to develop intersex traits. Some varieties of industrial hemp are bred specifically for their hermaphrodite characteristics.

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Harvesting Plants


The white pistils will begin to change colour during the flowering phase. Once the majority of pistils have started to turn orange, brown, and red, then you are ready to cut down those prized buds.

Given that the naked eye can see pistils, they are easier to observe than trichomes when it comes to harvesting.

All in all, pistils are a fascinating part of the cannabis anatomy. Their use as a means of sexing plants, and deciphering the correct time to harvest, make them an invaluable tool in the cannabis grower’s arsenal.

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