By RQS Editorial Team

Pollen is not very desirable among those growing cannabis for consumption. However, it does have its uses if you're looking to preserve genetics or breed your own strains. It is also relatively simple to collect and store. Read on to find out more about cannabis pollen, how to use it, collect it, and store it.

What Is Cannabis Pollen and What Is Its Function?

You should be familiar with pollen. It is the fine, powdery, yellow-hued substance created by all flowering or cone-bearing plants. Pollen’s primary purpose is to fertilise other plants of the same species. Pollen can be considered very useful or unuseful, depending on your reason for growing cannabis.

  • How and When Is Cannabis Pollen Released?

Pollen sacs are the reproductive organs of the male cannabis plant. These sacs develop during the late-vegetative stage at the nodes—the point(s) at which the stems/leaves and branches meet. Once a male plant reaches maturity, roughly 4 to 5 weeks into the flowering stage, the sacs open and release pollen into the air. The pollen travels on the wind and lands on a female cannabis plant, fertilising it. The female will then grow seeds that carry genes from both the female and male to perpetuate the species.

What Does a Male Cannabis Plant Look Like?

Cannabis plants are so-called dioecious plants; they produce either male or female reproductive organs. Male weed pollen sacs are easily distinguishable. They look like small bananas hanging from the nodes of the plant. This is in contrast to the wispy, upward-facing hairs (stigmas) you will find on the female plant.

  • Is Pollen Only Made by Male Cannabis Plants?

Pollen sacs only grow on male cannabis plants. However, the male flowers on hermaphrodite cannabis plants can also generate the reproductive parts needed to create and release pollen. When cannabis plants turn “hermaphrodite”, they do so to pollinate themselves.

The ability to turn hermaphrodite is a clever evolutionary technique employed by the cannabis plant to preserve the species in unfavorable conditions. The transformational process allows the plant to produce seeds by itself, even when no males are around. This could be, for example, because some environmental stress factor has wiped out all the males.

What Does a Male Cannabis Plant Look Like?

Is Cannabis Pollen Useful?

By and large, the female cannabis plant is more popular among growers than the male. After all, it is the female that produces the trichome/resin-laden bud that we harvest to smoke, vape, or infuse. Female buds contain all of the active components we associate with cannabis, such as cannabinoids (e.g. THC and CBD) and terpenes. However, the female plant can only produce these resinous, phytochemical-packed buds if she remains unfertilised.

For the average hobby grower, male cannabis plants are generally considered undesirable, and are fastidiously removed from the grow room if they do happen to pop up. For the most part, male cannabis plants exist to release pollen into the air to fertilise females. When this occurs, it spells the end for any hopes of yielding top-quality smokeable material.

Instead, if fertilised, the female flower will start producing seeds. Seeds will add a harsh, undesirable taste to your end product. The production of seeds also takes a lot of energy, diverting resources away from developing cannabinoids and terpenes.

With all that said, pollen from the male cannabis plant is necessary for those looking to breed cannabis strains, and is also useful for those looking to preserve the genetics of a certain strain.

  • Using Cannabis Pollen for Breeding

Planning and precision are necessary for those who want to crossbreed specific strains using pollen. In the natural world, cannabis pollen would be carried on the wind to fertilise female plants by chance. Indoor growers will need to purposely collect pollen from the male plant and place it on the female reproductive parts to fertilise the female and produce seeds.

How to Harvest Cannabis Pollen

If you are going down the breeding route, the first thing to do is collect pollen from your male plant. If possible, you should use the pollen straight away to avoid any degradation in quality. After the male plant has developed its pollen sacs, you must monitor them closely. Cannabis pollen is generally viable for 2–3 days in natural conditions. Knowing how long before male pollen sacs open is an advanced skill.

When they look like they are starting to open, the pollen sacs should be collected and bagged. It’s best to take the whole male flower cluster. This can then be squeezed and shaken over a fine micro-mesh screen onto parchment paper to separate the pollen.

After filtration, use a clean brush to spread the pollen out on the paper, and place it in a shaded, dry, warm area. Allow the pollen to dry out for 48 hours, and then use it or store it. Ideally, you want a temperature range of 18–24°C, with a relative humidity of 30–60%.

How to Harvest Cannabis Pollen
  • Preparing and Storing Cannabis Pollen

If you’re looking to store your weed pollen, first allow the flower clusters to dry out in an airtight storage container for around seven days. Once thoroughly dried, place the cluster(s) over a very fine micron screen and agitate gently to remove as much pollen as possible. The screen should stop any other plant material from getting through.

It is advisable to wear latex gloves when handling pollen. A mask is a good idea too, especially if you have hay fever. The last thing you want is to have a sneezing fit. Prep your work area as best you can before starting the collection process. The slightest air disturbance as you reach for something can blow the pollen away.

Excess moisture can damage the quality of the pollen. This is because pollen grains do not have a protective outer shell. As a result, they quickly decompose when in contact with moisture. Use a container lined with parchment paper under the screen to absorb excess moisture. Some growers mix a small quantity of flour with the pollen before storing, as it keeps moisture at bay and helps to stretch out the supply a bit further.

The average ratio for flour to pollen is around 1:5. Once you have collected all the pollen, seal your airtight container and keep it in a cool, dark, dry place. You can keep it in the fridge or freezer for very long-term storage. The colder, the better. When frozen and sealed, pollen can keep for 12 months or longer.

  • How to Handle Cannabis Pollen After Storage

In the case of pollen that has been frozen, do not defrost until you are ready to use it. Re-freezing and thawing again will degrade the quality. Instabilities in temperature and moisture content can quickly destroy pollen viability. Maintain a steady temperature for as long as possible when defrosting. Ideally, get your pollen up to room temperature before attempting to introduce it to a female plant.

How to Introduce Marijuana Pollen to Your Female Plant

Breeding is an intricate subject that you should research thoroughly before attempting. Here, however, is a very general overview of how you would pollinate your female cannabis plant.

Pollen should be introduced to the female between days 14 and 21 into her flowering stage. The pollen needs to be applied on the stigmas—the tiny white hairs we mentioned earlier—located at the nodes. These stigmas are what will collect the pollen and fertilise the plant.

There are many different methods of administering your collected pollen. It can be dabbed, brushed, or even blown onto the buds. Pollen is fine, light, and quickly delivered, so this process should be done in a sealed room. If you are doing it in your grow room, turn all your fans and extraction off first.

Why Should I Collect Cannabis Pollen?

There may be times when you want to mix and match your favorite strains to create a whole new one. In these cases, cannabis pollen is the perfect solution. Moreover, if you're trying to hold on to some prized genetics, but don't want to maintain a mother plant, harvesting cannabis pollen is a great, no-fuss alternative, and requires a lot less room and resources.

It is possible to buy readily extracted pollen in certain regions. But it can be expensive and tricky to find, depending on your location. All it takes, though, is a little bit of time, patience, and some simple equipment, and you could be building up stores of your favorite cannabis genetics in no time.

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