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Cannabis 101

Cannabis Flower 101: Everything Beginners Need To Know

05.24.22 - 4 min read

When many of us think of cannabis, flower is the first thing that comes to mind. Understandably, those of you just beginning your cannabis journey probably have plenty of questions about this product of the plant. 

If you’ve ever visited your local dispensary, you’ve might’ve noticed flower comes in a variety of forms, such as popcorn and premium flower. Wondering what these varieties mean, and what might be right for you? 

Read on, and we’ll help empower you with all the basic flower facts you’ll need to get started, from details about the cannabis plant itself to a breakdown of different flower products and ways to consume them. 

Highlights 

  • Cannabis flower is the consumable, trichome-covered part of the female marijuana plant. 
  • Cannabis flower and bud are the same thing. 
  • Marijuana flower can come in various forms, like trim, shake, popcorn nugs, and premium flower. 
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What Is cannabis flower 

Cannabis flower is the consumable part of a marijuana plant. Cannabis itself is a dioecious plant (which simply means the plant can be male or female). [Source] 

The marijuana flower used for medical and/or recreational purposes (depending on your location) comes from the female cannabis plant. Therefore, the male plant is not as widespread in the cannabis marketplace. 

Is marijuana flower the same thing as bud? 

Yes, marijuana flower and bud are the same thing. 

“Bud” is a popular slang word for marijuana flower often used in dispensaries. (In fact, you’ve probably noticed that there’s no shortage of names out there for the plant!) 

Which part of the plant is cannabis flower? 

Flower refers to the trichome-covered part of the plant that contains cannabinoids and other active compounds. It’s produced only by female marijuana plants, from clusters called colas. 

Cola is a flowering site that includes both the flowers and the nodes (the spots where the cannabis flower connects to the plant).  [Source] 

Anatomy of the cannabis flower 

While you don’t need to be an expert in the anatomy of the marijuana plant in order to enjoy cannabis, having a little knowledge can definitely help enhance your experience. 

Intrigued? In this section, we’ll describe the main parts of cannabis flower, the role they play in flower available on the market and how they may actually impact you as a consumer. 

Anatomy-Cannabis-Flower

Trichomes  

Trichomes are white crystals that appear on top of flowers. They contain the largest quantities of terpenes, THC, CBD, and other active compounds in the cannabis plant. 

When the plant is growing, the function of trichomes is to protect flowers from frost, pests and the elements. Growers use them to decide when a plant is ready for harvest, and they also indicate flowers’ potency (which, of course, is useful to know as you begin trying different strains out there). [Source] 

Bracts  

The bracts encapsulate the clusters of flowers that surround a single stem. They look like small leaves, and their main purpose is to protect the flowers and seeds on seeding plants. 

Technically, the actual flower is also considered a part of the bract. In fact, floral bracts make up most of the mass of marijuana flowers. 

Calyx  

Calyx is the first part that forms on the cannabis flower, just as a young plant enters the blooming stage. It’s a platform constructed of miniature leaves, which spiral at the node where the flower emerges from the stem. Their main function is to protect the base of the flowers during development. 

But that’s not the main reason why cultivators need to know their calyxes. They also house the resin glands, which produce cannabinoids (a.k.a. cannabis compounds that are responsible for the various effects felt when the plant is consumed). As a result, they’re the most resin-dense part of the plant. [Source] 

Sugar Leaves  

Sugar leaves are small leaves that form at the base of the marijuana bud. The term comes from the white coat of trichomes on the surface of each leaf. 

Some cultivators leave them on the flower when harvesting to help with the drying process. Others remove them and use them in their trim. 

Marijuana-Flower-Anatomy

How to use cannabis flower 

Now you know what cannabis flower is, we’ll walk you through some of the basic ways to consume it.    

Friendly reminder: cannabis regulations vary by state, so it’s important to know which consumption methods are currently legal in your location. Visit our cannabis legalization map to stay informed about your rights. 

Smoking with papers 

Smoking involves grinding cannabis flower and packing it into rolling papers. The rolled flower is simply lit and smoked. (Pro tip: Prefer not to use a butane lighter or match? Try a natural hemp wick instead.) 

Pre-rolls 

Beginners may opt for the simplicity of cannabis pre-rolls As the name implies, these smokables are sold at dispensaries already rolled and ready for use. A main benefit is convenience: they save time and effort and are easily portable. 

Pipes and Bongs 

Both hand pipes and bongs have a bowl for loading and require fire to be heated. However, hand pipes are portable and feature only a mouthpiece, stem, and bowl. Bongs also feature a water chamber that percolates the smoke to make it easier on the lungs. Pipes and bongs come in endless designs and material options. 

Cannabis-Flower-Forms

Vaporizers 

Flower vaporizers are electronic devices that use heaters to gradually heat the cannabis just enough to activate it. That means the same bud will last much longer than if smoked, as it can be reheated multiple times before it burns out. The main two categories are portable and desktop vapes. 

Cannabutter 

If no method of inhaling cannabis sounds attractive to you, you can also make cannabutter. Making cannabutter involves cooking shredded cannabis in butter for a couple of hours. You can use it to make edibles, particularly baked goods like brownies and cookies. 

How to store flower 

When you buy cannabis flower, you’ll want to store it properly in order to get the best experience possible (after all, you don’t want risk lowering its quality). 

Here are the key things to think about when storing marijuana: 

  • Temperature: High temperatures cause cannabis to dry out, and the terpenes might evaporate. The combination of high temperature and high humidity can cause mold and mildew. On the other hand, low temperatures can damage the trichomes, reducing the flower’s potency. [Source] 
  • Light: UV light can damage the active compounds in the flower. [Source] 
  • Moisture: Cannabis flower can develop mold in high humidity. However, air that’s too dry can break down the cannabinoids and terpenes. The ideal humidity levels for storing cannabis are between 55% and 65%. [Source] 

With all this in mind, note that it’s best to store cannabis flower in an airtight container and place it in a dark corner to minimize its exposure to air, heat, moisture and UV light. 

Forms-of-marijuana-flower

Common forms of marijuana flower  

Not all flower available at dispensaries is equal. Here are the common forms of marijuana flower you can expect to encounter in your cannabis journey. 

Trim 

Trim refers to the excess parts of a cannabis flower removed after harvest. It includes the sugar leaves, small parts of buds, and knocked-off trichomes. Trims are harsh for smoking and are typically reserved for making edibles and hash. 

Shake 

Shake describes leftovers from cannabis flowers. It refers to all particles that fall off during handling or packaging. High-grade shake includes leftovers from only the flower, making it more appropriate for smoking. Low-grade shake often contains stems and leaves and no flower. 

Popcorn nugs 

Popcorn nugs refer to the smaller buds which grow at the bottom of the cannabis plant. The reduced light doesn’t allow the buds to grow as full as those higher on the plant. For many enthusiasts, nugs are not exactly considered as aesthetically pleasing as larger buds. (Still, they are often only slightly less potent.) 

Premium flower 

Premium marijuana flower describes A-grade, fully-grown, dense cannabis buds. These buds grow at the top of the stems, so they receive the most nutrients and sun. This position makes them rich in trichomes and terpenes, which consequently leads to more powerful effects. Typically, their pungent aroma takes over the room, they’re full of color and packed with flavor. 

Wrapping up 

Still have more questions about flower, or cannabis in general? Don’t hesitate to talk with one of our patient care specialists at a nearby RISE Dispensary. Our team will be happy to help you learn even more about cannabis flower products. 

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