These Are the Differences Between Flower and Bud

The Difference Between a Flower and a Bud

Weed, cannabis, or marijuana—whatever you prefer to call it: you can smoke it, eat it, or drink it. It can be a medicinal herb or a recreational activity.

How and why you choose to partake is your choice, but understanding the world of weed will help you have a fun and safe experience—such as knowing the difference between “flower” and “bud.” 

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Despite having many names and forms, Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) is a plant. The most popular part of the plant for use is the trichome-covered, genetically female part, referred to as both “flower” and “bud” interchangeably. However, anatomically, they are not necessarily the same. 

Cannabis is a genus of plants that is not well understood—and that includes its terminology.

There are species and subspecies which include hemp (grown for its seeds and fiber) and marijuana (grown for its chemical properties).

Even with many varieties and strains, all types of cannabis have a similar biological structure.

However, the terminology, such as “flower” and “bud,” will differ depending on who you talk to, so it is good to know both the slang and anatomical definitions.

Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant

In the plant world, some plants have what is considered female and male parts, and other plants grow both female and male flowers.

Cannabis is a dioecious plant, so there are female plants and male ones, but on occasion, an individual plant will develop both female and male flowers.

Although Cannabis sativa plants can be male or female, it is the female plants that are revered.

With so many people, both professional and recreational enthusiasts interested in the plant, the terms and words used to describe it have become muddled.

There are the anatomical definitions, words you would find in a biology textbook—and then there is the slang used by whoever.

Things get the most confusing when an anatomical word is given a slang meaning; here are a few biological definitions to help clarify things as it relates to marijuana:

  • Bract: a leaf-like structure that often encompasses a flower

  • Bud: an immature structure that will develop into a shoot, leaf, or flower

  • Calyx: the collective term for a flower’s sepals

  • Corolla: the collective term for a flower’s petals (e.g., a flower bud will develop and open into a flower)

  • Flower: a reproductive structure that is male, female, or combined

  • Perianth: the combined calyx and corolla

  • Sepal: a green structure at the base of the flower that protects a bud

  • Stipule: one of the pair of structures at the base of leaves

  • Trichomes: hair-like growths with glands containing flavonoids, cannabinoids, and terpenes

Although you probably won’t hear someone on the street talking about how great the perianth is, people, especially growers, often mix up the structures of the plant and their anatomical names. 

What Is a Bud?

While a blooming flower develops from a bud, not all buds develop into flowers. Buds are simply the early stages of new growth or, more scientifically, the tip of an embryonic shoot. A bud can develop into a leaf, flower, or branch.

What grows is determined by several factors, including:

  • Hormones (phytohormones)
  • Length of Day Versus Night (Photoperiod)
  • Water
  • Nutrients

There are two main types of buds:

  • Terminal Bud: A terminal bud is one that is at the terminus (the end) of a stem. As this bud develops, the plant’s stem grows taller.

  • Lateral Bud: A lateral bud grows out to the side of a stem. As this bud develops, it will become a new stem, a leaf, or a flower.

Changes in the amount of light will trigger a lateral bud that was going to be a leaf or stem to convert into a flower bud.

As a bud develops, cells inside the tissue, known as the meristem, start dividing. Hormones tell the cells how to divide. 

The bud of a flower is enclosed by the sepal. They cover up the bud and protect it as it is developing.

Once the bud has fully matured and is ready to become a flower, the sepal opens up.

What is a Flower?

The exact moment a flower bud ceases being a bud and becomes a flower will vary depending on who you talk to.

A fairly good rule of thumb is once you see petals opening, it’s a flower.

While it is obvious when a rose or tulip is blooming, cannabis flowers are small and clustered together; it is difficult to tell where one flower ends, and another begins.

With a cannabis flower, the best way of knowing when the bud has developed into a flower is when you see the stigmas poking out.

The stigmas’ purpose is to collect a male flower’s pollen; this only happens once the flower is fully mature. 

When growing cannabis flowers for consumption, they are harvested at the end of the blooming period. Each strain will vary in bloom length.

The bud will be developing for a couple of weeks, and once open, the mature flower will last for several more weeks before it is harvested.

Cannabis Terminology

When it comes to cannabis, words have many meanings. The anatomical and standard definitions usually don’t match up, which can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. 

As mentioned previously, two frequently used terms are flower and bud.

While there are anatomical definitions for each word, the way they’re used by non-botanists in reference to cannabis is slightly askew.

When talking to a friend, medicinal supplier, or recreational retailer, these two terms are often used with the following meanings:

  • Flower: “a general term that refers to the smokable, trichome-covered part of a female cannabis plant” (Source: WeedMaps)

  • Bud: “refers to the smokable, trichome-covered part of the female cannabis plant” (Source: WeedMaps)

Although once a cannabis flower opens, it’s no longer a bud but a flower, anatomically speaking. Many people will continue to refer to clusters of mature flowers as a bud.

If you are speaking with someone and the terms they are using don’t align with the definitions you know, ask them to clarify.

Usually, you can discern what their meaning is through context.

If they say something about having “great bud in my stash,” they probably aren’t talking about the anatomical plant structure that will grow into a flower, but the cured product you can purchase.

Since there are many words with multiple definitions and ways of using them, it is easy for a word to be used differently.

It is also possible the person you are talking to doesn’t actually know what they are talking about.

Perhaps they heard the word “bud” being used and decided to add it to their vocabulary without understanding what the meaning was.

Some other common slang terms used in reference to the female flower structure include:

  • Nug
  • Herb
  • Cola/Kola


Plant biology is a complex topic, and the flowers of a cannabis plant are not easy to understand; they are more complex than what is covered in a basic biology class.

The anatomy of a lily flower is a textbook classic; cannabis is not.

Since there are many forms of consumed cannabis, such as oils, extracts, concentrates, etc., there are also many other names that go along with them.

There is slang for the product, the culture, and more. Weed Map has a dictionary so you can look up words that are new to you.

When it comes down to it, the only true difference between bud and flower is the stage of anatomical development.

So, whether you got your hands on some “dank bud” or if your local cannabis retailer is “selling some diesel flower,” the difference is just in the name.

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