What is a Hemp Plant: All You Need to Know

What is a Hemp Plant?

The hemp plant is also called industrial hemp and is grown specifically for medicinal or industrial use. Hemp is used to make a wide range of products and is notable for being one of the fastest growing plants on Earth.
When it comes to growing hemp, there are different things to know, like how you can easily identify it and certain legalities. Let’s take a closer look at all you need to know about hemp.

How to Identify a Hemp Plant

Hemp is known for its distinct leaves, which are bright green, with seven serrated fingers. The seed and stalks also have unique features, and each part of the plant has different uses.
Keep in mind that it’s impossible to use plant morphology alone to differentiate hemp from marijuana when looking at a cannabis plant. Later in this guide, we will cover how you can tell the difference between the two plants.

The Hemp Seed

The plant starts as a seed, up to 3 mm across. The hemp seed appears to be colored green, with paper-like black hulls wrapped around it. The seed can be used to make oil in culinary and cosmetic applications, while hulled hemp seeds are converted to milk, eaten raw, or sprinkled on salads.
Hemp seeds don’t contain any CBD but have different nutrients, including protein, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, and omega-6 fatty acid.

Hemp Leaves

These plants are best identified by their leaves. Each leaf has slender fingers, between five to seven of them. They are combined at the rachis, connecting the branch to the leaf. But in a few cases, you can have only three or as many as nine leaflets on one leaf.
Every leaf on the plant is between five and ten inches long, based on the overall size of the plant. The leaves grow in opposite pairs along its branches, protruding from the stalk.
As for the color, hemp leaves differ from green to purple, depending on the plant’s genetic makeup. You can also identify the variety of cannabis in hemp based on its leaf density.
For a cannabis Sativa plant, you get thinner leaflets and taller leaves, growing further apart. But the cannabis Indica is the opposite, with fatter leaflets and a bushier appearance.

Hemp Stalk

Hemp features woody and fibrous stalks, and you can easily identify them by their tall stalks going as high as 10 feet. The branches shoot out from distinct points on the stalk but don’t extend very far away from the plant.
Hemp stalks contain some CBD, but not as much as the leaves and flowers. They can also be used to make yarn for weaving clothing, batting for furniture, and home textiles.

Do Hemp Plants Have Buds?

They have flowering buds, which feature the highest concentration of cannabinoids in the entire plant. These can include CBD, CBG, and THC. The compounds are usually mixed with terpenes, flavonoids, and other naturally occurring compounds to provide various benefits.
You can easily identify hemp flowers by their fuzzy look, hemp scent, and sticky resin. Remember that the characteristics of a hemp plant differ in the male and female types, so you also have to consider this when trying to identify the plant.

What is the Difference Between Male and Female Hemp Plants?

Hemp can be identified as a female or male plant, each offering distinct characteristics. They can also be hermaphroditic, which are self-pollinating plants. The female plant produces flowers and seeds, while the male produces pollen. Most commercial hemp farms opt for female plants because of their high CBD level.
Once a female plant is pollinated, they focus on producing new seeds alone. But if they are not fertilized, they focus on producing cannabinoid-rich resin for farms instead. But, growing male and female plants together can reduce the efficiency of the female.
You can identify a male plant by the tight clusters of flowers located on top of the plant, while the female plant will have hairy flower buds that start at tight clusters of green petals and expand to have creamy or white petals. The hairs on the female plant are used to catch pollen.

What is the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?

You can’t find the difference between hemp and marijuana plants based on the morphology alone, as both are varieties of Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. Other plants you use daily, like kale, Brussel sprouts, collard greens, and broccoli, come from the same plant.
You need to check the THC concentration to find the difference between the two plants. Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC based on federal guidelines.

Is Hemp Legal?

Hemp is legal in the United States but comes with serious restrictions. Only industrial hemp is allowed, and pilot programs approved by the US Department of Agriculture focus on studying hemp. This will enable them to plant hemp for a limited purpose.
Those in the CBD industry and scientists who want to study the effects of CBD can take advantage of this legality. Hemp was made illegal in the United States before as it fell victim to the war on drugs.

What Can Hemp Be Used For

Hemp has a wide range of uses, depending on whether you produce it as industrial hemp or as a food product.
Industrial hemp makes rope, paper, plastics, beauty products, building materials, biofuel, automobile manufacturing, consumer goods, and pet products. It can also be used to make clothing and textiles, as it is eco-friendlier and more sustainable, breathable, and long-lasting than most plants.
As for food, hemp seeds and oil are mostly used to make protein powders, veggie burgers, dips and sauces, energy bars, granolas, tea, milk, flour, coffee, and more. It can also be used to make hemp oil for therapy, massage oils, bath oils, and aromatherapy candles.


If you see any cannabis plants, you can differentiate hemp from marijuana by checking the percentage of THC. You can also check the leaves, stalk, and flowers to identify a hemp plant, although it’s important to differentiate the female from the male plants.