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Male cannabis seeds compared to female

Sexing Cannabis: How to Tell the Difference Between Young Male vs Female Cannabis Plants

Are you growing cannabis at home, but aren’t sure if your plants are male or female? Then you’ve come to the right place! This article is going to show you how to tell the difference between male and female cannabis plants to properly sex them.

In particular, I want to show you how we determine the sex of our cannabis plants while they are still quite young. It gets significantly more obvious as the plants begin to mature and flower. On the other hand, it can be a bit more tricky to sex cannabis plants in the early pre-flower phase, but it is definitely possible! We’ll also talk a bit about why it is important to determine the sex of cannabis plants, the difference between regular and feminized seeds, how we treat our plants up until the time we know their sex, and what to do with unwanted male plants.

If you’re new to Homestead and Chill, be sure to check out our other cannabis-related articles! We primarily grow outdoors, 100% organic, and aim to provide helpful information that is easy to follow – both for new and experienced growers alike. As a disclaimer, this article is intended for those who can legally grow cannabis at home.

Feminized vs Regular Cannabis Seeds

If you are growing from feminized seeds, you shouldn’t need to worry about sexing your cannabis plants all that much. While not 100% guaranteed, there is only a very slim chance that a feminized seed will produce a male plant. About 1% in fact. In all of our years growing, we have never had a cannabis plant grown from feminized seed turn out to be a male – though we only grow a handful of plants per year. Folks who grow hundreds of plants could potentially end with a rare male now and then.

Feminized seeds are highly desirable to most growers. They’re efficient. It is almost sure-fire that you’re spending your energy and resources raising ladies. However, some growers accept or even prefer regular (unsexed) seeds! We grow a little of both.

Why grow regular cannabis seeds? Well, maybe a particular breeder or strain you want to try only carries regular seeds. Some growers feel that the feminization process is unnatural, and prefer to kick it old school by growing regular seeds only. Some enjoy the gamble and challenge. Whatever the reason, when you grow cannabis from regular seeds, the odds of getting all lady plants are not in your favor. You will end up with some males. Therefore, you need to learn to sex your cannabis plants! Also, we always start several extra “regular” seeds – assuming a 50/50 chance that some will be culled because they are male.

How are feminized cannabis seeds made?

Curious about how feminized seeds are created? In a nutshell: most feminized seeds come from cannabis plants that have been treated and altered in a manner that inhibits male chromosomes. The most common method is to spray the plant repetitively (daily or more) with colloidal silver. Other chemicals and compounds can be used too, but are far less accessible. Colloidal silver is technically “non-toxic”, but you do not want to smoke it! Thus, the plant is sacrificial – used for the production of pollen and seeds only.

Repeated colloidal silver treatments cause repression of the plant’s ethylene, which is the stuff that creates male flowers. Instead, the treated female plant will grow pollen sacks full of FEMALE pollen (XX rather than XY). Then breeders use the female pollen to pollinate female flowers, resulting in the development of all-female seeds.

Another way to create feminized cannabis seeds is called rodelization. It is a more natural but unreliable method, and less frequently used by breeders. Near the end of a growing season, an un-pollinated female cannabis plant will sometimes produce pollen sacks in a desperate attempt to pollinate herself. That pollen can be used to try to create feminized seeds, but because ethylene hasn’t been repressed, may also result in male seeds.

Okay, back to sexing cannabis.

Why Sex Cannabis Plants? The Role of Male and Female Plants

For the most part, the average home grower wants female cannabis plants. The ladies are the ones that produce the fattest, most resinous and most potent flowers – aka buds. Male cannabis plants are only desirable if someone wants to breed cannabis and save seeds (which is a whole other topic for another day). Even then, the grower will want to spot the difference between the male and female plants and separate them early on, unless they want free cross-breeding and pollination between many types of strains.

Not only are the males less desirable, but male cannabis plants interfere with the quality and production of your female plant. Males grow pollen sacks, and produce pollen. When a female cannabis plant becomes pollinated by a nearby male, her energy shifts into producing seeds.

Like most things in nature, female cannabis plants have a biological drive to reproduce. After the deed has been done, she will sit back and relax. While a pollinated female cannabis plant WILL still develop decent size buds, they are usually lower quality and contain less THC and other desirable cannabinoids. Not to mention, they’ll be full of seeds. When left un-pollinated, a female cannabis plant’s flowers (buds) will continue to swell, develop more trichomes and become increasingly resinous. She is trying to get as sticky and large as possible to catch pollen in the wind. That sweet sinsemilla – aka unfertilized, seed-free cannabis.

When to Sex Cannabis Plants

Our goal here today is to learn how to tell the difference between male and female cannabis plants early on, so you can get the males away from the females as soon as possible! It will help protect your lady plants – but also spare you the wasted time, resources, and energy of tending to male plants that you don’t intend to keep.

Keeping in mind that every strain and grow set-up (e.g. indoors, outdoors, daylight hours) creates varying circumstances, most cannabis plants begin to pre-flower as early as 4 weeks after germination. By week 6, the pre-flowers begin to reveal their gender and you should be able to identify the sex using the tips to follow. Once the plants go into full flower (8 to 10 weeks on average, for a natural outdoor grow) the differences between male and female plants will be glaringly obvious. We’ll talk more about exactly what each sex looks like in a moment.

Until we can tell the sex for sure, we continue to treat the plants equally. We start our seeds in small 4-inch nursery pots. About two weeks after germination, we pot the seedlings up into an approximately two-gallon (trade size) “sexing pot” like these BPA-free nursery pots. This enables everyone to continue to grow in a happy and healthy manner for several more weeks*. Then, once we can surely tell the difference between the male and female cannabis plants, only the ladies move into their forever home – 15 to 25 gallon grow bags full of recycled organic living soil. To learn more about our soil recipe and how we maintain it, see this article.

*Note that our feminized seedlings go from a 4” pot to an 8” pot, and then more quickly into large grow bags, using less soil in the potting-up process.

This little girl (or boy) is far too young to tell, but needs to be potted up soon. The two in plastic pots in the background were determined to be male and culled the next day. The two on the left in grow bags are definite females (one from feminized seed, and one we sexed from regular seed).

How to Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Cannabis Plants in Pre-Flower

In order to correctly sex cannabis plants, you’ll need to become familiar with their anatomy in general. Both males and females produce pre-flowers and flowers in the junctions between stems or branches. The very first pre-flowers show up in the crook between the main plant stalk and a fan leaf stem (petiole), usually near the top of the plant. The good news is, the males usually begin to develop and show sooner than females. I guess the idea is that the dudes want to have their pollen ready and waiting for when the ladies join the party?

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Look for plant pre-flowers at the higher stalk/branch junctions, as described above. If needed, use a jeweler’s loupe to get a better look! That is the same magnifying tool commonly used to examine trichomes and determine plant readiness for harvest. Then, locate the stipule, which is a leafy pointed flap that protrudes from the junction. Don’t confuse that for a pre-flower! The cannabis sex parts are located just behind the stipule. Behind the pre-flower sex parts, taller growth tips will emerge – future auxiliary branches that produce buds.

Identifying a Male Cannabis Plant

Very early, the male pre-flower (early pollen sacs) simply looks like a more round version than the female pre-flower part. It is often referred to as a “spade”, like the spade suit in cards – squatty with a bulbous bottom and very slight tip. As it becomes slightly larger, the male pre-flower resembles a ball at the end of a stick. The male pre-flower is called a staminate. Then, the staminate eventually develops into a long hanging sack of baby bananas – the pollen sacs. Hopefully you can ID and cull the males before they get to this stage.

A 4-5 week old male cannabis plant in our garden, showing his stick and ball. Note that this is a really early and obvious example. Most of the other males in this age group show a round ball, but protruding less and more nestled flat against the stalk.

A more advanced male pre-flower, courtesy of Dr. Weedly (We never let our males get this far to photograph)

Did someone order a banana hammock? The male flowers are about to open and shed pollen, if they haven’t already. Photo from Green Cultured

Identifying a Female Cannabis Plant

In contrast, the very early female cannabis pre-flowers are more ovate in shape: pear-like, but with a longer slender pointed tip. That is called her calyx. Extending from the tip of the calyx may be a pair of pistils, or white hair-like protrusions. However, please note that not every female cannabis plant in pre-flower produces pistils.

If you are still unsure of the sex of your cannabis plant, wait to make any drastic decisions! Yet if you’re fairly certain, consider some of these other common differences between male and female plants. Perhaps it will help you more confidently make a decision.

Other Common Differences Between Male and Female Cannabis Plants

Aside from the clear-cut flower differences, there are a few (potential) trending characteristics between male and female cannabis plants. In many cases, male cannabis plants tend to be more gangly. They may be tall, narrow, have fewer fan leaves, and longer spacing between branches – also referred to as greater inter-nodal spacing. On the flip side, female cannabis plants are usually more compact and bushy than males.

Please keep in mind that these traits are not guaranteed, and shouldn’t be the only way to sex cannabis plants! Variations among strains and phenotypes can lead to all sorts of crazy things. The general plant structure simply may help give you a clue if you’re on the fence.

My Cannabis Plant is Male! Now What?

I hope you started a few extra seeds, and have plenty of ladies left to grow! Once you determine that you have a male cannabis plant, get rid of it. Again, unless you want pollination and seeds, it is best to cull the males as early as possible. Simply separating the plants isn’t enough. Even if you relocate the male plant to another part of your yard, the pollen can carry in the wind. There are stories of female cannabis plants becoming pollinated from neighbors growing several blocks away.

However, the culled males don’t need to go to waste! One option is to chop up the male plant and use it to mulch other plants – much like we do with borage, fava bean greens, yarrow, and comfrey. You could also juice the leaves, which are full of nutrients. Heck, you could even steep the plant material in water to create a natural fertilizer as we do with stinging nettle. Finally, I’m sure your compost pile will welcome the male plant with open arms. Or would that be… with open worms?

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And that is how you determine the sex of cannabis plants.

In closing, I hope this article is interesting and useful in your homegrown adventures. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below, and spread the cannabis sex love by sharing this article. Even if you like to grow mostly feminized seeds, don’t you find this stuff fascinating? I sure do. Thanks for tuning in and nerding out with me a bit. Best of luck this growing season!

Male vs. Female Marijuana: How to Figure Out the Gender of Your Plant

As with most plants, animals, and other life forms, marijuana plants have distinct genders. They can have either male or female reproductive parts. In rare cases, you will find hermaphrodite plants. These are plants with male and female traits. In cannabis, it relates to plants that develop male and female flowers.

The sex of a crop does not always matter, but with marijuana grows, knowing the gender and the sex of your plant is vital to both growers and breeders. The type of weed is crucial to the quality and value of the end product. Seedless buds are worth more than lower-quality cannabis, for example.

Only the female marijuana crop is capable of producing potent buds. Additionally, it is useless to sell product from male plants, as they will not provide much of a high.

Unplanted, regular seeds will typically possess a 50/50 chance of producing a male or female plant. Most seed banks and companies offer genetically altered feminized seeds, which diminishes some of the risks of pollination if a male phenotype lacking resinous buds gets mixed in.

If a male plant sneaks into your cannabis garden, it can contaminate the healthy females and fertilize them. This is not good when you’ve dedicated so much time, money, and effort into the cultivating process. When a female plant is pollinated, it will start producing seeds rather than focusing its energy on growing robust flower.

By eliminating the issue early on and quickly removing a male from the garden, you can ensure that your result is healthy female plants.

Keep reading to discover how to differentiate between male and female plants.

What Does It Mean If a Cannabis Plant Is Female?

A female cannabis plant means you will have better nugs! If you intend to cultivate marijuana, the most likely goal is to produce usable, smokable, or sellable product in the end. Therefore, you only want the female plant.

This is why the production of feminized seeds has become such a big thing. Instead of leaving it to luck, you know the seeds you plant will produce female marijuana plants.

Regular seeds give you a 50% chance of either gender. If you plant ten seeds, for example, the laws of probability state that you may have five male plants. In this instance, you waste potentially half of your time and resources on male plants. This guide is for individuals who don’t want to pay extra for feminized seeds. Also, differentiating between male and female plants is a useful skill.

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Feminized seeds don’t offer a 100% success guarantee, either. If you are growing cannabis outdoors, there is a chance that male pollen could float over and all but ruin your female crops.

Sex Determination of a Cannabis Plant Is One of the Most Important Things in Growing

sAs we said, this article is for those who grow cannabis plants from seeds they pulled from their nugs. You will also find this guide useful if you have random seeds that you know are not feminized.

The old saying goes that “there is no stigma on a female clone for plants that look like marijuana,” and this rings true even to this day.

When growing indoors, you can’t go wrong with clones if you want to avoid the male weed plant altogether. They’re a little more fragile than seedlings (mainly because they don’t produce a strong taproot). However, for efficiency and “ease-of-use,” they’re typically your best bet. As long as they’re appropriately rooted, clones are pretty hard to screw up.

Also, they make sexing cannabis – and knowing how to tell if your plant is male or female before flowering – totally irrelevant. On the downside, clones are expensive. While there’s typically a big difference in cost for recreational or medical patients (MMJ cardholders usually get a 50% price reduction or thereabouts), you can expect to pay around $20-$30 for a single plant.

Is It Worth It? In Our Opinion, Definitely.

With a clone, you get to take a lot of guesswork out of the equation. As long as your growing operation is stable, you theoretically should know the exact type of yields you’ll get. Moreover, for one individual (unless you’re Snoop Dogg), a single plant will generally provide more than enough bud for a long, long time.

We’re fully aware that the majority of weed lovers in the U.S. don’t have access to a dispensary where they can buy a clone. Fortunately, many of the best grows in the world begin from seedlings. Please note that patience is essential when trying to identify male and female plants.

It takes years and years of experience. It is worth it because knowing what to look for in the pre-flower formation is often as important as merely removing males, in terms of overall yield quality.

EDITOR’S CHOICE – Homegrown CannabisCo

Homegrown CannabisCo are the masters when it comes to seeds. Offering a massive variety of cannabis seeds that are well categorized, not only does this company create a resource for superb quality options including feminized seeds, it also provides extensive growing information for those looking for some support along their journey.

Various Growing Stages of the Marijuana Crop

Marijuana has two primary growing stages; the vegetative stage and the flowering stage. The vegetative stage begins when the cannabis seed starts to sprout and grow. It lasts around six weeks. At that point, the plant displays signs of pre-flowering and will enter into the second (flowering) life stage.

Some individuals call the vegetative stage the “childhood” of the plant because the primary purpose of the crop during this time is to grow taller and stronger. It is not yet necessary for the crop to focus on yielding or flowering.

During the vegetative stage, it is incredibly challenging (if not impossible) to determine the gender of each plant. Therefore, a grower needs to wait until the signs of pre-flowering are visible, a sweet spot between the vegetative and flowering stages. Catching the males during this short period and separating them from the female crops could minimize many future problems.

Once the plant has gone through its childhood, it will then enter “adulthood,” otherwise known as the flowering stage. Now, the crop no longer focuses on getting any taller or thicker. Instead, its sole focus is to produce pistils and calyxes, otherwise known as buds. Male plants produce something called pollen sacs, which look like little peas and are easy to identify if you know what to look for.

How Can You Determine a Cannabis Plant’s Gender?

After the first six weeks, you will begin noticing little pre-flowers near the growth tips. They will either appear slightly pointed at the ends or more rounded. With some strains, it is more challenging to see a difference right away. A female plant will have a calyx – which is the slightly more pointed option. A male will have the aforementioned mini pollen sacs that are round or roughly oval.

If you cannot tell the difference yet, wait a few more days. If the green pre-flower grows a white hair, known as a pistil, it is female. Pistils are never green in color, so look for something light-colored and fuzzy.

Females typically take a bit longer to express their gender than the male cannabis plant does. As a result, be patient with your crops and regularly check them so you can manage any males in the bunch accordingly.

The male plant’s “little green balls” will continue to grow larger, filling up with more pollen until they eventually burst and leak pollen everywhere. You need to catch the male before this happens, as the spread of pollen will fertilize the females. At this point, their buds will stop developing.

Male vs. Female Marijuana Plants – A Quick Rundown

  • Female crops have pointed green calyxes that sprout a white and wispy pistil – a hair-like part of the plant that grows from the calyx.
  • Male crops have round, green pollen sacs that enlarge and don’t sprout a white, wispy pistil. Catch these sacs before they overfill with pollen, burst, and contaminate your crop!

In adverse situations (i.e., if the plants are stressed or hungry), portions of a crop can become hermaphroditic. This means they develop both male and female characteristics to self-pollinate and reproduce. It is not the end of the world for those that are growing for personal use because you can still produce buds. The downside is that you receive a far lower concentration of resin.

It is a potentially catastrophic situation for commercial growers, however, as hermaphrodites (or “herms,” as some people call them), are full of seeds and not sellable or desired. Just keep in mind that the male cannabis crop is not entirely useless; a fact we discuss in the next section.

What Can You Do with a Male Cannabis Plant?

Despite their reputation, a male crop is not as hopeless as many may think. Sure, these crops are not as potent as female crops in terms of their THC production, but they contain their fair share of cannabinoids. As some of the sugar leaves are slightly resinous, you can potentially enjoy a mild high too.

If you want an all-female crop, remove the male plants from the females once identified. Then, separate them to reduce the risk of contamination.

While some growers want to dump these plants, there are some non-bud related uses for the male cannabis plant. You can use the stems and water leaves for juicing and teas. It is also possible to process male plant parts into material for therapeutic creams and lotions.

If you do not feel inclined to produce anything with the male plants, the easiest option is to compost the remains. This reduces waste production, is more environmentally friendly, and potentially provides nutrition for your future crops.

Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants and How to Detect Them

Until now, we have not talked much about hermaphrodite cannabis plants in our little “plant sex” discussion. A hermaphrodite is a plant that has both male and female reproductive parts. An example is a female marijuana plant that can produce both flowering buds and male pollen sacs. Hermaphrodites are just as “dangerous” as male plants because they can pollinate an entire female crop.

What a lot of people don’t realize, however, is that these unique plants only become hermaphroditic when exposed to unusual stress or damage. There are loads of different ways that an otherwise healthy female weed plant can grow stressed or damaged.

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From left to right: Male, Female, and Hermie

Excess heat, for example (i.e., prolonged temperatures above 88 degrees Fahrenheit) can undoubtedly cause a plant to become stressed. So can excess cold (i.e. prolonged temperatures below about 55 degrees) and “light leaks” that expose plants to excessive levels of light energy.

Physical damage can also cause a female plant to develop male characteristics. Examples include exposure to high winds and breaking a limb off. You can add intruders such as dogs, deer, and other animals to the list of dangers. Even excess amounts of rain can cause marijuana plants to become hermaphroditic.

Over-saturation is one of the leading causes of female and male crop failure among all levels of growers. It can lead to root disease. Make sure you only water your plants when necessary, and remove any stressed plants you find. Check the drainage of your growing medium, and that the plant’s container has ample holes in it.

Two Types of Hermaphrodite Plants

There are plants that develop both flowering buds and male pollen sacs, and those that produce anthers, otherwise known as “bananas.”

While both of these varieties can release pollen and potentially fertilize an entire female crop, they differ in the way that they form and store the pollen. True hermaphrodites will grow actual pollen sacs (just like mature male marijuana plants). Antler-producing “herms” will produce what is essentially a pollen-producing stamen.

Lastly, it’s important to point out that some low-quality marijuana strains will “herm out,” no matter how much care and love you put into them. This is usually down to poor genetics, so don’t get too upset with yourself if it happens.

Male pollination is no joke! A single pollen sac is incredibly potent, and can potentially pollinate dozens of females from hundreds of feet away. In other words, hermaphrodite plants won’t affect portions of your garden; they will pollinate the whole darn thing.

What Happens When You DON’T Know How to Tell If a Marijuana Plant Is Male or Female

Before we conclude, we have to include a quick story of a good friend of ours that recently carried out his first grow. He was a total rookie and came to us with all the basic “first-timer” questions:

  • “How long does it take to get the buds?”
  • “How much weed will I get?”
  • “Can I smoke it straight off the plant?”

Anyway, after spending almost a month setting up his operation, he was ready to get started. He chose a lovely spot for an indoor grow, a nice walk-in closet (probably about 8 ft x 4 ft) that was easily sealed off from all external light sources. He even went to the trouble of “foiling out” the inside walls and installing an external ventilation fan to keep the temperature and humidity at optimal levels.

The first few weeks went perfectly, and he kept the seedlings in their vegetative state for almost an entire month (he was growing four plants in total). Finally, after several painstaking weeks of relentless love and care, he invited us for the “pleasurable chore” of helping him trim the buds. He was disappointed that one plant “didn’t produce any flowers at all.”

‘Oh no,’ we thought.

Sure enough, as soon as we got there, we saw that one of the plants in the closet – a tall, skinny sativa variety – had fully “hermed out.” It had pollinated the other three plants!

While he was pretty devastated, he chalked it up to a learning experience and vowed not to make the same mistake the next time around.

You can smoke buds that have seeds in them; it’s just that they are a royal pain in the ass to work with. Also, they don’t have nearly the flavor or quality that sinsemilla (non-seeded) buds do.

Female Plants vs. Male Cannabis Plants: Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this guide has helped you better understand the differences between male and female marijuana plants. A dream yield of healthy, robust female buds is the objective for nearly all growers. Learning the basics is the first step in becoming a master cannabis cultivator. One of these lessons involves spotting a pesky male marijuana plant from a mile away!

A male cannabis plant has very little value if your primary goal is producing potent nugs with high THC content. Male cannabis is, of course, crucial if you’re doing something like cross-breeding to develop a new strain, but in general, it’s 100% females that you want.

Please remember, the consumption of marijuana is the sole responsibility of the user.

EDITOR’S CHOICE – Homegrown CannabisCo

Homegrown CannabisCo are the masters when it comes to seeds. Offering a massive variety of cannabis seeds that are well categorized, not only does this company create a resource for superb quality options including feminized seeds, it also provides extensive growing information for those looking for some support along their journey.

Difference Between Male and Female Weed Seeds

Plants, like animals, have male and female varieties. The male plants produce pollen which pollinates the flowers of female plants. Flowers that have been pollinated produce seeds. Marijuana, or weed plants, are also either male or female.

Female marijuana weed plants that have not been pollinated are called “sinsemilla” or “without seeds.” The flowers are allowed to grow and develop to produce the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Weed seeds and plants are cultivated for this chemical. Since only the female weed seeds produce it, growers only cultivate male weed seeds for breeding otherwise they are harvested early to keep them from pollinating the female weed plants.

The sex of the male weed seeds or plants can be determined three weeks before the female weed seeds or plants which are planted at the same time. This is convenient since male weed seeds or plants must be harvested before they can pollinate the female seeds or plants and block their growth.

Male weed seeds or plants grow vertically and do not have as many branches and leaves as the female weed seeds or plants. This causes them to look frail and unhealthy. Instead of flowers they develop small buds that look like balls. These characteristic abnormal growths usually appear between the third and fourth internodes of the main stem of the plant. This is manifested at the start of the development of a male weed seed or plant’s sexual identity.

When female weed seeds or plants start to flower, hairs develop in abundance at the ends of their ramifications. This is not present in male weed seeds or plants. Female weed seeds or plants also develop V-shaped pistils at their flowering stage.

Some weed seeds also develop the sexual organs of the opposite sex. These are called hermaphrodites or “hermies.” Hermaphrodite female weed seeds develop staminate flowers or flowers that have stamens instead of pistils.

Hermaphrodite male weed seeds are not very common since they are not allowed to grow up to their point of ripening when the pistils show. It is important to watch out for hermaphrodites since they can release pollen that can ruin the crop.

They can pollinate themselves as well as the other female weed plants. They tend to pass on their sexual dispositions to their offspring so they are best eradicated. The sex of weed plants can be affected by many factors. Environmental conditions, weed seed age, lunar stages, and chemicals are known to influence the sex of the plants.

1.Female weed seeds or plants produce THC while male weed seeds or plants do not.
2.Female weed seeds or plants produce flowers while male weed seeds or plants produce small buds that look like balls.
3.Female weed seeds or plants develop V-shaped pistils at the start of their flowering stage while male weed seeds or plants do not.
4.Hairs appear on the ramifications of female weed seeds or plants which are absent in male weed seeds or plants.