Two things influence the structural formation of any given cannabis plant: genetics and environment. The plant’s genetic makeup, also called a genotype, acts as a blueprint for growth: it allows a spectrum of physical possibilities, but it is up to the environment to induce these characteristics. The physical expression of a genotype is referred to as a phenotype, which is simply defined as the traits that the environment pulls out from the plant’s genetic code. Everything from color, shape, smell, and resin production are affected by the environment.
This guide to cannabis genetics will carry you through the evolution of the cannabis plant, from its antique beginnings through today’s modern cultivation. By the end of it, you will understand that there are indeed defining characteristics for every strain, but each plant is as special as a snowflake as it uniquely expresses genes according to its garden environment.
We see great variability in the plant’s phenotypic expression: nutrients, temperature, the amount and angle of light, soil type, photoperiod length, time of harvest, and the distance between the plant and light source are among the many conditions that affect the plant’s characteristics. Certain conditions may coax sativa- or indica-like traits, so as much as we love categorizing strains here at Leafly, we have to acknowledge that a strain’s traits are not necessarily set in genetic stone.
Because of hybridization, we have a virtually limitless selection of strains to choose from and even avid strain collectors will always have new hybrids to chase. Connoisseur-focused growers may mourn the loss of original cannabis genetics, but many still dedicate themselves to their resurrection. Not only would their revival make for a richer recreational market, ‘ancient’ strains could have a tremendous impact on marijuana as medicine. We hope that as political barriers fall over like dominoes, the horticultural art of cannabis cultivation will be able to bloom globally once again.