Most of us aren’t science majors so that whole phenotype and genotype thing may be a distant high school memory. However, when it comes to cannabis, many people want to know more. Interactions between genes (genotypes) and the environment result in observable traits which are also known as phenotypes.
A genotype, on the other hand, simply refers to the genetic make-up of a living organism, so when an organism’s DNA interacts with the environment, the result is a phenotype. Is this all coming back to you? So, now that we’ve established a baseline understanding of phenotypes, what the heck do they have to do with marijuana?
Cannabis and Cross-breeding
Different types of marijuana grow naturally, but a discussion of phenotypes in regards to the cannabis plant typically refers to genes interacting with the controlled environment of cross-breeding. Growers choose which traits they prefer and cross-breed marijuana plants to optimize these traits with unique hybrids. This lets growers combine flavors, smells and effects to create unique strains of cannabis. Cross-breeding the plants creates a cycle where growers create new genotypes and phenotypes by crossing different phenotypes.
Users and growers most often identify sativa and indica as the most well known phenotypes of cannabis. In fact, there are far more. The distinction between sativa and indica refers to a leaf-size phenotype. Sativa has thin leaves and indica has thick leaves. The observable traits of marijuana plants differ in other ways, resulting in many more phenotypes. Leaves may be pointy or rounded and they may be colored green or purple. Buds may be thin or dense, they may be purple, green, or red, and their resin and THC levels may differ. Plants may smell differently, too. Some may be fruity with grape, berry or citrus smells, while others may smell not as pleasant.
Now that you know about phenotypes and genotypes, it’s time to start learning about strains.