Genotype and phenotype

genotype and phenotype 12

The words genotype and phenotype are popular in the cannabis world

But what do the terms genotype and phenotype mean? You've probably already noticed that the same strains can taste different. As well as they have completely distinct effects on the user. Besides the cultivation techniques used this difference mainly comes from one thing: genetics. Of course, the environment where a marijuana plant would have grown, also has a decisive impact on the end result. Plants of the same strain can be different when grown by different people. That being said, genetics determine the potential of the plant. If the genetics are bad, even the best environment will not lead to a successful plant. Genetics and strains go hand in hand. Explanations:

Phenotypes vs genotypes

In genetics, there is a distinctive difference between genotype and phenotype. The genotype is the actual genetic code of any type of organism - man, the fruit fly, a marijuana plant, and so on. It describes how this organism will grow, or at least what the options are. From there, environmental conditions determine how the plant will actually turn.

Genotype and phenotype

The phenotype, on the other hand, is the physical expression of this genetic makeup. The phenotype is determined by the genotype, but there may be major differences in the phenotype when in fact the genotype is quite similar. The phenotype (physical expressions of genetics) can be affected by the environment in which the plant grows. Whether it's smell, taste, color, shape and potency, the phenotype works (especially when it comes to the amount of resin produced).

The landrace strains

To fully understand how the genetics of marijuana work, it's important to have a full understanding of how it all started. Marijuana is indeed an ancient plant, although its exact origins are not fully known. Throughout history he has global connections.

Genotype and phenotype
The path paced by hippies to the so-called place of origin in Central Asia

One of the earliest strains of cannabis came from Pakistan, particularly in the Hindu Kush region. Another evolved in the tropics of the world. These strains are considered to be among the best in the world. Largely because they have evolved naturally over thousands of years. Indeed, this is what makes them strong, robust and powerful plants. They are geared specifically towards survival in their particular environment. They are called landrace strains.

Genotype and phenotype
Location of the main LandRaces

In general, the strains (indicas and sativas) can be traced back to certain types of climates. For example, indicas, which are shorter and heavily resinous, have evolved in areas between 30 and 50 degrees latitude. On the other hand, Sativas, grow more slowly and are taller plants. And they like to move in areas close to the equator (30 degrees latitude).

Genotype and phenotype
Jamaican Landrace

Indoor marijuana cultivation

Indoor cultivation became popular in the 1970s and 1980s. This was due to government repression, which was putting increasing pressure on marijuana growers. Growers began to prepare for growing indoors, in a hidden and safer environment… Today, most of the marijuana on the market comes from these indoor growing environments.

Genotype and phenotype
Hydroponic Shop in Quimper

However, it is believed in some circles that this artificial growth environment is not ideal for cannabis plants. Under these conditions, they will never be able to reach their full potential. This is because phenotypes will only have a certain range of expression available. Because indoor strains are specifically bred for their THC level, to the detriment of CBD (for example). These marijuana plants really don't have the potential of their ancestors.

Genotype and phenotype
The Hindu-Kush mountains (Afghanistan and Pakistan), a difficult environment to master

The variety of indoor environmental factors will lead to large differences in phenotypic expression. These factors include temperature, humidity and lighting. As well as the type of growing medium, nutrients and when the plants are harvested. Even the inclination of the lights is to be taken into consideration.


From the moment people started growing their marijuana plants indoors, they started to hybridize their marijuana plants. The best genetic aspects of indicas and sativas have been aspired to be in one plant. Indicas have shorter flowering times and resin-cemented buds. While sativas have a more desirable effect on the marijuana user.

Genotype and phenotype
AK-47 is a masterpiece, and rightly so because it brings out the most favored traits of Sativa and Indica.

The producers wanted to have both, so they started to hybridize. Once this started to happen, the entire spectrum of phenotypic expression options was broadened. He no longer included either traits of sativa or traits of indica, but a full range of both. Sometimes genotypes and phenotypes come into play in an interesting way when hybridization occurs. For example, there are a number of strains that are genetically more sativa, but phenotypically they more closely resemble an indica. The hybridization of marijuana has actually changed the game when it comes to combining genetics.

The interaction of genotype, phenotype and environment

To help understand phenotypes and genotypes in clearer terms, perhaps the best way to explain these terms is to put them into an equation:

Genotype and phenotype

Genotype + environment + the interaction of genotype and environment = phenotype.

This equation shows that the phenotype is the result of the fact that the genotype and the environment interact. But if so, why are all plants unique to each other? The genotype is incredibly important in this equation. So there is no need to minimize it. This is one of the many misconceptions in the cannabis community. The truth is, genetics can make a huge difference in how plants turn out, too.

Genotype and phenotype
Since the advent of agriculture, seeds are the most important resource for humanity

People should especially not try to grow marijuana plants from seeds they have discovered on their plantation. Because of the importance of genetics and genotype, to do such things would simply doom the producer to failure. It is important to keep in mind that two genotypes will not be exactly the same. Even if you buy a batch of seeds from the same family, your plants will not be 100% identical.

Genotype and phenotype
The "real" twins, can only be clones (cuttings)

Think of them as siblings rather than identical twins. For this reason, in any batch of marijuana seeds there will be variations. And it doesn't matter how you keep their growing environment.


When it comes to the genetics of marijuana, it's hard to cover the topic without raising the topic of clones. Cloning is the only way to design a genotype that will be exactly the same as the mother plant. Even if you are raising two plants that have the perfect genetics for what you want to accomplish; there will always be additional variables.

Genotype and phenotype
Cut the best genetics possible

Cloning, however, involves copying the genes of a plant. Therefore, marijuana growers should clone their plants instead of ordering seeds. If you have a group of clones growing together and the environment is the same for everyone. You will end up with the same plant. But different environments, however, will lead to different results… (which can be a useful experience in its own way).

Tags : Agriculture/Growing
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Weed media broadcaster and communications manager specializing in legal cannabis. Do you know what they say? knowledge is power. Understand the science behind cannabis medicine, while staying up to date with the latest health related research, treatments and products. Stay up to date with the latest news and ideas on legalization, laws, political movements. Discover tips, tricks and how-to guides from the most seasoned growers on the planet as well as the latest research and findings from the scientific community on the medical qualities of cannabis.