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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Genetics and Types of Cannabis Plants

Cannabis Sativa - Cannabis Indica
Did you ever wonder where the endless amount of different cannabis strains come from? How can the coffee shop in Amsterdam offer 40 different types of weed?
Well, let´s start in the nature. Natural cannabis is divided into 3 strains and this article will describe the differences between:

Cannabis Sativa

A type of Cannabis that grows tall plants, in the nature they are several meters high. Through special genetics they can grow up to 6 meters in height. But let´s get to the genetics and breeds later.
Cannabis Sativa is also known for its plant fibers, they are used to produce clothing and many other textiles. A while back it was even the biggest competitor for paper production, as it grows faster than trees and the harm to nature is close to zero. But somehow the paper industry went back to paper made out of trees and continued harvesting very large amounts of forests.

As drug or medicine the usage for Cannabis Sativa is quite limited, natural Cannabis Sativa has a low to medium THC content. Natural Cannabis Sativa often only produces 1-2% THC, in good conditions for THC production it can climb up to 5%, but not much more can be gained through it. Therefore the yield of female flowers is enormous. A single Cannabis Sativa plant can give 1,5 kg or even more, of dried flower material. Cannabis Sativa is naturally found in South and Central America.

Cannabis Indica

This is the natural strain pot smokers are looking for, as the name indicates, the plant has its home in India. There it grows in large fields in the wilderness. But even the wild growing plants can contain as much as 16% THC in the dried flower. For a European the large colonies of Cannabis Indica look like a coniferous forest. As especially the female plants look like a fir tree during the flowering period. The plants are far smaller than the ones of Cannabis Sativa, regular they have an average height of 1,5 meters, therefore they have a large amount of really huge leaves.

In opposite to Cannabis Sativa, the Cannabis Indica has a woodenly stem and is therefore not very useable in the textile industry.
But the people never tried to use it as source for cloth or similar, it has a very large history of consumption for religious ceremonies, as aid for meditation, as sleeping aid and many other medical or recreational purposes. In India Cannabis Indica is not only smoked in form of the dried female flowers, there are many more recipes using it in smoking mixes, incense, for eating or even as skin ointment.
The plant has a natural THC content so high, that there are even consumption methods of the big female leaves to create strong psychoactive effects.

Cannabis Ruderalis

A highly interesting plant, even if not for direct consumption. Cannabis Ruderalis can even grow in the hazardous regions of Siberia. It is a small, slow growing, woodenly plant, but extremely sturdy. Through its extremely slow growth, the woodenly stems and the low THC content, it never had a large position in any cultures. Still the plant had been used as medicine for similar reasons as Cannabis Indica. Now, this variation seems to be less interesting, but for generating new genetics and breeding new Cannabis strains, it is placed in a new focus now.
differences between Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica
Now that the natural variations are explained, most of you will see where this is going to. Similar like a human with light skin can have a baby with another human with dark skin, to become a baby with a coloring right between the parents, all Cannabis strains can be cross breed as well. So an easy example is, that you want a high yield with a good amount of active components, especially THC, than you could cross a Cannabis Sativa with a Cannabis Indica plant. The result would be a plant with an average THC content, right between Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa, while the plant would be larger than natural Cannabis Indica and therefore would offer a greater yield.

But that is just the lowest and easiest example, today there are strains which had been breed decades ago, which than had been breed with different strains all over again, so that nobody today can really say what plants had been taken part of it. Also the goals vary from breeder to breeder. Commercial breeders are mainly interested in high yields, therefore choosing strains with large yields, without taking much care about taste or content of active components. While other breeders are Cannabis consumers themselves and therefore don´t look for the high yield, but for a large amount of active components, a good smell and a very good taste.

cannabis strains - cannabis seeds
Now that we know which Cannabis types exist and how they are brought to life, we shall take a look at the plant itself. Cannabis is not only unique cause of its active components. The plant also uses different methods to survive than most other plants. Unlike most plants, Cannabis also has 2 genders, male and female.

The female plants build the highly demanded flowers, which are producing of resin. The resin contains the active components (THC, CBD,…), but the Cannabis flower produces so much resin to catch the male pollen when those reach maturity. If the female flower was able to catch some pollen from a male Cannabis plant, she stops the growth of the flower completely and also the production of resin is dropped to a minimum. The female Cannabis plant now starts to build cannabis seeds and therefore takes away a lot of energy from the resin production to the seed production. When the seeds are finished and ready to build new plants, the life cycle of the plant comes to an end. The female plant dies and the cannabis seeds fall to the floor, after they reached the earth and rain comes across, the life cycle begins again.

Now let´s have a look at the male Cannabis plants, their life cycle is a bit different, as they don´t have to wait for a pollination to fulfill their existence. The male Cannabis plant grows and also starts a form of flowering. But instead building flowers with resin, they start to build capsules with their pollen. This is also the reason why the male plants contain nearly none active components, cause they build now resinous flowers. When the plant reaches maturity, the pollen pods start to open and it looks a bit like a vibration is going through the plant. The vibration and winds are than transporting the pollen away to hopefully find a mature female plant. Breeders regular try to divide the male from the female plants as soon as possible, as the risk of pollination is too high. An early pollination of the female plants, could mean a massive loss of THC content in the Cannabis flowers, as well as dropping the yield to a minimum. After the loss of its pollen, the male Cannabis plant dies and again the life cycle begins again.

Though this mechanism the cannabis plant is not dependent from bees or other animals to survive in this world.
Now you know why Cannabis is a really unique plant in all ways and why you can buy 40 or more types of weed and hash in an Amsterdam coffee shop.

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