By Z. Scott

When discussing various types of cannabis, individuals commonly use the term strains. Although not incorrect, more precise terms exist to describe the nuanced characteristics of the plant. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most commonly confused words and provide insights into the distinctions between genotype and phenotype and introduce the concept of chemotypes, giving you the tools to set the record straight.

Let’s begin with the basics. A plant’s genetic make up is referred to as a genotype. The genotype is the DNA that carries the information needed for growth. The DNA acts like a blueprint for the cells to follow. The physical traits of the genotype are the plant’s phenotype. These are the expressions of color, structure, smell and resin production. The phenotypes are brought out by different environments. These variations of the plant expression are commonly referred to as phenotypic variants. These variants explain how the same cutting grown in two different places or by two different people will show different characteristics even though it is the same genotype.

Now lets add some vocabulary used commonly in college biology class, but a word that is rarely used in the canna community. Chemotype, see also: chemovar, is a term used to explain two plants from the same genus. These plants have the same parents, and appear to be almost identical in outward appearance. However, these same plants may have very different terpene profiles, internal chemical make ups, and ratios of cannabinoids. A prime example to display the variations in a plant’s chemotype, would be buying a few packs of the same seeds and growing them all out. Now, be objective, and observe the differences between the mature plants that you’ve grown. Test these unique flowers from the harvest with your favorite lab. The lab will give you a breakdown of all of the chemical compounds that are present. In the results you will find a multitude of different chemical profiles. These results confirm the differences of these chemotypes from their parent plants from the same genotype.

In a nutshell, this is an elegant example of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Small variations are expressed in different chemotypes of offspring from the parent plant, that over multiple and sometimes hundreds of breeding cycles, can produce the next OG Kush or Blueberry strain. Just another reason to keep exploring the gene pool of your favorite genotypes.