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Research

How Do Weed Strains Change Over Time? Examining Phenotypes

Lemetria Whitehurst

by Lemetria Whitehurst

July 5, 2024 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Fact checked by Emily Mullins
How Do Weed Strains Change Over Time? Examining Phenotypes

Have you ever wondered why the same cannabis strain can sometimes look, smell, or feel different? Cannabis strains are more than just names. They each have unique effects and flavors that evolve over time. 

In this article, we will explore how these changes happen through something called phenotypes. 

Phenotypes are like a plant’s personality, shaped by both its genes and its growth environment. As we break down the phenotype concept, you’ll learn why your favorite strain today might be a little different next year and how this evolution can actually enhance your cannabis experience.

What Are Phenotypes?

Phenotypes are the traits we can see and measure in a plant, like its color, height, smell, and the effects it has. These traits come from a mix of the plant’s genetics (its DNA) and the environment where it grows. For example, two cannabis plants with the same genetics might look and act differently if one grows in a sunny place and the other in a shady spot. This mix of genetics and environment helps decide how the plant will turn out. In cannabis, phenotypes affect things like how strong the plant’s smell is, how much THC it has, and what it looks like.

The Genetics of Cannabis Strains

Cannabis genetics are like the plant’s blueprint. Each strain has a unique set of genes that make it special. These genes come from their parents, just like how we inherit traits from our parents. Breeders choose plants with the best traits, like a strong smell or a high amount of THC, and cross them to create new strains. 

This process is called selective breeding. Over time, this careful breeding helps develop new strains with specific traits that people want, making the world of cannabis a diversely fascinating one.

How Phenotypes Affect Cannabis Strains Over Time

Phenotypes can change significantly over many generations of cannabis plants. Each new generation might have small differences from the one before it. These changes occur because of several factors. The environment, such as the amount of sunlight, water, and nutrients a plant gets, can cause differences in phenotypes. Cultivation techniques, like how plants are pruned or the type of soil used, also play a big role. Additionally, genetic drift, which is the random change in a plant’s genes over time, can lead to new phenotypic traits.

Growers and breeders are crucial in this process. They carefully select plants with the most desirable traits to breed. For example, if a grower wants a strain with a stronger aroma or higher THC content, they will choose parent plants that exhibit these traits. By doing this, they can either maintain certain phenotypes or encourage new ones to develop. This selection process helps to improve the quality of cannabis over time, creating strains that are better suited to specific needs, such as medical use or recreational enjoyment. 

Case Study: Blue Dream

Blue Dream is one of the most popular cannabis strains, celebrated for its balanced effects that offer both relaxation and focus. Over the years, Blue Dream’s phenotypes have evolved. This means that Blue Dream grown in one place might look, smell, and feel different from Blue Dream grown somewhere else, even if it comes from the same genetic lineage.

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Originally, Blue Dream was known for its sweet, berry-like aroma and bright green buds with hints of blue and orange hairs. Its effects were typically balanced, providing a mix of euphoria and relaxation, making it suitable for both daytime and evening use. These early phenotypes were consistent, and people knew what to expect when they picked up Blue Dream.

However, as Blue Dream has been grown in various environments and selectively bred over time, new phenotypes have emerged. Today, you might find a Blue Dream phenotype with a more earthy or piney scent, reflecting different growing conditions or slight genetic variations. The appearance of the buds can also vary; some modern Blue Dream plants may have darker, denser buds, while others retain the original bright green and blue hues.

The effects can differ as well. While traditional Blue Dream was known for its balanced high, some current phenotypes might lean more towards an uplifting, energizing experience, making them ideal for daytime use. Others might be more sedative and relaxing, better suited for evening use. This diversity in phenotypes means that consumers can have different experiences with Blue Dream depending on the specific plant’s characteristics.

The Impact on Consumers

Changes in phenotypes can greatly affect the consumer experience. When a strain like Blue Dream has different phenotypes, it can look, smell, and feel different each time you try it. This means that even if you always buy Blue Dream, the effects might not always be the same. Since you can eventually build a tolerance to a favorite strain, this can be particularly beneficial. 

For example, if you need a strain to help with anxiety, you might look for a phenotype known for its calming effects. On the other hand, if you need energy and focus, you might choose a phenotype that is more uplifting. Knowing about phenotypes can help you find the right strain more quickly and avoid ones that don’t work well for you.

Here are some tips for identifying and selecting cannabis strains based on phenotypic traits:

  1. Smell: Pay attention to the aroma of the cannabis. Different scents can indicate different effects. For instance, a berry-like smell might be more relaxing, while a citrus scent might be more energizing.
  2. Appearance: Look at the color and structure of the buds. Darker, denser buds might have different effects than lighter, fluffier ones.
  3. Effects: Keep track of how different phenotypes make you feel. This can help you remember which traits work best for your needs.
  4. Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask your dispensary staff about the phenotypes of their strains. They can often provide valuable insights.

Identifying and understanding phenotypes will enable you to experience cannabis in a more consistent and satisfying way.

Final Thoughts

Phenotypes play a crucial role in shaping the unique traits of every life form, and cannabis is no exception. Over time, these physical characteristics can change due to various factors, resulting in diverse experiences even within the same strain. Recognizing the importance of phenotypes helps in choosing the right strain for specific effects or medical benefits, leading to a more personalized and enjoyable cannabis experience. As the world of cannabis continues to grow and evolve, staying informed about phenotypes will help you make the best choices and enjoy the full potential of this amazing plant.

Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.

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