Cannabis Strains: What Makes them Unique?

Every strain carries a unique genotype that serves as a blueprint for its growth, as well as a specific phenotype that is influenced by its environmental factors and affect a range of strain attributes like color, smell, structure, and potency.

Before cannabis was legalized, most people knew about only the cheap stuff. They would just take whatever their local “guy” had on hand. In fact, not many consumers knew the difference between Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa.

However, things are different now. With more and more states legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, customers are more discerning. They now have preferences for certain strains of marijuana. Now we have newer strains of cannabis, and users know the difference.

In this article, we will take a peek at what we mean by different strains of cannabis, and what makes them unique.

The Basic Landrace Strains

Most modern cannabis comes from three basic cannabis subspecies: Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis has been used for food, medicine, and fiber for thousands of years.

The three basic subspecies have traveled all over the world. Everyone knows that using cannabis Indica gives an uplifting experience, while cannabis Sativa has more of a calming effect. However, as cannabis has traveled to different regions of the world and is cultivated, there has been a change in the composition of the plants.

The cannabis plant is affected by the region and environment where it is cultivated. The earlier landrace subspecies were cultivated in the open regions of the Hindu Kush mountains to produce the Hindu Kush strain. This cannabis, from the resin-rich short Indica plants, was different from the cannabis obtained from the tall Sativa plants. 

The short Indica plants were found in between the latitudes 30 degrees and 50 fifty degrees. While the Sativa plants were found in the equatorial region at about 30 degrees latitude. The region where they grew, and the conditions gave these strains their distinct features. 

But, once these plants were cultivated in a different place under different conditions, it changed the flavor of the cannabis. The place and conditions where a plant is cultivated affect the feel and flavor of the cannabis. Now landrace strains have almost vanished. What we have now are strains that have adapted to local conditions as well as some hybrid strains.

Whereas the landrace strains grew outdoors, many newer strains are now grown indoors under controlled environments. These changes affect the characteristics of cannabis.

When grown indoors, the cannabis plants live in a controlled environment with soil, light, hydroponics. This affects the flavor and taste of the newer strains.

Factors Affecting the Cannabis Strains

Two factors affect the cannabis strain: the genotype and the phenotype.

The genotype refers to the genetic makeup of the cannabis plant. The genotype has information about the physical and growth traits of the plant. However, these traits are affected by the environment where the plant grows: for example, indoors or outdoors, the soils used, etc.

The phenotype refers to the actual physical traits of the plant. The phenotype affects the growth of the plant depending on the environment.

Both genotype and phenotype are affected by the environment and affect the growth of the plant. So, suppose a plant was grown outdoors in a warm climate and is now grow indoors in a controlled environment. In that case, it obviously will have different physical characteristics, and the resulting cannabis will taste and feel different.

How Indoor Cultivation and Hybridization has Modified Cannabis Strains

The landrace strains of cannabis were mainly grown outdoors in natural conditions. However, almost half of the cannabis consumed in the US is now cultivated indoors. This pattern started when it was still illegal to cultivate and consume marijuana. Most cultivators started underground or illegal cannabis farming in indoor situations.

This altered the taste and feel of cannabis. Now with the opening up of the cannabis market and the legalization of its use, cannabis is still grown indoors on a large scale.

Another factor that has affected the way we look at cannabis is hybridization. Many people wanted to get the best of the Indica and Sativa strains. Indica is known to produce an energetic high, while Sativa produces a calming effect. Some growers produced hybrid strains that combined the energetic effects of Indica with the calming effects of Sativa.

Some growers concentrated on the THC content of the cannabis plant rather than the CBD component. This has created different strains with varying degrees of THC and CBD.

However, other growers want to preserve the Indica and Sativa strains, albeit in different environmental conditions. This produces a mish-mash of different cannabis strains that have varying effects and properties. So when buying cannabis or cannabis products, keep these factors in mind.

If you want landrace varieties of Indica or Sativa, that may be difficult to find. At best, you will find the local versions of these landrace species.

If you prefer to use the new hybrid strains, check for what you want, a higher THC content to give you that high. Or a higher CBD content for the calming and medicinal effect. Or something in between. There are umpteen choices.


Cannabis comes from three main subspecies: Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis ruderalis. When these were grown naturally, they had a different flavor and feel. However, as cannabis was cultivated in different regions of the world, the composition and taste of marijuana also changed. The genotype and phenotype of the cannabis got modified based on the environment where it was cultivated.

Since most cannabis consumed these days is cultivated indoors, what we get are modified strains. This, coupled with the hybridization of cannabis to enhance certain characteristics, has produced a plethora of choices.

When selecting cannabis or related products, make sure to check that you are getting what you want.

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