What’s the Deal With Phenotypes?


Well, put simply…

It isn’t just a buzzword. Rather, ‘phenotypes’ are the observable characteristic/s of any living thing. For cannabis, some of these traits include size, shape, colour, THC content, bud density, flavour and smell. When these traits come together, they form the myriad combinations and complexities that comprise the variety of strains. It’s the strain’s own combination of phenotypes that make it a unique experience for the user.

If you’ve smoked more than a few strains in your lifetime, you may be capable of discriminating the phenotype of the bud you’re smoking. If you can systematise this familiarity with the plant, you can begin to understand which traits you like, and which traits you dislike. For instance, if you prefer an energetic high, a pure sativa will carry that trait. If you’re wanting something more mellow, however, a pure indica will do the job.

Each and every strain is bred to express a specific combination of traits. These traits are found within the parents’ genetic material. The unique gene makeup, or ‘genotype’, allows strains to be stabilised and grown repeatedly. Strains with distinct flavours, such as Bubble Gum and Blueberry, are the fruits of these selective breeding processes based upon a human understanding of phenotypes.

Variation in Phenotypes

Mutations during reproduction can lead to notable variations in the phenotypes that emerge from breeding. Making phenotypes distinct can be helpful for stoners; it gives us an opportunity for awareness around whether any genetic variation has occurred. It also helps us identify whether we are getting what we paid for.

An example of this genetic variance is pictured above. All 6 buds are supposed to be ‘Girl Scout Cookies’, but all have significant phenotypical variations. This is primarily due to the conditions of their development; buds 1, 2 and 3 were grown indoors, whereas buds 4, 5, and 6 were grown outdoors.

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If you’re interested in the phenotypical nuances of growing outdoors (bush) vs indoors (hydro), check out our article on just that. But safe to say, it’s usually the environment that engenders these phenotypical variances. Where and when the plant was grown, the conditions of the soil, the fertilisers used, along with the light and water source, all affect the development of the plant.

In the end, whether your bud is totally fire (or not) is all about the process that underlies it. The characteristics that emerge from that process are not only a result of the plant’s genetic material, but the life conditions that it existed under prior to its harvest.

So, good luck – and happy planting.




Mitch Keys is a young writer from Brisbane, Australia unfolding in a dynamic process of becoming (like everyone else, so don’t go thinking he’s special or anything). He likes being alive.


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[…] the end, whether your bud is totally fire or not is all about the process that underlies it. Phenotypes can vary pretty significantly when you place an identical strain under varied conditions. It’s not just light and water, either. Equally integral to its development is where and when […]

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[…] no tar or burnt plant matter to worry about. A vaporiser can really help you appreciate the myriad phenotypes and terpenoids that help characterise your plant. Thanks to the aid of new technology, nuances of […]


[…] can bring out the detailed flavours and qualities of your bud. With a vaporiser, the myriad phenotypes and terpenoids which make your bud so uniquely tasty can be fully […]

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