🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur.
“What’s the best strain?” is a common question in the world of cannabis. The term “strain” has long been used to denote a specific variety of cannabis that includes unique traits that set it apart from other varieties. Certain varieties of cannabis produce a lot of resin, others not quite as much. Some varieties grow big, chunky flowers, while others grow more wispy buds. One of the best ways to tell different varieties of cannabis apart is by the way they smell, which is a signal of the specific terpene profile they exhibit. Cannabis plants are diverse, and no two varieties are the same.
But what exactly are these varieties anyways? Cannabis grows naturally in various regions across the world, and the plant has adapted to thrive in varied ecosystems. For example, cannabis plants that are native to geographies close to the equator will have different characteristics than plants that grow in high mountain regions.
The gene pool of plants that are native to equatorial regions are different from the gene pool of plants native to cooler, higher-altitude regions. And breeders have taken stock from each gene pool and bred plants that share combinations of these distinct genetics. This blending of various gene pools creates what we call “hybrids”. Most cannabis available on the market today is a hybrid, and the result of breeders’ work to mix the best of a variety of genetics into one single “strain” of cannabis plant.
But is “strain” really the best way to describe a unique set of cannabis genetics?
A strain is a genetic variant, a subtype within a biological species. Therefore, the term works when talking about various genetic expressions in a wide array of cannabis plants. Strain is correct, but it’s not the most accurate term. There’s a better way to denote varieties of the cannabis plant.
A cultivar is a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding. This is a much more accurate way to describe what takes place in cannabis today. A cannabis cultivar is a variety of the Cannabis plant that has been selectively bred to have specific characteristics or traits. It is a plant variety developed through controlled breeding techniques to produce plants with desirable traits, such as specific colors, shapes, aromas, or potency.
An example of a cultivar would be a particularly great phenotype of a certain hybrid cross, selected for cultivation and solventless extraction. For solventless production, a good cultivar would produce copious resin within trichome heads containing a resilient membrane to withstand the rigors of ice water extraction. The best cultivars for making solventless extracts also exhibit an exceptional terpene profile.
Breeders can select for these traits, and thereby develop holy grail cultivars for hash makers and rosin extractors.
In summary, a cannabis cultivar is a plant variety bred for certain traits. Referring to specific cannabis varieties as “strains” isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it’s not the most accurate or precise way to talk about them either. The term “cultivar” is more appropriate.
In the past, we’ve written about various “strains” of cannabis here on The Press Club blog. We resolved to elevate our terminology, and will use the term “cultivar” going forward. We challenge you to do the same, and keep pushing our industry to the next level of scientific standards.
Read more about the differences between cannabis varieties, and the evolution of how we classify them, in our article Myth-busting the Indica vs Sativa Distinction.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a strain?
A strain is a genetic variant, a subtype within a biological species.
What is a cultivar?
A cultivar is a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding.
Is saying “strain” or “cultivar” more appropriate for cannabis?
The term “cultivar” is more appropriate when referring to a variety of cannabis that’s been selectively bred to exhibit the most ideal qualities.
Is it incorrect to say “strain” when talking about cannabis varieties?
Referring to specific cannabis varieties as “strains” isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it’s not the most accurate or precise way to talk about them either. The term “cultivar” is more appropriate, since cultivars are specific to plant breeding.
Why is saying “strain” so common in cannabis?
The term “strain” has been used for decades, and it’s been effective in referring to specific varieties of cannabis that breeders created. It’s not necessarily incorrect, but the term “cultivar” is more accurate.