Seeds of the same strain can produce different looking plants. These are called phenotypes, and to solve the problem, you must pheno-hunt. We show you how. The marijuana seed can be both inspiring and intimidating. Check out our guide to cannabis seeds before you start your first grow.
Why Seeds of the same Strain produce Different looking plants
Did you pop a bunch of seeds of the same strain, and yet every single one was different? Did you wonder if you did something wrong, or maybe the seed bank ripped you off?
Most likely, the truth is that you did nothing wrong, and the seed bank did not rip you off. Instead, you are looking at the phenotypic variety that can be expressed by the cannabis strain you selected.
What is phenotypic variety? Well in this article, we will explain how there can be variances among plants of the same strain. Before you select and maintain a mother for cloning, you must first ensure you have selected the right phenotype.
Growing from Seed can result in a lot of variation among your plants.
In this section, we will discuss how seeds produce different phenotypes. Later will discuss how to apply pheno hunting to your growing practices.
Seeds are the Children of Mother and Father plants
The act of breeding cannabis involves taking pollen from a male and fertilizing the female plant. This sexual conception will yield offspring that share traits of both the mother and the father. This is how new strain varieties are created.
The offspring of two plants should represent the traits of those two plants. But will it represent those traits equally? Or will it be dominated by traits of the father? Or the mother?
If there are multiple offspring, will they all share these traits equally?
Each Seed is a different Phenotype of the same Cultivar, Strain Variety
The concept of phenotypic variety is easy to understand when you consider that most brothers and sisters are both alike but different.
Your mom and dad had kids, and their kids were all different. Sure, there are similarities among all of them, but they are all different in one way or another.
Sometimes the differences among offspring can be stark. And sometimes, two parents had a group of kids, and they are turned out pretty similar. That happens too.
And the same thing happens with cannabis. Every seed from a cannabis plant represents both the parent strain as well as its own unique identity.
Genotype vs. Phenotype
If we are to take the scientific language of biology and translate into cannabis, it goes a little something like this:
- Genotype is the strain itself.
- Phenotype is one individual version of the strain.
The genotype is the family name, say the “Smith Family.” John Smith and Pocahontas came together and formed the Smith family. The descendants that come thereafter will share the name “Smith” and will be members of the “Smith family,” but each will be a different phenotype with his or her own unique differences, along with shared similarities.
Why are there so many differences between phenotypes
There are several reasons why phenotypes can express differently. The first point we have already covered. The seeds of a cannabis plant are like children, and they will all have unique individual differences while sharing general similarities. There are other reasons, though.
One is that newer strains tend to have greater variation. This is because the breeder could have put the strain out even though it was a first generation.
Strains become more stable when they are replicated for many generations, but this takes years.
When a breeder crosses a male and female, and gets seeds, that is merely one generation. The seeds from this cross would be considered F1.
If the breeder were to pop those seeds, select a male and a female, and cross those two phenos, then we would have an F2. That is because we took seeds of the same strain, and crossed them again.
Anything less than an F1 will have great variation. But an F2 will not be as stable as an F3, and so on.
How Phenotyping applies to Cannabis Cultivation
At Smokey Okies, we popped a couple dozen seeds of Banana Cake. This strain was created by In-House Genetics, and crossed Seed Junky’s Wedding Cake with Banana OG.
We had a lot of phenos but we only kept two. Banana Cake #1 is a funky green pheno, and Banana Cake #2 is a deep, dark purple pheno with a sweeter nose.
Banana Cake #2, the purple pheno
Two seeds from the same parents and the outcomes are wildly different. See below for a picture of each pheno.
Another example is California Dream. See the side by side of these two phenos. One was an ugly plant that had massive yields. The other pheno was lighter on the yields, yet had a darker hue, with a nice contrast between purple and the orange pistils.
You see, if we would have just planted these seeds, and then cloned off of each of them, we would have 24 different phenos of the same strain. This means that each pound that we weigh out would look different. Further, because most plants don’t yield more than a quarter pound, each of our bags would contain many different phenos. It would look like a mess. There would be no consistency bud to bud, and the bag appeal would be lost.
But not only that, the other problem with combining multiple phenos is that these are basically different strains, to an extent. They all have different THC and terp profiles, and therefore they can taste and smell different.
Pheno hunting brings consistency to all aspects of cultivation.
First, it brings consistency to the end product. Mixed phenos do not have the same bag appeal as a clean crisp bag of uber consistent nugs.
Second, your cultivation practices will be streamlined by only dealing with one pheno. That’s because phenos can grow differently – taller, shorter, wider, etc.
That means that if you have a table full of California Dream, you want to run an even canopy. You want to string trellis along the top of a proper looking plants. When you have multiple phenos, it’s like having a dozen different strains all growing differently.
Lastly, pheno hunting — the act of collecting data and numbering your strains – allows you to know what you’re really working with. If you are not tracking your phenos, then you will always be dealing with question marks. Everything will be different all the time and you won’t know if it’s something you did or if it was because of the pheno.
In our next article, we will show you how to implement phenotyping into your growing practices. Until then, rest assured that you did nothing wrong to create this outcome of wildly different plants. It is a part of the nature of the plant.
However, if you are wanting to seize greater control over the outcome – what farmer doesn’t? – then you must implement phenotyping and pheno hunting.
Cannabis Seeds 101: Your Intro Guide To The Marijuana Seed
If you’re thinking about diving into the world of growing, why not start from the ground up? Here’s an introduction course to cannabis seeds.
If you’re a wannabe pot grower, you need to be an expert on all things cannabis seeds. This knowledge needs to be gained before you even purchase your first marijuana seed in order to ensure a successful grow. While we’ve given guides on how to begin the plant process and how to see it through to a bountiful harvest, you may be seeking more information about the seed itself. And so, without further ado, here’s our intro course to cannabis seeds.
Basic Plant Biology
To put it in the most basic terms, a seed is a plant that is in its embryonic stage. Like animals, plants reproduce by, well, reproduction. The process actually isn’t totally dissimilar from that of animals. In order to produce a seed, a plant’s ovule (like an ovum, or egg) needs to be fertilized by pollen (similar to sperm).
Once the ovule is fertilized by the pollen, a seed is formed. Like an embryo, a seed contains a wealth of genetic material. Inside that one tiny object is the future of the organism. And like animals, the fate and final outcome of the seed is almost entirely dependent on how you treat it in its early stages of development. Here’s how to set up your baby, er, cannabis plant, for health and success.
How To Germinate Cannabis Seeds
Before you plant your seeds, you’re going to want to germinate them. What is germination? It’s basically a process by which seeds become hydrated. When they are hydrated, the enzymes in them become activated and ready to grow. When a seed is properly and completely germinated, the beginning of a root emerges from the seed’s shell.
So how do you germinate your cannabis seeds? First, you have to determine whether or not your seed is even viable. According to the experts, an ideal marijuana seed should be dark in color with black stripes. If you have seeds that look like that, great! Germination should be successful. There are a few methods of germination, but the easiest one is the paper towel method. Simply put your seeds between two damp paper towels on top of a flat surface, like a tray, and keep that on top of a warm surface. A root should break through the seed in just a few days.
If a root isn’t showing up in the expected time, you may need to stick it in some water for a day or so. This will help soften up the exterior of the shell and make it easier for the root to emerge.
What is a Feminized Marijuana Seed?
You may have heard the term “feminized marijuana seed”. But do you know what it means? According to our very own cannabis strain expert, Danny Danko, “feminized seeds are the result of using “male” pollen from a hermaphroditic plant to fertilize a female flower, resulting in plants that can be female or hermaphrodites but never males.”
Are Cannabis Seeds Legal?
Okay, so now you know the basics of what seeds are and how to begin the planting process. Feeling inspired and planning your grow operation already? Great! But first thing’s first. You have to buy some. But where? Since cannabis is federally illegal, surely the embryonic form of cannabis is prohibited as well, right? Not necessarily. If you reside in a state with either legal recreational weed or a medical marijuana program, chances are, you will be able to purchase seeds without any issue. However, some medical marijuana programs do not allow the purchase or possession of cannabis seeds for home growing. So make sure you do your research regarding your state’s medical marijuana program or recreational cannabis laws.
Buying A Marijuana Seed Supply
Once you’ve done your research and you have determined that yes, buying cannabis seeds is totally legal, the next step is to actually make your purchase. So where do you buy them? More to the point, where do you buy quality seeds? Your best bet is making the purchase at your dispensary. You’ll have the peace of mind knowing that your seeds will be high quality. And if you need guidance on what kind of seeds to buy (ie what strain would work well in whatever environment or climate you live in), the people working in the dispensary should be able to help you out.
It might be tempting to buy your seeds online. You’ve probably seen ads for websites claiming to sell superior seeds at an attractively low price. We strongly recommend that you do not fall into this trap. As with many things, keep the motto “buyer beware” in mind. Purchasing anything online has its risks. But cannabis seeds are particularly tricky because of the federal prohibition. Where you buy your seeds is ultimately up to you. But we recommend that you make your purchase at a dispensary or a trusted friend or colleague.
Storing Your Seed
Once you determine the legality of cannabis seeds in your state, have figured out what kind of cannabis you want to grow and have purchased your marijuana seed of choice, what’s next? You’re going to have to store your seed. But what is the optimal way to do this?
It is ideal to store them before germination. To do this, you’ll need an airtight container that is either opaque or dark colored. Keep your marijuana seed in this container and then store the container in a cool, dry and dark area. To ensure absolute dryness, some cannabis growers like to stick one or two packets of food-grade desiccants in the container as well. If those kinds of chemicals scare you, however, some dry rice to soak up any potential moisture can work too.
Final Hit: What Do You Do With Your Cannabis Seeds?
So what do you once your seed supply is successfully germinated? It may just be time to plant it and begin the next phase of your cannabis grow process! This next phase involves choosing the right growing medium for your needs, the right environment (like a grow box or greenhouse) and the best grow lights (if you’re growing indoors) to ensure healthy plants.