Cannabis taxonomy revisited

I’m curious to know how many forum participants have read – or at least browsed through – ‘Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany’ by Robert C. Clarke and Mark D. Merlin. This book took 17 years to be completed and is obviously in the realm of being a textbook and research resource. It’s a dense read (even the type is textbook sized) and covers a remarkable range of cannabis related topics. One of the more interesting topics, and I’d say likely controversial, is the section on rethinking how cannabis species are described and categorized. Through their research Clarke and Merlin are now positing that Cannabis sativa ssp.sativa is strictly a fiber plant, no ‘drug plants’ fall under the sativa category (ssp. = subspecies). Further, they claim that only Cannabis indica species produce the cannabinoids that are psycotropic. They delineate drug producing indicas into Cannabis indica ssp. indica and Cannabis indica ssp. afghanica. Even further categorized, Cannabis indica ssp. indica is deemed a narrow leafed drug plant (NLD) while C. indica ssp. afghanica is deemed a broad leafed drug plant (BLD). This would suggest that the sativas we’ve been describing all these decades are really C. indica ssp. indica plants. And the pure indicas really fall under C. indica ssp. afghanica. Clarke, in a somewhat amusing video, basically apologizes for this change up and admits that it’s unlikely that cannabis culture will adopt these new designations. I agree, old school cannabis culture vernacular will likely never get away from the enduring sativa versus indica debate. Even though that discussion is quite likely technically inaccurate.

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I think, no matter how hard they try to get people to use their nomenclature for these plants, the lingo is the lingo. So, even though they say sativas are actually indicas & indicas are actually afghanicas, basically all they did was change names. They still subscribe to the theory of sativa & indica, as we know them, they just want taxonomical labels changed. At least they understand that the labels probably won’t be changed anytime soon.


I was just reading this. Very interesting but i got almost the same conclusion betty. Basically moved hemp to sativa. And sativa to indica. Ect. All worth a nice :thinking::thinking::thinking:


It’s only funny to me b/c humans name these things to begin with. We make up these names, then say those made up names are wrong, but these made up names are correct, while what’s behind the names hasn’t actually changed.

A rose is a rose is a rose, right? No matter the name we give it, it is what it is. Period. :grinning:


I had a funny conversation with a friend of mine about this rethinking of describing cannabis plants. He said to me, “I beg to differ”. When I asked him based on what, he said “We just always called pot plants with narrow leaves sativas and plants with broad leaves indicas”. And I said, “Exactly, we just called them that, not based on any real genetic knowledge of the plants”. We laughed at that but both admitted nothing would change (we both go back to the early '70’s with respect to our earliest ‘marijuana’ experiences :smile:). It should be noted that Clarke and Merlin cite research earlier than theirs that point to what their claiming now. This kind of stuff likely resides largely in the realm of nerdy botany stuff and doesn’t reach beyond that world. This actually falls in line with recent genetic research into Lamb’s Bread, thought to be a ‘pure’ sativa from Jamaica. Turns out that that cultivar has much more in common with indicas from Afghanistan than any other so-called sativas. BTW, I don’t think Clarke and Merlin are ‘moving’ these plants anywhere, just attempting to place them where their genetics dictates.

Still, nothing will change, the long held vernacular descriptions will endure, probably forever :slightly_smiling_face:


Nerdy or not. Its cool as heck. :+1:t5: Also have thought a few 100% sativas have alot more indica traits then advertised. And as more cbd strains are being bred. Do we categorize them again in 15 years?

Also on a nerd botany binge. I often highly contemplate the other possible cannaboids and their… possible effects. Have been meaning to look into it but ima lazy googler. :joy:

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I agree that the nerdy stuff is “cool as heck”. I’ve been a plant growing fan for long time – chile peppers, orchids, mango trees, hummingbird attracting native plants, cannabis (ahem), etc., etc. I used to give talks to homeowners on how to attract pollinators (butterflies, hummingbirds, bees) to their yards. Invariably, someone would ask me, “What do think of hummingbird bush?” I’d then ask, “Which one? There are at least 30 plants that match that description…” :wink:. So I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to specifics. Nerdy, yes, and I’m sticking with it :grinning:.

As any good scientist/researchers should concede, Clarke and Merlin suggest that their research might be taken and expanded upon, resulting in conclusions that actually could alter/upend their claims (a rigid guarded scientist is not really a scientist, just an insecure, self-protective careerist). So, yes, classifications could change as more data is collected and analyzed.

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And thus history repeats itself!

I need pollinators. Preferably pretty humming ones :joy::joy::joy:. But yes. What are a few good plants i can possibly start this year in anticipation for or early next year to help?

My father always had a garden at our family home when i was younger. Usually tomatoes and loads of chili peppers. Onions and potatoes as he expanded. Now we live in the downtown area of the largest city of my country a** state. But always have a nice yard. My mother got into the gardening as i got to high school. (AKA i carried and laid mulch and stones and mixed dirt) :joy::joy: but this spring was my first year were the bug has actually biten me. Problem is a few of my fruits never got to bare fruit. Watermelon and cucumbers were easy enough. Many of the flowers i spread around even crossbred and i have some pink bushy things with orange sunflower blooms 6 inchs above them. Its crazy. But i could definitely use a natural… boost.

Okay, can you give me a general idea of what part of the country you live in (assuming it’s the US)? If you’d rather not do that, check with any local native plant nurseries and ask them what plants help attract butterflies/hummingbirds/bees. They should have a good list of plants that are easy to care for in your area. Definitely stick with natives or very well adapted non-natives. Bees in the US are in trouble these days. Plants that attract them and feed them will be good for them and any garden vegetables you’re growing that require bee pollination to bear fruit. And, very importantly, nix any and all pesticide and herbicide use. Hardy native plants in your area shouldn’t need them anyway.

Gulf Coast area and i dont pesticide/herbicide. Recently i sprinkled a bit of de around them. But that was after i realized it was too late in the season anyway. Figured :man_shrugging:t5: Protect what i have. I guess that makes sense to ask the folks in the know. Just didnt cross my mind to add things they would naturally be drawn too. Seems common sense now

Alright, the US Gulf Coast encompasses about 1600 miles :sunglasses:. But you’re in luck, there are many, many plants that will suffice for what you’re looking to accomplish. Right off the top of my head, Hamelia patens (firebush) is a great butterfly/hummingbird plant (but not so much for bees). But depending on exactly where you’re located, there are likely a host of options available to you. And depending on how close to the coast you live, salt tolerance might come into play. So, I’d really suggest visiting a local native plant nursery and let them help you with available choices. I have to say, one of the coolest things to do is to landscape with plants that are attractive to local and migrating pollinators (birds too). Once you do this, you’re entire outdoor surroundings just comes alive with activity. It’s a simple pleasure to observe, but so rewarding. Have fun.

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This might answer some of the questions that arose as I researched the history of Cannabis. The theory is that Indica landrace strains came to Jamaica, South America and Mexico from the Afghanistan area and then a whole new set of landrace strains (Sativa) were created (Panama Red, Columbian Gold, Jamaican, Thai stick, Maui Wowie). Are they a whole new Species (Subspecies?) Probably not.

They are probably all Indica but the growers selected for bigger/taller plants for more yield. Slimmer leaves worked better in those growing areas.

This is my first grow (in about 35 years, Humboldt!) but my 5 Master Kush show a wide variety of bulk and leaf width (some wide which you would expect from 95% Indica, but some very slender). I guess we’re all branches off one tree. Praise Jah!

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Interesting tid bit, but I don’t ever see it changing

Below is an image of a map in the book illustrating cannabis dispersal from the Old World to the New. It’s interesting that some of the earliest introductions were from Spain to the southern end of the Andes in 1545. There are many maps like this, including much earlier time frames of dispersal out of central Asia to parts of Europe. Accompanying text further explains the maps (BTW, NLH and BLH stands for narrow leaf and broad leaf hemp plants);

@howill I live in central IN and would love to attract hummingbirds

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U better believe im going for the gold next season. Squirrel feeders. Pollinator attractors. N the uber efficient gorilla grow veggie. OKRA

I put out hummingbird feeders and ears of corn had tons of finches, cardinals, and a few blue jays, squirrels and tons of tomatoes but I don’t have a fruits as I literally just had to cut my pear tree due to Chinese beetles killed it just got mess finished cleaned up last night

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But next year we have already plotted out a nice sized garden area, I have to use grow bags as not to destroy yard, I can always replant grass. But I’m happy with what we have decdied to do. I’m also thinking about getting some 4 in pvc and ripping it in half to plant vertically as well just have to figure out how to build a teepee type stand to support it the way I want

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@Sirsmokes Take a look at the plant lists at this link:

I did a quick scan and would recommend these to start;
Campsis radicans (Trumpet Creeper)*
Locinera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle)
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed)
Manarda fisulosa (Wild Bergamot)
Aquilegia canadensis (Wild Columbine)
Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove Beardtongue)
Echinecea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

*warning about Campsis radicans – plant it against its own sturdy tall support. Do NOT plant it against a house wall, vine removal can damage brick, paint, etc.

There are other good resources at the Indiana Wildlife link above.

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