Cannabis is one of the most diverse plant species known to man, so how can you know how to choose consistent cannabis? The plant’s diversity is caused by its ability to easily adapt to its environment. Cannabis can be found on all continents, excluding Antarctica. These cannabis varieties from all around the world can interbreed creating hybrids that have a greater spread of differences in the gene pool than their parents alone. Each subspecies produces unique flowers that have been shaped both genetically and by their environment. In the wild, each variety is shaped by the weather, land, and amount of daylight; with the most hearty or resistant plants moving on to create the next generation. This creates a bottleneck effect that causes uniformity in the gene pool. These strains are known as Landraces, and are very rare in our current market.
Today you are more likely to find a variety of marijuana that has been grown or cultivated exclusively for resin or flower production. These hybrids have been created by decades of combining wild or “landrace” strains and selecting the plants that best suit their new environment, these new combinations are much more varied plant to plant both physically and chemically. This has resulted in an endless array of cannabis that is now becoming available to people across the united states, and further more the world.
Over the last few decades many hybrids have been grown and saved because of their outstanding genetics, whether in seed form or by cloning. Cannabis, like apples, is cloned ensuring that the best final product is available to be widely farmed and mass produced. The term “clone only” is to refer to a plant that is not available in seed form. Blue dream, Girl Scout Cookies, SFV OG, and Sour Diesel would be good examples of clone only strains. A clone only strain should be consistent when grown by different people in different environments, but it can look different based on a few negative environmental factors. Finding out if a strain is a clone is only the first step to finding a strain with consistent effects. Some of the characteristics we experience in our herb are not natural to cannabis, these can effect our flowers potency as well as result in harm to your health if frequently ingested, like mold. It is important to know what you’re smoking to avoid these common problems.
How can I spot Mold?
The flower shown above has severe botrytis also known as bot or bud rot. This is a very common mold often found in larger and denser flowers.
The flower shown above has patches of powder mildew on it, a common white mold. You can tell powder mildew from the trichomes by its solid white coloration, and also by its web like appearance under a microscope.
Cannabis can often have mold on the buds hiding at the base of the stems or remaining on the leaves and flowers themselves. Be aware of any white residue on the leaves themselves as this could be powder mildew. Also be aware of any dying or decaying material in your flowers as this is botrytis, a very common bud mold. These molds can be very difficult to see. If you have a magnification device look for fuzzy hair-like structures on the flowers, these would indicate that there is mold present. A magnification loop would also help you become aware of any bugs that may be present, severe damage caused by mites can look like bud rot but can be much worse as the presence of mites also is an indicator that the flowers may have been also sprayed with chemicals close to harvest.
How do I know if my flowers are mature?
Shown above are premature cannabis flowers. You can tell these flowers are premature by their shrunken bracts and leafy appearance. Premature flowers have lower percentages of THC and other cannabinoids, as well as less resin produced leading to a weaker high when ingested.
Some familiar flowers can look weak and wispy. These weaker bud formations are premature, the small calyxes have yet to swell nor have the resin glands making this bud much lesser than its potential. If you are getting a clone only strain and notice a change in outside appearance the amount of time of flower is most likely to blame. Keep in mind that your bud should have swollen flowers when fully mature, the resin glands will also mature and you can see a change of coloration when magnified as the resin glands move from clear to milky to amber. This change of coloration can also be seen without magnification on the hairs or pistils, as they change from white to more autumn colors like red and orange.
The flowers pictured above are fully ripe. You can tell this by observing their deep orange hairs and swollen bracts. If you were to look under a microscopic loop you would see that the trichome glands are fully swollen as well and beginning to turn amber.
If you intend to grow marijuana, you must first chose a planting medium. Cannabis prefers an aerated substrate, but can grow in most any condition. It is most commonly cultivated in a nutrient rich soil or “super soil,” that if mixed properly has all the required nutrients that the plant needs during its life cycle. As a seedling ages it requires more nutrients, some soil mixtures can contain too much food for young plants causing nutrient burn or worse, death. Some common super soil mixtures are Fox Farms Ocean Forest, Black Gold basement mix and Happy frog. These soils can be mixed with the following soilless options to reduce the nutrient content and improve aeration. the term “Soilless” is to refer to the lack of nutrients contained in the medium, requiring you to add nutrients to your water before using that water on your plants. Coco Coir, Peat Moss, Hydroton and Rockwool are common types of soilless mediums. There are organic soil options like compost that contain beneficial bacteria that will increase root growth as well as help produce essential hormones and antibodies. I prefer to plant my seedlings in a mix of compost:HP Pro mix at a 1:4 ratio.
Shown above are two plants suffering from nutrient burn, you can see the leaves have began to brown at the tips. If left untreated, this burning will envelop the entire leaf and eventually the plant as well.
Choosing a Container
It is important to have your medium prepared and in containers before handling your newly germinated plants, you should also have some water prepared at just above room temperature. When choosing a container it is best to keep the size below 1 gallon to help establish a healthy rootball. Without a thick cluster of starting roots your plant may have difficulty building root mass in the future. I prepare my containers half full so that I can back fill each one to reduce seedling stretch after the first few days of growth. Now using your finger produce an indented hole 1 inch deep on the soils surface that each seedling can call home.
Your seedlings should look like those pictured above. Each root or radicle long enough to begin to take hold into your new medium.
You should have your seedlings germinated and awaiting transplant into their first containers. Care must be taken when handling each radicle to ensure that this fragile taproot is not bruised, crushed or broken. Make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before hand or wear gloves during this process as the oils on your hands can damage the fine root hairs. These hairs are what uptake water and nutrients from your medium and are essential to plant development. With this in mind begin moving each seedling to their new homes.
Gently cover each seedling with your soil mixture then lightly water making sure there is little to no run off. There should not be much soil covering the top of each seedling to ensure a fast start once watered. The top 1-2 inches of soil should be kept moist for the first week to ensure that the root hairs are at optimal health. If the seedling is planted too deep, or if the medium is kept to wet, the seedling can dampen off and die before or just after breaking the soils surface. (source icmag.com – after back filling your pot your seedling should have enough room to grow unhindered for the next few weeks.)
A seedling requires less light than it’s massive adult counterparts. and can actually be harmed by light if it is too intense. The same can be said for the reverse of this, not enough light can lead to spindly weak seedlings that do not want to branch or flower properly. It is best to keep these babies out of full light until they develop their first or second set of true leaves, You will be able to tell if your plants are at optimal health and light levels if they are beginning to grow their terminal branches during the first week. After the first set of true leaves develop I make sure to back fill the rest of my container with my soil mixture buying the elongated stem of the seedling making the first set of true leaves the new base of the plant. The seedling will grow roots into the new top portion of the pot and also has the added benefit of reducing the stem stretch of your new plant keeping its first set of branches low to the ground.
Above: Seedlings just starting their first true set of leaves. these will be ready to back fill in a few days
Above: A plant after its pot has been filled completely with dirt. it is ready to be topped and put into a larger pot for an extended vegetation period commonly refereed to as “Veg” In Part 3 of this series, we will begin to discuss the required care of a plant to reach adulthood before flowering after germination, types of seedling varieties (Autoflowering, feminized, regular), and genetic mutations and other common deficiencies.
The Charlotte’s Web strain of cannabis is named after an American girl, Charlotte Figi. She developed Dravet syndrome (also known as severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy) as a baby. By age three, Figi was severely disabled and having 300 grand mal seizures a week despite treatment. Her parents learned about another child with Dravet Syndrome, who had been using a different type of medical marijuana since June 2011, and decided to try marijuana as a treatment to which they saw a vast and immediate improvement. She now follows a regular regimen that uses a solution of the high-CBD cannabis extract in olive oil applied both under her tongue and in her food. Her parents said in 2013 that her epilepsy had improved so much that she had only about four seizures per month, and she was able to engage in normal childhood activities. As their new supply of cannabis treatment ran out they knew they had to explore other options, which were found in the form of the Stanley brothers.
The Stanley brothers are a group of growers based out of Colorado who have organized the Realm of Caring Foundation in an effort to help those who can not afford cannabis as a treatment. They were moved by the story of Charlotte and had just the plant she needed. It was a hybrid strain of medical cannabis and industrial hemp. Although this strain was rich in CBD, it was almost absent in THC, which made it an ideal candidate for helping Charlotte drastically reduce the numbers of her seizures. THC has been shown to have medical applications that come along with side effects that can be disorienting. CBD, a cannibinoid found in Charlottes web, is similar to THC in that it has many medical applications but is unique in that CBD does not generate mind altering side effects.
As word spread of Charlotte’s condition and how cannabis helped her, legislation emerged in several states to help decriminalize CBD rich cannabis in efforts to help more people like Charlotte. Years later there have now been numerous states that have passed bills that allow their residents to grow CBD rich hemp and medical cannabis, although production of cannabis concentrates in most states remains illegal CBD oils in the same state can purchased and sold without alarm. Knowing that the classification of these beneficial plants falls in line with hemp and not medical cannabis, the Stanley Brothers are in the process of moving their production of CBD oils to South America and importing them into the states. The Charlotte’s web strain is not isolated to this operation and has become widely available across the United States in clone form.
The Charlotte’s Web strain is named after an American girl, Charlotte Figi.
The Charlotte’s Web strain was renamed by the Stanley brothers in Colorado. It was originally created by crossing a strain of medical cannabis with a strain of industrial hemp.
The Charlotte’s Web strain is a clone only strain
The Charlotte’s Web strain consistently tests below 0.3% THC
Cannabis sativa is the scientific classification for all cannabis plants, but many subspecies of cannabis have been found across the globe. These plants are well documented and cannabis has shown that it can come in many forms. It is a species that is subject to a vast variety of traits and differences, the nuances between genetics make up what we today refer to as “strains” of cannabis.
The characteristics of common strains we have today are a combination of genetics that have formed dominant traits based on their environment, these original “Landrace” genetics have formed established genes over time, based on environmental selection. Only the strongest plants whom are best suited for the environment are able to produce seeds. Their progeny would then go on to repeat the process for generations, creating dominant genes in only a matter of decades.
The first cannabis plant was discovered in central Asia thousands of years ago and since then has been spread to many corners of the world by man. Our production of cannabis has led to a wide variety of types, each with their own distinct characteristics that have been homogenized over time whither intentionally by man or by natural selection. Hemp, A variety that grows long straight shoots with little to no terminal branching, is one of the first of many example of a type of cannabis that has been refined by man to exploit a trait (in this case fiber production). Cannabis plants today are often manipulated by man to become better accustomed to an indoor growing environment, however long before this cannabis was manipulated for its production of resin and flowers it was manipulated in nature.
This once famous illustration (above) from ‘marijuana botany’ of the cannabis family is now facing a new debate of reclassification,”Sativa” which was once meant to define only the hemp variety, would be reclassified to contain hemp and ruderalis varieties with low THC production, while “Indica” would replace the term for “Sativa” that produced smokable flowers, and “Afghanica” would replace the current conception of Indica.
Over a course of hundreds of years cannabis began to take many forms organically and from the help of man, to help produce the sub species we know today as Indica and Sativa. These two words are too often mis-used to describe the effect from smoking the flower or concentrates, but were originally meant to describe the growth patterns and habits gene pool to gene pool. Other sub species have began to be recognized and documented fully. One of these subspecies is Cannabis Ruderalis.
Discovered by Russian botanist D. E. Janischevsky outdoors in 1924 growing wild in central Russia, cannabis ruderalis had shown noticiable differences from other cannabis plants since its inception. Genetically it is not far off from its original counterpart Cannabis Sativa(hemp), however its similarities end at the genetic level as ascetically they are vastly different. Ruderalis comes from the word “Ruderal” meaning heart undomesticated plant or “weed”. Its thin, low laying growth style is much more shrub-like, it has smaller club shaped leaves with less blades than normal. It is able to withstand much harsher conditions than any other cannabis plant type. What truly made the Ruderalis cannabis plant so different from its relatives is how it flowered.
Cannabis flowers depending on the amount of night hours in a day. Most cannabis will flower when given 12 hours of darkness Ruderalis is unique in that it will flower under any light cycle, based on how long it has been alive since germination, thanks to the lesser light cycle of the enviroment that helped create it. Its common nickname is “Autoflower” because of this uncanny ability. Her flowers begin to set in within a month of growth from seed making for faster environmental selection and flowering times. As indoor growing increased in popularity there became a demand for autoflowering strains, but as people grew them they found them hard to manage with a much weaker potency than its more tropical relatives. Ruderalis has been continued to be bred to its
tropical counterparts to create stronger hybrids with more vigor. These hybrids have varying chemotypes and are easier to get large yields making them much more popular among today’s grower. Seeds of Ruderalis can be found at popular online seed banks, and you may even be able to try some flowers at your local club or dispensary.
The nitty gritty:
Ruderalis can withstand much harsher conditions than any other type of cannabis
Instead of flowering at the end of summer ruderalis will flower on any light cycle throughout the year
Ruderalis has naturally occurring low levels of thc, closely related to hemp
Ruderalis is easily bred with other species of cannabis
We don’t often consider many of cannabis’s qualities while enjoying our daily smoke. The subtle differences flower to flower are discussed but left out are the origins of the flowers themselves.
Every bowl or joint starts with a single seed, these often discarded treasure chests have trapped inside endless combinations of genetic differences. Cannabis is one of the most diverse species known to man and can be found growing around the world, it is in a class of its own with its closest living relative being hops. It is dioecious, meaning that each plant has a defined sex of either male or female. Each subspecies of cannabis has developed unique traits over time due to variables present in their environment. Each isolated group over time develops characteristics, through passed on genes, that are favorable to it’s location to ensure it’s progenies vitality and survival.
Flowering induction is strain dependent based on an increased in night hours. Once the cycle has begun the males are typically first to produce floral clusters. Each cluster collects loosely along the branch in comparison to their female counter parts. These panicles are well ventilated ensuring the survival of the newly created stamin. The female colas are produced in toe, each female is covered in glandular trichomes to help with pollen collection and defend against pests and harmful UV rays.
Every characteristic of a plant is predetermined from conception, once the flower has undergone pollination it begins to produce seeds at each pistil site. Each seed contains a different combination of inherited traits from both the mother and father.
The seeds themselves contain personal traits of survival that can often be overlooked by today’s grower. Seeds produced by the same plant can be different shapes, weights and sizes due to both it’s position on the plant during fruiting as well as the traits it received from it’s parents. It’s dermal coating, or mottling, can provide both camouflage from hungry predators as well protection to the endosperm while in stasis before germination. In nature the warming of air currents of spring begin to warm the rain water and soil , indicating to the seeds stored below the soils surface that it is time to begin germination. In an indoor environment we mimic this by maintaining our germinating water temperature at just above room temperature. Once the seed coat is exposed to moisture the countdown has begun. The seed casing is designed by nature to only be receptive to moisture changes during this rise in temperature. This reaction can be lost over time in old or improperly stored seeds.
These two photos show the difference between two cannabis seeds shape and exterior.
If you are in possession of rare seeds and you would like to ensure their growth, there are a few things that you can do to better their odds of survival:
Water is essential to plant life and needs to reach the endosperm to initiate germination. We can aid this process by carefully removing a portion of the outside shell using a fine, clean blade. You must be delicate when making this incision to ensure that the embryo inside is left undamaged.
If you are afraid to slice into your only seeds there is a safer less sure fire way to ensure water reaches the inside of your seeds called scuffing. To scuff your seeds you need a rough grain sandpaper. Put your sandpaper inside a small box with your seeds and shake it from side to side for a moment, this action puts small grooves on the seeds outer surface making germination much easier.
Once the endosperm has been exposed it’s chances of survival depend on your ability to keep it moist. If your seed is left to dry at any time during this process the embryo will die. To help ensure a steady germination try pre soaking your seeds in an diluted aerated compost tea for 24 hours before planting or moving to a paper towel for further germination.
I have found that the addition of gravity to the germination process helps to speed up root growth once the taproot ruptures the seed and grows into the medium. Planting the seed into soil once it has an emerged radical would be preferred, but if you insist on moving to a paper towel then be sure to not leave the towel flat in standing water. I will fold the seeds between a paper towel and roll it up, I then set this roll into a jar with about an inch of above room temp water inside. The paper towel will absorb the water below, the standing wick system draws the water upwards but gravity causes it to circulate throughout the towel providing the perfect environment for a root system to develop instead of a hairless taproot.