Grow Q&A: What Are Phenotypes?

Dear Dan, I’m trying to figure out how I was able to grow two totally different strains from the same batch of seeds. One is indica, the other is sativa. These plants are all second generation from a plant I  grew last year which produced about 50 seeds total. Of the 50 seeds I planted 25, and now I have 15 mature plants, 10 of which are indica-looking and 5 more like sativas. The indicas are at what I call the sweet stage and ready to harvest, while the sativas plants needat least another two weeks of growing to reach the sweet stage.
One plant produced all the seeds I have growing at this point but I most definitely have two entirely different plants in size, smell, and growth rate.  The size difference is also questionable as my indica-looking strains are all about 5-6 feet tall and bushy and all the sativa-looking plants are over 8-10 feet tall. Main question is how did I get two entirely looking, smelling and growing plants from seeds I have grown myself and removed from a bud off a plant I have grown from a seed to full maturity so as to get second generation seed? – Mayhem

Dear Mayhem,
What you are experiencing is the genetic diversity of cannabis. When a female plant encounters male pollen, the seeds it produces take on some of the traits of the male and some from the female. Furthermore, there can be traits that skip a generation and are passed down from “grandparents.” The variety expressed in the offspring are known as phenotypes and this is why you experienced two different “strains” popping from the same seeds.

Phenotypes are visible traits such as the indica or sativa determined behavior you are experiencing. Marijuana breeders choose the desirable traits and try to breed them into successive generations but after the first or second cross, this variety will continue to exist in the offspring. This is a simple way to explain it but you really should read up on plant breeding to truly understand phenotypes, genotypes and what they mean for cannabis growers.

Have a grow question? Ask away at

(photo of King Kong pheno #2 courtesy of Big Buddha Seeds)

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