“Hybrid” cannabis strains are strains like Blue Dream, Jilly Bean, Dutch Treat, and Banana Kush. They are mix (a hybrid) of the other two main classes of cannabis — “indica” and “sativa”. Hybrids often provide a more balanced combination of indica and sativa’s effects. The names “hybrid”, “indica”, and “sativa” are part of the folk taxonomy of cannabis, and they predate modern chemical quantification of the plant. The terms are often not the whole picture, but continue to be useful both to breeders, growers and consumers of marijuana.
Technically speaking, all marijuana strains – except for native landraces – are hybrids, combining the effects of their parent strain genetics into a single strain. These hybrids can be a blend of indica and sativa strains and even other hybrids, creating a diverse selection of strains, each with a mix of physical characteristics and effects.
For example, the popular strain Girl Scout Cookies reportedly pulls its genetics from the pure sativa Durban Poison and a hybrid strain called OG Kush, which is in turn a likely crossbreeding of Chemdawg and a Hindu Kush landrace. Just as Girl Scout Cookies is a product of breeding, the strain itself has been used as a parent to create dozens of new strains now on dispensary shelves. The same kind of mixed indica and sativa genetics can be found in the popular strain Blue Dream.
Tracing the genetics of these hybrid strains can become confusing, as popular strain resources now list nearly two thousand different strain names, each with its own unique genetic family tree. The more removed these hybrids are from the original landraces, the more unique strains are involved in creating their genetics.
Strains will take on the characteristics of its parent strains, including their scent and flavor profiles. This ability to breed strains together creates an almost endless combination of terpene and cannabinoid compositions. This breeding also allows cultivators to create a myriad of effects. These effects will manifest as either indica dominant, sativa dominant, or balanced hybrids, depending on the parent strains used in breeding.
When shopping for a hybrid strain at your local dispensary, your budtender should be able to tell you if it leans sativa or indica dominant or if it is a 50/50 hybrid with balanced influence from both sativa and indica genetics. Knowing a strain’s parent genetics and the ratio of its indica or sativa dominance can help new and experienced users alike to find the strain that best fits their individual preferences.
… and Phenotypes
When we talk about a strain’s genetics, that is its genotype or the DNA that determines its blueprint for growth. A phenotype, however, is an organism’s observable characteristics – an expression of both its genetics and environmental influences. In cannabis strains, different phenotypes are sometimes called cuts.
A phenotype is the actual plant that grows and any variations that may exist due to external fluctuations. This physical expression of a plant’s genes is responsible for any variations that may occur within a strain when it is grown. Whether a certain harvest of your favorite strains has an interesting smell or exhibits stronger indica or sativa effects than expected, it may be due to that particular phenotype and the environment in which it was grown.