Skip to main content

Widely assumed phenotypic associations in Cannabis sativa lack a shared genetic basis

Cite this dataset

Vergara, Daniela (2021). Widely assumed phenotypic associations in Cannabis sativa lack a shared genetic basis [Dataset]. Dryad.


The flowering plant Cannabis sativa, cultivated for centuries for multiple purposes, displays extensive variation in phenotypic traits in addition to its wide array of secondary metabolite production. Notably, Cannabis produces two well-known secondary-metabolite cannabinoids: cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which are the main products sought by consumers in the medical and recreational market. Cannabis has several suggested subspecies which have been shown to differ in chemistry, branching patterns, leaf morphology and other traits. In this study we obtained measurements related to phytochemistry, reproductive traits, growth architecture, and leaf morphology from 297 hybrid individuals from a cross between two diverse lineages. We explored correlations among these characteristics to inform our understanding of which traits may be causally associated. Many of the traits widely assumed to be strongly correlated did not show any relationship in this hybrid population. The current taxonomy and legal regulation within Cannabis is based on phenotypic and chemical characteristics. However, we find these traits are not associated when lineages are inter-crossed, which is a common breeding practice and forms the basis of most modern marijuana and hemp germplasms. Our results suggest naming conventions based on leaf morphology do not correspond to the chemical properties in plants with hybrid ancestry. Therefore, a new system for identifying variation within Cannabis is warranted that will provide reliable identifiers of the properties important for recreational and, especially, medical use.


Colorado State University

University of Colorado Foundation, Award: 13401977-Fin8