Is a cannabis cultivar the same as a strain?
Johanna Silver January 7, 2020
As a longtime gardener, I was so delighted by cannabis the first time I included it in my garden. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever grown—it’s the only dioecious plant that needs me to sort males from females, its smells are fantastic and pungent, and its stickiness is so unique (and sort of annoying). But there are a few other, less fortunate things, that make it unlike other crops, including some inaccurate terminology used by growers and consumers alike. While we’re finally starting to accept that indica and sativa are unreliable labels for categorizing plants, my biggest beef is with the use of the term “strain,” when what is really meant is “cultivar.”
Many cannabis enthusiasts are eager for normalization of the plant they love so much, and I believe that using accurate lingo to talk about the plant would go a long way in that effort.
What’s a cultivar?
“Cultivar” is short for “cultivated variety.” This is a horticultural category (as opposed to a taxonomic one) to describe a plant that’s been selected and improved upon by humans. It can be a hybrid (either intentional or not), or selected from the wild, brought under cultivation, and distinct enough to warrant a naming. No matter the origin, it’s something that’s been touched by the human hand through selection.
In writing, cultivars always appear in single quotes, non-italicized, following the genus and species, like this:
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’ Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’