Last updated: May 18, 2021

What Does Phenotype Mean?

While a genotype of a plant is the internally coded, inheritable information, a phenotype is the outward and physical manifestation of the organism.

The genotype is stored information, which is used as a blueprint or a set of instructions for building and maintaining a plant. The phenotype, on the other hand, is the physical parts such as the atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, and anything else that is part of the observable structure, function, or behavior of the organism.

In terms of growing cannabis, a plant’s phenotype is important as it determines a strain’s flavor, appearance, potency, and more.

When a male plant fertilizes a female plant, the seeds that are produced by the strain’s two parent plants will include genetic phenotypes from both the parent plants. Since people like the varying traits from different strains, growers can cultivate specific strains based on the preferred characteristics.


Maximum Yield Explains Phenotype

Variations of phenotypes are an important and observable part of the evolutionary process. In plants, animals, and humans, the phenotype is what you see; it is the visible, observable expression of the results of genes (genotypes), combined with the environmental influence on an organism’s appearance or behavior.

The phenotype of a plant is basically the physical expression of the plant’s genetic makeup. It is determined by the genotype, but there can also be some major differences in phenotype when in fact the genotype is almost the same. When talking about smell, taste, color, shape, and potency (specifically with regards to the amount of resin being produced), it is always the phenotype that is at work. The phenotype of a plant can be determined and affected by the plant's growing environment.

A genotype, or a genetic code, is not something that is set in stone. Rather, it defines a certain range of possible genetic makeups. It mainly depends on the environment the organism lives in as to which specific bits and pieces of the genotype will be activated. The interaction between genotype and environment results in a phenotype. Thus, the environment has the potential to trigger the physical expression of certain genes (the phenotype). A simple equation that helps explain it is “genotype + environment + the interaction of genotype and environment = phenotype”.

Every cultivator knows that no one single strain can develop from the seeds of two parent plants. For example, there might be 25 plants growing but 10 might be sativa and the other 15 might be indica. A strain can express different phenotypes when the environment doesn’t change because every single cannabis seed has its own unique genotype. Thus, it would be of no use for the cultivator to change their seed providers.


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