May 31, 2021

History of Cannabis Taxonomy

Explore a brief history of Cannabis taxonomy. Information is sourced from "Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany" by Clarke and Merlin (2013)
Created by  Jason Wilson  ⟶ Updated 4 Mar 2018 ⟶ List of edits
Jason Wilson
Very interesting. I'll have to dig into all of this and see what I can tease out. Thanks for sharing!

If you would like to talk about Cannabis taxonomy more, I would be interested to discuss it on an upcoming podcast that I'm working on producing called Curious About Cannabis. Always looking for knowledgeable people to talk to that can push critical conversations about Cannabis forward. Taxonomy is a very tricky subject for biology, broadly, but especially with Cannabis.

If interested, email info@naturallearningenterprises.com with the subject "Curious About Cannabis Podcast Follow Up" or similar. Or you can find us on social media and reach out to us there.
9 Jul 2019
Real Seed Co
continued from below:

His 1929 write-up is in Russian, and I don't have the English translation to hand. But the relevant points are in Ernest Small, iirc 1979.

"Vavilov, the father of the Law of Homologous Series (note Vavilov, I949-50), substantially understood that parallel variation is found between the wild and domesticated phases of both the southern, high-intoxicant strains, and the northern, low-intoxicant strains. Vavilov recognized Janischevsky's wild fruit syndrome in the uncultivated plants he found growing in eastern Afghanistan. He noted the very small size of fruits of the region, as did Small (I975a). In I929 Vavilov (Va- vilov and Bukinich, 1929) described "wild" plants of eastern Afghanistan as C. indica var. kafiristanica. He considered these plants to be characterized vegetatively by their small size, profuse branching, short internodes, and small leaves with tapered, obovate leaflets. He went on to point out that the plant he had described in 1926 as C. sativa f. afghanica is actually transitional between his C. indica var. kafiristanica and domesticated C. indica of India, and he made the new combination C. indica f. afghanica. "

In other words, Vavilov understood his f. afghanica to be intermediate between what might be called 'Hindu Kush ditchweed', on the one hand, and Indian ganja strains, aka Sativas, on the other. Clarke and Merlin have imposed their own extraneous ideas onto Vavilov. Their misrepresentation of Vavilov has been perpetuated e.g. by McPartland. In fact, the first observation of broad-leafleted Afghan plants was made by Schultes in the '70s. The subsequent taxonomy Schultes based upon that expedition opens entirely another can of worms.
9 Jul 2019
Real Seed Co
hi Jason: Yes, that text from Clarke and Merlin is incorrect.

See 'Origin and Geography of Cultivated Plants' by N. I. Vavilov, CUP (1992).

Table 9 on pp. 114 - 115, for 'Afghanistan':
Leaves: Dimensions: Small
Leaflets: 5-7-9
Shape of leaflets: Narrow, obovate

Further relevant text on f. afghanica and var. kafiristanica, p. 112:

'The wild races of hemp in eastern Afghanistan have even more new characteristics. The leaflets, of which the compound leaf is composed, differ from those of the ordinary wild and cultivated hemp by having a narrow, obovate shape such as so far not observed by us among the European, Siberian or Turkestani forms.'
9 Jul 2019
Jason Wilson
The source, Clarke and Merlin's Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany, used for this timeline reports: "Vavilov and Bukinich (1929) first reported the occurrence of the Afghan C. indica broad-leaf drug (BLD) biotype recognized by Hillig (2005a)...Although Vavilov never reported observing NLD varieties in South Asia, he included two BLD varieties from Afghanistan and Pakistan as subspecies of C. indica...Although Vavilov included BLD varieties from Afghanistan within C. indica, he assigned them to a subspecies rank of afghanica since they were from Afghanistan, not India, and were dissimilar to Lamarck's NLD-type specimen in gross phenotype, leaf shape, and inflorescence morphology..."

Is that incorrect?
9 Jul 2019
Real Seed Co
Vavilov's expedition was in 1924 (written up in 1926 and 1929), and made no record whatsoever of broad-leafleted plants in Afghanistan. Vavilov's f. afghanica is explicitly described as having small leaves with narrow leaflets. The only broad-leafleted cannabis documented by Vavilov was East Asian hemp.
9 Jul 2019
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