John N. McPartland
Published in Mary Ann Leibert Inc. Publishers
New concepts are reviewed in Cannabis systematics, including phylogenetics and nomenclature. The family Cannabaceaenow includes Cannabis, Humulus, and eight genera formerly in the Celtidaceae. Grouping Cannabis, Humulus, and Celtisactually goes back 250 years. Print fossil of the extinct genus Dorofeevia (=Humularia) reveals that Cannabis lost a sibling perhaps 20 million years ago (mya). Cannabis print fossils are rare (n=3 worldwide), making it difficult to determine when and where she evolved. A molecular clock analysis with chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) suggests Cannabis and Humulus diverged 27.8 mya. Microfossil (fossil pollen) data point to a center of origin in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. Fossil pollen indicates that Cannabis dispersed to Europe by 1.8–1.2 mya. Mapping pollen distribution over time suggests that European Cannabis went through repeated genetic bottlenecks, when the population shrank during range contractions. Genetic drift in this population likely initiated allopatric differences between European Cannabis sativa (cannabidiol [CBD]>Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]) and Asian Cannabis indica (THC>CBD). DNA barcode analysis supports the separation of these taxa at a subspecies level, and recognizing the formal nomenclature of C. sativa subsp. sativa and C. sativa subsp. indica. Herbarium specimens reveal that field botanists during the 18th–20th centuries applied these names to their collections rather capriciously. This may have skewed taxonomic determinations by Vavilov and Schultes, ultimately giving rise to today’s vernacular taxonomy of “Sativa” and “Indica,” which totally misaligns with formal C. sativa and C. indica. Ubiquitous interbreeding and hybridization of “Sativa” and “Indica” has rendered their distinctions almost meaningless.
McPartland, J. M. (2018). Cannabis systematics at the levels of family, genus, and species. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 3(1), 203-212.