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Cannabis sativa L.


KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderUrticalesIncludes cannabis, nettles, mulberries, elms, others
FamilyCannabaceaeA small but varied group whose best known members are marijuana and hops for beer
GenusCannabisAncient Greek name, etymology unknown
SpeciessativaMeans “that which is sown,” indicating the plant is a cultivated one

About plant names...

Marijuana has a long history as an intoxicant. Its seeds are a source of oil, producing all the amino acids needed for human life, and are gradually becoming more widely used in foods. This species of marijuana produces fibers that are used to create rope.

Identification: The palmlike shape of marijuana leaves has become iconic. Plants reach 16′ (5 m) in height. Leaves are up to 4″ (10 cm) long and ½″ (1.5 cm) wide. The small white flowers are inconspicuous.

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

From Köhler, Franz Eugen, Medizinal-Pflantzen, Gera-Untermhaus, FE Köhler, 1887

Only this species is suitable for rope production. Both this and C. indica are used as intoxicants.

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

Comparison of three species of Cannabis. From основные виды конопли main types of cannabis.

Edibility: Marijuana's primary psychoactive ingredient, THC (Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol), survives cooking and is often eaten as an alternative to smoking. So the leaves and flowers are edible, but not a practical food source unless you are out of work or independently wealthy. Marijuana seeds, which are almost free of THC, are a minor but increasingly popular food source.

Medical: Marijuana's ability to stimulate the appetite has been found to reduce symptoms of nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from other illnesses. Some states have legalized the use of "medical marijuana."

The colorful insect in photo 3 is a leafhopper called a versute sharpshooter (Graphocephala versuta). These little guys have a fondness for marijuana.


Rätsch, Cristian, The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications, Park Street Press, 1998, p. 145

Online References:

Www.neatorama.com (Unbelievably cool electron microscope photos)

The South African National Biodiversity Institute's web site, plantzafrica.com


Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses



The Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide

Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants

Medical Marijuana ProCon.org (Cannabis sativa vs. C. indica)


Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

1 · 10/31/2010 · Mass­a­chu­setts · ≈ 7 × 4½″ (17 × 11 cm)

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

2 · Male plant. · 8/10/1979 · North Grafton, Mass­a­chu­setts


Cannabis sativa description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 17 Oct 2023.

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Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

3 · A leafhopper. · 8/10/1979 · North Grafton, Mass­a­chu­setts

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

4 · Leaf undersides. ~ 1.5 x 1". · 9/14/2010 · Mass­a­chu­setts

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

5 · 7/29/2023 · Mass­a­chu­setts

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

6 · 10/31/2010 · Mass­a­chu­setts

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

7 · Female plant · 7/31/2009 · Hawaii · By Weezard

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

8 · ~ 1.5 x 1" · 9/14/2010 · Mass­a­chu­setts

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

9 · Apparently growing wild. · 7/29/2023 · Soweto, Gauteng, South Africa · By Benjamin Winslow ID is uncertain

Cannabis sativa (marijuana)

10 · Leaf undersides. ~ 3 x 3 mm · 9/14/2010 · Mass­a­chu­setts


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