My understanding is that the word Sativa is Latin and means "cultivated." See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sativum

Since all cannabis consumed by people is cultivated and grown from seed, shouldn't all Cannabis be called Cannabis Sativa? And so isn't Cannabis Indica also Cannabis Sativa? If taking a cutting of a plant grown from seed and rooting it means that "clone" isn't considered to have been grown from seed then maybe those plants shouldn't be called Sativa, although this would still seem to qualify as cultivation. But either way I fail to see what bearing it has on phenotype or alkaloid profile. How has it come to mean having thin leaves and high THC content?

  • $\begingroup$ A ver energetic recent document from 2016 demonstrates that no scientists have used the recent genetics technology to see which are the oldest populations of cannabis and if they diverged 5,000 years ago or 50,000 years ago. indeed in Mexico and Russia there are varieties 1 foot tall and in Thailand 20 foot tall, which suggests there may be differences 50,000 or 5000 years old, a future PhD or Research group can find out. frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2016.01113/full $\endgroup$ – com.prehensible May 6 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ Be careful with over-interpreting etymology, especially in the context of biological terminology. There are hundreds of cultivated plants, very few of which have any reference to 'cultivation' in their names. This would be like complaining that someone named their child Amber and she grew up to have blonde hair, and then further arguing that everyone else with brown hair should have been named Amber. The distinction between indica and sativa strains is an interesting one, but it has nothing to do with etymology. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 6 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause ok, so I should not expect scientific names to have any concrete relationship to the plants they are naming? $\endgroup$ – dev_willis May 7 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ Just recognize that names are names. They typically are based in something, but they need not follow a consistent system nor be entirely accurate nor are names describing a trait indicative that the trait is not shared with other species. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 7 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ @dev_willis A name of a plant is just a name, that's it: it's a reference so we can all talk about the same plant. Each plant has too many characteristics to describe them all in a two-word name. Sometimes names come when other information is missing: you might name a plant based on where it is first discovered, and then find out it is more widespread than you first realized. You might name a plant based on a feature that is so far unique to it compared to similar relatives (maybe a different color?), and then find other relatives that also have that feature. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 7 at 17:52

C. sativa was originally named by Linnaeus in 1753, long before the plant was commonly used for recreation (in Europe, at least), so the name probably reflects the fact that that species was cultivated for fiber (hemp), just as many plants have the Latin name Officinalis or officinale, meaning that they were used in medicine. Later botanists considered other varieties to be sufficiently different to be different species or subspecies. (Including some interesting reasons based in the laws of the 1970s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis#Taxonomy )

It's also not true that all Cannabis is cultivated. It can be found growing wild, either native or as a introduced plant, in many parts of the world.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the link. So it sounds like it was named this way to make a distinction between wild plants and plants cultivated for industrial use and later when Westerners discovered it being grown in India they felt like it was different enough to need a distinct name? And from there the vagaries of language enabled the words to drift away from their original meanings to the totally unrelated meanings we have today? BTW, I'm aware that it grows wild. Everything does, or did. But few if any people are consuming those plants. All I said was that the plants people consume are cultivated. $\endgroup$ – dev_willis May 7 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ @dev_willis: No, I don't think Linnaeus was really making a distinction. Nor do the Latin names given to plants (or animals) always (or even frequently) have an exact, literal meaning. Consider all the species, or even entire genera (like Fuschia or Wisteria), that are named after people, for instance. One of my favorites is Dichelostemma ida-maia: wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=DIID $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 8 at 18:11

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