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Do You Know the Cannabaceae Family, the Cannabis Plant Family In-Laws?


Cannabaceae plants with cannabis

The Cannabaceae family is extensive and divided into various species, with marijuana being the most popular family member. Almost everyone knows cannabis and hemp, but very few can confidently mention plants that belong to the same family tree.

This family of interwoven species contains nine genera and about 165 species with distinct features. Apart from cannabis, there are some other exciting genera in the Cannabaceae family. One of which is the plant used to produce beer, hops. Thanks to genetic sequencing and impressive advances in phylogenetics, botanists have gathered sufficient information about this family.


A General Overview Of The Cannabaceae Family

Cannabaceae, pronounced as can-uh-bay-see-ay, is a botanical family name commonly regarded as the hemp family. The majority of the species in this family are found in temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Each species has its own unique traits and growth pattern. In fact, two species in this family can be so unlike one another despite their familial relations. For instance, cannabis and hops are free-standing plants with solid and erect stems, whereas hops is a climbing plant that rarely grows taller than 10 meters. Unlike cannabis and hops, the family also has species that grow as large as trees in Africa and Australia.


The Cannabaceae family includes berry-bearing trees and flowering plants. Not all species in this family have been discovered.


The Origin of the Cannabaceae Family

For centuries, plant scientists have carried out taxonomic studies of plant species based on their phenotypic characteristics. Using common traits, plants were classified into groups. The first time cannabis was classified as another plant was in 1583. Prior to that, the plant was labeled with some other genetically unrelated plants.


Andrea Cesalpina was the first botanist and physician to find a taxonomic connection between cannabis and hops. He looked beyond their essential characteristics and grouped them based on their functions: flowers and fruits. This ingenious technique was used to make more accurate associations between other unlabelled plants for many years to come.

Botanists group petalless flowers with one-seeded fruits as species in the Cannabaceae family. There were also errors. Early taxonomists unknowingly grouped the families Urticaceae and Moraceae together with Cannabaceae. The family includes mulberries, figs, breadfruits, jackfruits, nettles, hops, and cannabis. Along the line, newer botanists started distinguishing the plants and regrouping them. Other notable names of botanists who recognized the family ties between the Cannabaceae species are Ivan Martinov and Michel Adanson.


The Cannabaceae Phylogenetic Tree

Phylogenetics and genetic sequencing are two valuable tools that enable modern botanists to classify species into the Cannabaceae family. Botanists developed the family’s phylogenetic tree by observing eight morphological characteristics. They are the leaf arrangement, pollen aperture number, sexual system, aestivation, seed coat morphology, perianth, stipule arrangement, and the fruit type.

The botanists were able to develop a phylogenetic tree comprising nine unique genera and a multitude of species.

The nine distinct genera are Trema, Celtis, Chaetachme, Pteroceltis, Humulus, Aphananthe, Lozanella, Gironniera, and Cannabis.


More information on the genera

Each genus has unique characteristics, and some are more closely related than others. For instance, Cannabis and Humulus share a clade the same way Pteroceltis and Chaetachme do.



Cannabis is the most popular plant in this family. It is also the most economically significant. The potent phytocannabinoids present within its buds makes it the most historically significant genus within the family. Botanists claim that cannabis only has three species: C. Sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis. Over the years, thousands of strains have been developed by crossing these species together.


Cannabis sativa is also called marijuana, while C. indica is the variety known as hemp. These two species can be distinguished by their psychotropic and medicinal properties. Marijuana has more THC, making it the psychoactive sibling, while hemp is the medicinal sibling with more CBD compounds.


The sweeping cannabis legislative actions around the world are fueling research into the medical potential of cannabinoid and terpene compounds. Researchers are eager to learn more about how these compounds affect the human body and interact with the endocannabinoid system.



The 15 species within this genus are fruit-bearing trees and plants with medicinal seeds. These species have almost no similar physical traits to cannabis species. Instead, they are closely related to the Celtis branch of the family. They survive primarily in Southern Asia, Africa, some parts of North America, and Northern Australia. The species can grow up to 20m. Some of the members of this genus include Trema Orientalism. This species produces edible leaves and black fruits. Most of the species in the Trema genera are priced for their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil.



This is a small genus that has fewer than ten species. The most valuable species in this genus is the Humulus lupulus. This plant can grow really tall. Its leaves are similar to cannabis leaves, as both have leaflets.

These plants are closely related to cannabis. Their flowers are filled with terpenes, which give them a distinct aroma. Craft beer manufacturers use hop flowers to add special notes to IPAs and brews.



The species here look nothing like cannabis or hops. Neither do they smell like them. The Celtis genus contains approximately 71 species of deciduous trees. These trees have elm-like leaves and produce edible fruits that birds mostly devour.

The common plants here are C. occidentalis, hackberries, and nettles. They are the largest and tallest species in the Cannabaceae family. They can grow as tall as 80 to 100 feet. Wood from these trees is used chiefly for cabinetry in areas like South America, North America, Africa, Southern Europe, and Eastern Asia. Other rising species in this genus include C. laevigata, Mississippi sugarberry, and C. australis.



Now, you have a deeper understanding of cannabis’ familial ties. You know a bit about their first cousins, the hops, and the towering extended relatives. If you feel a little blown, wrap a stick and take a blow. It’s a good idea to share your newfound knowledge with your friends and canna-buddies.







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