What is a Phenotype?
The words “genotype” and “phenotype” are biology terms that apply to anything that is alive on Earth. A living organism’s phenotype refers to its physical characteristics; if you are a fern, this can refer to your leaf shape, if you are an amoeba, phenotype is responsible for the ultimate length of your flagella, if you are a dog, phenotype can modify the sound of your bark. As a last example, if you are a human, a difference in phenotype can be indicated via idiosyncrasies such as, identical twins with different shoe sizes, or even by whether or not you end up with a certain genetic disorder. The phenotype of a specific organism, ergo, refers to the manifestation of that individual’s observable traits and behaviors.
Phenotype is determined by two things: genotype (the organism’s genetic code) and environment it is in. This means, something like the colour of the spots on your cat’s fur, as well as something like whether or not you end up with bipolar disorder, is influenced by two things, DNA and the physical environment.
How is Phenotype Relevant to a Cannabis Strain?
Seeing as the cannabis plant is indeed a living organism, it too, is affected by the biological laws of genetics. Understanding the influence of genes and environment on cannabis can explain a phenomenon such as, why no two seeds can ever end up producing the exact same plant. Being acquainted with genetics also clarifies why an alteration in the phenotype of a cannabis flower can potentially equate to a world of difference for the eventual consumer. Differences in cannabis phenotype can result in various changes for the flower (the consumed part of the plant), in terms of appearances, aromas, flavours, and delivered effects.
The best illustration I could think of, regarding interesting differences between phenotypes of one cannabis “strain,” involves the family that has spawned from the original GSC.
About the All-Star: GSC
“GSC” (formerly known as Girl Scout Cookies) shot to fame in 2012, when “cookies” was mentioned on the Wiz Khalifa track “Ozs and Pounds.” The Pittsburgh-born Khalifa became privy to the closely kept California Bay Area strain via his connections to fellow rapper, Berner. Berner is known as a member of the underground collective known as the Cookie Family, or Cookie Fam.
Cookie Fam is a name for a widespread underground collective of expert cannabis growers, based around the region of San Francisco and Oakland. While GSC is their original claim-to-fame, the crew is continuously making themselves known with their hard-hitting, yet deliciously sweet crosses. Cookie Fam is also responsible for the strains: Cherry Pie, F1 Durban, Sunset Sherbet, and of course, Gelato.
It has now been several years since Wiz and Berner catapulted Girl Scout Cookies into the spotlight, and since then, the strain has backboned a business empire and subsequent strain revolution. Full of extremely desirable features, GSC has thus inspired a lineage of many strain phenotypes. GSC is well-known for certain characteristic features, such as, a high-THC content, engaging cerebral euphoria, solid pain-relief, and unmistakable dessert-like scents and flavours. Her “phenos” also possess these characteristic features, however, in varying degrees. For example, Platinum GSC is a phenotype that displays more powerful physical effects and strong berry aromas, while, Thin Mint GSC is reported to have much more intense psychoactive effects and a menthol taste.
Cookie Family guards the true genetics of their GSC very closely, although they have revealed that she is fundamentally made up of a cross of an F1 Durban Poison and OG Kush. Therefore, the other cookie phenos (Platinum, Thin Mint) are also made up of the exact same genetics, with breeding variations creating the resulting differences between each end product.
A New GSC Phenotype: Durban Cookies
Around 2016, Leafly announced the emergence of a few new GSC-related phenotypes, with “Durban Cookies” as one of their features. GSC is known to present indica dominance, however Durban Cookies is a phenotype that favours the Durban Poison parent, hence this strain was labelled by Leafly (and my dispensary) as a sativa-dominant strain. Honestly, there is no way I would ever pass over a strain with the words Durban and Cookies in it, so obviously I grabbed myself a nice half O of this beauty, right before legalization.
When I think of cookie strains, a distinctive candy and berry scent always comes to mind. Hence, it was news to me that the dominant terpene in most cookie strains is the pungent and peppery caryophyllene. However, one whiff into a jar of the aromatic Durban Cookies, and all I can smell is what I would describe as sweet black pepper that doesn’t make you sneeze. The smell is spicy, but balanced by notes of vanilla and pine, which makes it so surprisingly unique and pleasant to the nose. The taste of this smokes is also interestingly complex, and dominated by a sweet nutty flavour.
Unlike some of the unexpected aromas and flavours found in Durban Cookies, the effects received from this strain are very much as one might predict. She starts off by energizing the mind, and one may find themselves rid of feelings of mental fatigue and/or immersed within their own thoughts. Feelings of euphoria and excitement then follow alongside head to toe pain relief, and this effect creates more of a happy and relaxed high, rather than a racy one. This uplifted, yet laid back state always seems to put me inside of a very creative space and also in a very uninhibited and talkative mood. Although, whether or not one can achieve a state of focus under the influence of Durban Cookies might depend a lot on dose and experience. It is entirely possible to use this strain for productive tasks, however, miscalculate the dose, and you could be easily taken over by couch-lock and sedation. Since Durban Cookies is high in THC and myrcene, she still works best when not used too early in the day. An hour or so after the initial effects, you may start to feel your eyes droop and your body feel sedated, however, not in any kind of effectively sleep-promoting way. The effects finish off by inducing appetite, laziness, or spaceyness, but the user may still preserve a high level of alertness, deterring them from achieving any effective rest. It is possible for these restless feelings to translate into nervousness or anxiety for less experienced users.
The breath-taking appearance, the intricate aromas, the lovely taste, and the well-rounded effects, there is nothing about this strain that does not scream exquisite. Durban Poison and GSC exist individually as two ideally perfect strains; Durban Cookies takes some of the best from both to create a combination that any connoisseur can envy.