The Diary of a Budding Cannabis Nurse

How Green is Your Garden? Lessons in Botany

Meredith Patterson is a nurse specializing in neurology. She writes about the brain and brain health at her blog –


I’m no green thumb even though I have a terrific garden in my back yard.  That’s because El Hubbo takes on responsibilities for the world outside – lawn mowing, watering, planting tomatoes, smashing worms by hand, cutting off dead tree branches.    If it were up to me I’d hire Dave, the local lawn-mowing guy with the greasy ponytail, and settle for a few planters of rosemary and basil.  I’ve been known to stick a few artificial flowers in the backyard (just for color!) when our plants and most of the grass have browned out at the end of a brutal Texas summer.    Such an act takes desperation.

But if I’m to learn about cannabis, then I have to understand a bit about the plant itself.  That means plowing through botanical terms and spending lots of time with Mr. Google.  But I’ve managed to learn a few things, including how the plant got its name.

It turns out that, like all of us, plants have families and family histories.  In fact, the common cannabis plant would have a whirl of time scouting because the cannabis family originated thousands of years ago, the first written account of cultivation dating back to 28 century BCE.  Holy smokes!  But more about its history in my next blog.

Now to the botany.

Cannabis is part of a big plant family called Cannabaceae, also known as the hemp family.  Mr. Google has lots to say about the other members of the Cannabaceae family which include trees and a few herbs.  To further complicate matters, the sorting continues into orders and suborders of plant categories.   At this point of my research, I’m getting a bit glassy-eyed so I start a frenzied web search for Cliffs Notes to Botany for Dummies.    Thank heavens the heavy lifting of identifying and classifying all the various species of plants has already been done by people who practice a science called “phylogenetics.”

You might wonder why plants have such long unpronounceable Latin names when their common name is so much easier to remember.  One reason is that countries may use different names for the same plant. For instance, a Scotland bluebell is hilariously called a harebell in England.  And some plant species have no common name; there are just too many species to name them all.

Time to summarize and get back on track.  Here is all the average person needs to know about the nomenclature of weed:

Plants are given both a generic and a specific name.  The generic name goes first and it is a ‘collective name’ for a group of plants usually evolving from one common ancestor.   It’s followed by a specific name which allows us to distinguish between different organisms.

Cannabis sativa is considered the proper name for the marijuana plant.

Ta da!  I’m a botanist!


Meredith Patterson, RN, BSN, CRRN


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