Endangered high-THC Cannabis domesticates and their wild relatives

An email today from a start-up in India looking to import seeds of the European hemp cultivar Kompolti to cultivate in the Himalaya was another reminder of just how quickly things we take for granted will vanish.

Indigenous Central and South Asian Cannabis varieties face imminent extinction.

When non-native varieties are introduced in an uncontrolled way to ancient centres of diversity such as the Himalaya, introgressive hybridization and genetic swamping cause irreversible loss of biodiversity.

This wipes out crucial genetic variation for the future of Cannabis and with that disappears the heritage of local communities, in this case the plants that produce legendary products such as hand-rubbed Himalayan charas.

The vasty majority of the biodiversity of subsp. indica is in the Hindu Kush, Himalaya, and Central Asia. Collection and preservation is urgently needed.

Crucial reading is this April 2020 study co-authored by Dr. Ernest Small, a renowned crop scientist, taxonomist, and expert on Cannabis: A classification of endangered high-THC cannabis (Cannabis sativa subsp. indica) domesticates and their wild relatives

The extensive Supplementary Material is a treasure trove of fascinating historical and botanical information.

Endangered Varieties of subsp. indica: A Few Thoughts offers a further look at the history and taxonomy.