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The Hunt for Better Flower
The Hunt for Better Flower
By Dragonfly Staff
January 27, 2023
The first question you might ask…why are there seeds in my flower?
Dragonfly Wellness has been eagerly waiting to reveal a collection of new flower varieties from Dragonfly and Betty. For the past year we have been busy sprouting seeds and expanding our grow, with the intention of bringing some of the most desirable strains of cannabis here to Utah. Dragonfly sources its seed stock from reputable breeders and seed banks, but cannabis grown from seed versus cannabis grown from clone or tissue culture is a complicated process and has its challenges, unwanted seeds are one. The exhaustive process of combing through these different genetic combinations (phenotypes) is called pheno hunting and it is the way that breeders and cultivators bring the very best flower to patients.
What is a phenotype and what is involved in the pheno hunt process?
A plant’s phenotype is the physical expression of its traits. Cannabis plants, just like humans, have the potential of creating many different offspring with widely differing physical attributes. You could have two plants of the same cultivar (strain), but one is very green and the other, distinctly purple. Another could be tall and lanky and the other short and stocky, even though they were bred from the same parent plants. Much as the same mother and father can have several children that look very different, with differing hair, eye colors, heights, and builds.
To get from seed to flower, we first decide on a cultivar, find a reputable breeder of that strain, and purchase the seeds. Once sprouted these young plants must be sexed, roughly half will be male (pollen producers) and half will be female (bud producers). We grow for flower and not for breeding, therefore we are only interested in keeping female plants. When found, the male plants are destroyed because they pose the risk of pollinating the female plants and creating seeds. This process nets several female plants, each considered a phenotype or unique offspring of the original parent plants. Just as in humans, plant genes can be dominant or recessive, or damaged and entirely unwanted (unstable). These unstable genes are adversely affected by stress and can lead to undesirable growth patterns. Stress comes in many forms and is exacerbated by environmental factors such as light level, extreme high or low temperature, soil or nutrient toxicity, etc.
Typically a genetic instability combined with common stressors will result in hermaphroditism. Meaning that a female plant will produce some male flowers and thus pollen. These male flowers can and often do pollinate themselves or plants around them. It is rare for an entire room to hermaphrodite and pollinate itself, but when dealing with unstable phenotypes it is common for individual plants or sections of a room to self-pollinate. If pollination occurs, seeds developing in female flowers is possible and because they are intertwined and sometimes deep in the bud, seeds can make it into packaged flower.
Dragonfly proudly grows, harvests, processes, and packages all of the flower that ends up in Dragonfly jars and Betty bags. We have stringent quality control measures along this entire path of seed-to-sale. Just as we take so much time and care to select and grow our cultivars, we take the same care when flowering and harvesting. Our team spends hours every day combing through flowering rooms, looking for hermaphrodite plants, removing male flowers and pollen sacks by hand, sometimes in the hundreds, to ensure that we mitigate as much pollination and seed production as possible. We cannot, however, catch every last male flower. While pheno hunting and sorting through unstable genetics, the risk of unwanted pollination becomes extremely high and it is therefore impossible to promise that a seed or several seeds will not make it into finished flower and onto the shelf at the pharmacy.
Why hunt phenotypes?
To find the best of the best. We are hunting for potency, flavor, aroma, effect, appearance, and consistency; all of the traits that are important to you, not just today but into the future as well. We don’t just want to grow some Blue Dream, we want to grow the Blue Dream. We want to ensure that what we have on our shelves is true to the iconic strain and something unique and special that you can get nowhere else in Utah.
Honest conversation… Could this have been avoided?
To some degree, yes. No plant is guaranteed seedless, but other measures could have been taken, but at the expense of time and money. Ideal pheno hunting situations call for a significant amount of space and ideally generous amounts of time. Pollen from flowers can travel far and fast, even in climate-controlled, closed environments. The best way to avoid plants from pollinating each other would have been to keep them in entirely separate facilities with additional staff. Of course, additional space and human resources increase costs and it would have been difficult to avoid adding those costs to patients, forcing higher prices. We also pheno hunted many strains all at once to reach our goals more quickly. It could have been easier to protect against pollination by growing one cultivar at a time, but again the patients pay the price in time spent waiting for the desirable strains that are not yet available in Utah. Our objective in every effort is to keep plant medicine as accessible and as affordable as possible, for as many patients as possible.
Seedless flower is our goal, but pheno hunting and curating new and unique cultivars for our patients is also a top priority. Unfortunately we may have to endure a little pain, and a few seeds, to get there. Please understand that we exist to serve you, our patients, and that while (hopefully) small amounts of seeds might get past our strict quality control procedures we are doing our best through this imperfect process to get to a day when all Dragonfly and Betty flower is as seed free as possible. Rest assured we have and will continue to maintain our core values as a patient first company and community member. We will accommodate any issues our patients experience with our products. Always feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns. Our team is here for you!