Cannabis and hops are like third cousins, twice removed

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Cannabis and hops are distant relatives, according to scientists

A few days ago, a cannabis genome map was revealed, showing how tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) came to be. Along the same thread, researchers have now shown that a main ingredient in beer is a relative to cannabis. However, the family split about 28 million years ago.

A researcher that has been following the biological classification of marijuana in a study published by the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research journal has found that marijuana “lost a sibling” around 28 million years ago. That sibling went by the name of Humulus, the plant from which hops are taken to make beer.

According to the study’s author, John M. McPartland, “A molecular clock analysis with chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) suggests Cannabis and Humulus diverged 27.8 [million years ago]. Microfossil (fossil pollen) data point to a center of origin in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau.”

Simply stated, researchers have been able to determine, through the study of DNA, that cannabis and Humulus are related and are even able to pinpoint when the two plants diverged.

Humulus and cannabis were first found to be related in 1583, says McPartland. He explains that botanists previously “classified Cannabis with phylogenetically unrelated plants based on leaf shape, human usage, and other totally artificial characters.” However, the scientist, who is a professor at the University of Vermont, used “the morphology of their most essential functions — reproduction (flowers and fruits, and nutrition (xylem and phloem)” to reach his conclusion.