Understanding the Taxonomic Ranks


A plant is defined as a MULTI-CELLULAR organism that typically produces their own food and has more or less rigid cell walls containing cellulose.

There are many different types of plants including vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. All plants belong to the plant kingdom, however, there are also different classification schemes that may include fungi, algae, bacteria, blue-green algae, and certain single-celled eukaryotes (cells with membrane-bound nuclei) that have plant-like qualities in the plant kingdom as well. Cannabis is a plant. It belongs to the plant kingdom because it undergoes the process of photosynthesis and has rigid cell walls containing cellulose. 

The first major differentiation among plants is vascular vs nonvascular. Vascular plants have vascular tissue. Vascular tissue is like a highway system that allows the transport of nutrients throughout the plant. Examples of vascular tissue are xylem and phloem. Xylem transports water and minerals from the roots to the top of the plant, so that photosynthesis can occur. Phloem is a bi-directional highway that transports water and nutrients (by-products of photosynthesis) throughout the plant. Plants with vascular tissue are able to grow tall because of this highway system that transports nutrients. Non- vascular plants, or plants without vascular tissue, cannot grow tall because they do not have this highway transport system. Examples of non-vascular plants are mosses and liverworts.

Vascular plants can be further differentiated into ‘Plants with Seeds’ and ‘Seedless Plants’. This one is fairly self- explanatory. Plants with seeds make seeds for reproduction purposes. Plants without seeds do not make seeds for reproduction purposes. Examples of seedless plants are ferns. Plants with seeds can be differentiated into Angiosperms and Gymnosperms. Angiosperms are flowering plants that enclose their seeds in a fruit or flower. Gymnosperms do not enclose their seeds in fruits or flowers and instead, their seeds are naked or in a cone formation. Examples of gymnosperms are pine trees/ fir trees or evergreens. 

Angiosperms can be differentiated further into Monocots and Dicots. There are many morphological differences between monocots and dicots. However, the main difference is reflected in their names.  The monocot embryo (seed) has one cotyledon or one baby leaf. The dicot embryo has two cotyledons. A good way to identify if a plant is a monocot or a dicot is to look at their leaf venation. Monocot leaves have parallel veins whereas dicot leaves have branched veins.   

Another point of plant differentiation is how/ where plants house their sex organs. Dioecious individuals have male and female sex organs on separate organisms. There is a male plant and a female plant. A hermaphrodite with bisexual flowers have both male and female sex organs on the same plant. And monoecious hermaphrodite organisms have separate male flowers and female flowers but on the same plant. Cannabis is a dioecious organism because it has male and female plants. The male flower is called a staminate flower. And the female flower is called a pistillate flower.  

Monocots also have vascular bundles throughout the stem. Whereas dicots have vascular bundles that exist in a ring around the stems outward edges.


Meet The Author: SSC Educator, Emma Chasen

Since her arrival to Portland in September 2015, Emma has worked in the legal cannabis industry. She has been named Portland's Best Budtender, acted as the General Manager for Farma (one of the most popular dispensaries in the nation) and collaborated with Sativa Science Club to develop a standardized industry wide training program that covers topics ranging from cannabis science to compassionate client care. She now acts as a cannabis educator and consultant, teaching the Core Science Certification program through Sativa Science Club and helping cannabis businesses thrive in the competitive marketplace.  Emma has been featured in Newsweek, MG Magazine, Stoner Magazine, High Times Magazine, The Oregon Leaf and Teen Vogue for her work with cannabis and patients. She is also a regular guest on many cannabis focused podcasts and has been featured on stages and on camera for her ability to explain scientific concepts around cannabis in a way that is accessible and helpful to the general public.