Landrace and Heirloom Cannabis Strains
By Robert Bergman, ILoveGrowingMarijuana.com
There are so many different strains and varieties of marijuana these days that, especially for people fairly new to it, it is nearly impossible to remember where the originals came from and what the different cannabis strain names mean. How is “skunk” different from “diesel” or “haze?” What are landrace strains and hybrids? We’ll answer these questions and more in this article.
What are landrace strains?
Marijuana landrace strains are ones that are indigenous to a specific location. That means that they are naturally occurring in that area, and they have never been cross-bred with any other strain of marijuana. They are generally a very old strain, having been inbred throughout history over and over again. They are pure, and each plant is highly similar to each other. Generally speaking, a landrace will either be completely indica or completely sativa. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, landraces were the only available product on the market.
Landrace strains used to be the most sought-after strains in the world, offering a vast array of different strain options to people who traveled the world in search of new strains of marijuana. Plants from the Hindu Kush mountain range stretching through Pakistan and Afghanistan produce the pure indica Afghan. What grew in the volcanic soil of Hawaii was entirely different from the Nepalese temple strains, as well as the Lebanese Red, Moroccan Kif, Chocolate Thai, Red Congolese, and the various golden strains in Mexico and Colombia.
People used to travel the world to try out the different landrace strains, and they would acquire seeds along the way. As this happened more and more, people began experimenting with various combinations, and now we see the market filled with different hybrid versions, some from combinations of different strains from across the world.
Landrace strains are harder to come by these days, but luckily they haven’t died out. Many seed banks recognize how valuable landrace strains (and heirloom strains — see below) are and therefore sell many marijuana varieties of different landrace and heirloom strains.
What are heirloom strains?
Heirloom strains of marijuana refer to the strains of cannabis landrace that were cultivated in Northern California and Hawaii. These are the result of travelers’ landrace seed collections that have been grown for themselves. Sometimes servants were responsible for bringing strains from abroad home to their masters — this was the case with many Indian indicas that were brought over to the Caribbean by servants. Because heirlooms are away from their native habitat, they are a step down from being “pure,” but they are still considered originals of sorts when compared to hybrids and other crossbred strains.
The Hippie Trail (or sometimes called the Hashish Trail) was the “route” people took from country to country, collecting marijuana strains along the way. Marijuana experts and lovers found the best strains of marijuana and began growing them (now called heirloom strains) in Hawaii and Northern California. These strains were known for being extremely potent and impressive. The best heirloom strains flourished in Hawaii, including sativas from equatorial regions, between Africa and Vietnam.
In California, on the other hand, sativa strains native to Mexico and Colombia grew extremely well, due in part to the cooler climate and the fact that sativas were shorter and had less time needed before the harvest. This evolved into the now-famous skunkweed, which has an aroma that is unforgettable, given its skunk-like flavor.
There are still some heirlooms from the 1970s growing in Hawaii, although most of the marijuana gardens found there contain plants with a combination of genetics rather than the “pure” original kind.
Cultivation and strain names nowadays
Now everything seems to be about indicas and sativas. Cannabis groups that are indigenous sativas do best in equatorial regions of the world, while indigenous indicas do best if they are growing in an area that sits between 30 and 50 degrees latitude (north or south).
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So why is it that people still prefer cultivating and consuming landraces and heirloom strains instead of the current day hybrids? This has to do with the fact that landraces often have more types of chemical compounds, while the cross breeding of hybrids has led to there being fewer chemical compounds in the modern strains. Landraces have come from the most effective breeder of them all: natural selection. The genetic variability between different kinds of landraces is greater than among the various strains of hybrids, making them more desirable for many people.
What do strain names mean?
There are all sorts of marijuana strain names these days, indicating a variety of marijuana groups, including violent-sounding ones like “Trainwreck,” “White Widow,” “Jack the Ripper,” and “AK-47.” These names might seem to perpetuate a negative stoner stereotype, but in reality, they come from one simple term: “kill bud.” This was the term that always used to refer to high-grade marijuana, and the newer names are related to it to indicate the quality of the grade.
The most popular weed strain names these days include Blueberry, Sour Diesel, Train Wreck, AK-47, White Widow, Northern Lights, Super Skunk and OG Kush. Often strains and cannabis groups are organized according to flavor (such as diesel, berry, skunk, or pineapple) or color (purple, white, or blue). In the end, of course, they all stem back to cannabis landraces.
Many say that current day weed strain names can be questionable in terms of how reliable they are — so how reliable are they really? Marijuana strain names have become much more important than they were in the past, so it’s a good idea to know whether this is true or not. Of course, it really depends on where you are buying your seeds. If you are acquiring the seeds from the person or company who bred them, the name will almost certainly be reliable. If not, it may or may not be an accurate name.
Because the importance placed upon marijuana names is increasing, there are more inaccurate names at places like dispensaries. This has to do with marketing: people want to buy what they have heard of, so people selling their marijuana are more likely to label it as something well known whether it is accurate or not. Therefore, unless you are buying from an actual seed breeder or reputable seed bank, you won’t truly know what you’re getting.
So what is with all the “Haze” names of the present day weed varieties? The Haze variety is now a staple in a marijuana breeding genetics, perhaps the most famous of them all. So what about the marijuana origin of this strain? According to history (or perhaps legend, seeing as there are more than one rendition of the story), the “Haze Brothers” originated this variety in the 1960s and 1970s, of course in California. It is said that the Haze variety was created merely on accident — a solid hybridization occurred between two cannabis varieties, and the seeds were acquired afterward. Supposedly the weed origin of the Haze strain contains Colombian, Thai, and Indian genetics. Some say Mexican genetics are also present. Today, Jamaican cannabis groups might also be present.
The Original Haze was a pure sativa breed, without any hermaphrodite leanings. It supposedly even had a higher female to male ratio and came in numerous colors. Its taste was fruity, even root beer-flavored or chocolatey. At some point, the Original Haze was brought to the Netherlands, where it then was hybridized and led to all the strains of Haze today. Now, of course, Haze strains are loosely based off the Original Haze, and the term usually just indicates the fact that it has sativa characteristics.
Another well-known strain of marijuana, OG Kush, also known as Ocean Grown Kush, is a type of marijuana strain that also has an interesting backstory. The cannabis origin dates back to 1993 when one male marijuana plant (which comes from a combination of Lemon Thai and Old World Paki Kush) was used as the “secret ingredient” for cross breeding. When someone tasted the resulting Kush, they commented that its superior flavor must be because it was mountain grown — the grower responded by saying, “this is ocean grown, bro.” From that point on, this particular strain was known as Ocean Grown Kush, or more commonly OG Kush.