I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, humans and cannabis are meant to be together, as is evidenced by thousands of years of use throughout the world.
Historically, cannabis has been used recreationally and therapeutically for thousands of years. It went through a few decades of stigma but now, more research has been emerging about the benefits of this plant and it is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. However, most of what we’re using today is much different than the cannabis of years past.
The closest you can get to original weed, the stuff our ancestors were smoking on, are landrace cannabis strains. A landrace strain is one that has retained its original genetics and hasn’t been crossed with any modern cannabis strains. But landrace cannabis strains can be hard to find and many people aren’t aware of what makes these types of flowers so unique and special.
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What are landrace cannabis strains and makes them so unique?
Landrace cannabis strains, again, are basically just cannabis strains that have held their original genetics over the years. They have evolved naturally over thousands of years, so they’re not exactly the same as they were during the early years of documented cannabis use (we know, it’s disappointing to the purists among us), but they have not been altered by humans and cross-bred with other strains. Since they are not regional landrace strains, grown in the areas from which they originated, but rather, just grown with the same genetics, these flowers are often referred to as “heirloom” cannabis strains.
The natural evolution of landrace strains was necessary for cannabis to adapt to a continually changing environment, and these changes are to thank for all the genetic diversity and various phenotypes found in landrace strains. Cannabis is an incredibly hardy plant that can survive in different climates, from warm tropical regions to colder mountains, and even more arid desert regions sometimes. Landrace strains that evolved in these different environments will have a lot of very different phenotypes, however, most of them hail from various regions in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.
We know for sure that a handful of landrace strains still exist, but it’s hard to say how many because there are no historical botanical records regarding cannabis like there are for other plants. Landrace cannabis strains and landrace seeds have held a special place in the cannabis seed collections of old school connoisseurs and breeders, so we don’t have to worry about losing the existing landrace strains that we do have.
However, many connoisseurs are torn between retaining all the original genetics of landrace strains or cross-breeding for optimum yields and quality. Some people assume that landrace cannabis strains are inherently superior to modern strains, but if we’re talking flavor and potency, the opposite actually rings true. Landrace strains are classics, but they typically lack the traits that many growers and consumers consider mandatory in today’s market, such as large yields, high cannabinoid and terpene content, and fast bloom times.
Sativa and indica landrace strains
Landrace sativa strains, the original sativas, mostly came from different parts of Asia and North Africa. Like many other plants, vegetables, and other trade goods, landrace sativa strains made their way across the world. Once they reached warmer lands in the Americas, they thrived from the sunshine and grew taller, with greater internodal distances compared to indica and ruderalis strains.
Some original landrace sativa strains include: Durban poison from Africa, Acapulco gold from Mexico, Lambs bread from Jamaica, Panama Red and Colombian gold from South America, and a few Thai strains from Asia.
Landrace indica strains, the “OG” to many of today’s most popular strains, are hardy plants that originated in the rugged mountain ranges of India, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Landrace indica strains, as well as modern strains, are shorter, more compact, and more resinous than sativas. They also bloom faster and are often the most potent.
Landrace indica strains started gaining popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, when hippy travelers from the west starting visiting many of these more remote eastern regions. Many of them loved these landrace indica flowers so much that they snuck seeds back with them to the states.
Some original landrace indica strains include: Afghani, Mazar, Hindu kush, Lashkar Gah, and Tashkurgan. The latter aren’t so well-known, but Afghani and Hindu kush are very popular strains to this day.
Ruderalis or autoflowering landrace strains
And last but not least, we have landrace ruderalis strains, which were the least popular of the group until recently, when demand for autoflowering strains began to surge. This means they don’t require a specific light cycle like other cannabis plants, they flower at a certain age regardless of the conditions.
These plants are very small and landrace ruderalis strains have low levels of cannabinoids. However, when bred with modern strains, you end up with quick-blooming, autoflowering, POTENT, buds.
Ruderalis is often found in places with harsh climates and short growing seasons such as Siberia and Northern Europe. There aren’t many landrace ruderalis strains on the market, because of the low cannabinoid content. A few modern, autoflowering strains that share landrace ruderalis genetics include: Auto blueberry, Auto mazar, Auto Cinderella jack, and many more.
Although hard to come by, if you know where to look, you can find landrace cannabis strains – or heirloom strains as they’re commonly called – that have the same genetics as the weed our ancestors have been smoking for centuries. Even though they’re not as potent as the Wedding Cake or Private Reserve you can find in most dispensaries, there’s still something special about using these classic strains if you’re lucky enough to stumble across them.
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