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What Are Landrace Strains? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Historical documents from around the world suggest that we’ve been using marijuana for as long as four thousand years. Over that time there have been a lot of strains with their own name that, at times, can seem quite arbitrary. Alien Stardawg, anyone?

Looking over some of these often comical strain titles, have you ever wondered what the original strain of weed was? In order to answer that question, we can start by looking more carefully at the common names we use to describe cannabis like Kush, Haze, Sativa and Indica and ask: What exactly do these words mean?

You may have heard the term “landrace strains” before. This is a term commonly used by growers to describe these original strains of cannabis. These are wild and natural strains of marijuana that humans discovered long before they began to breed their own colorfully named brands.

What are Landrace Strains?

The landrace strain is a cannabis strain that has developed over centuries in a particular natural environment. Different cannabis cultivars that have grown, inbred and adapted to very specific geographical location are pure cannabis strains.

Over time, these strains have developed unique characteristics to better survive in their distinct climate. We can understand landrace strains to be true indigenous cannabis plants.

While some are cultivated to make unique types of hashish or cannabis products, others grow wild in their respective countries. For example, native cannabis plants found in the Kush Mountain region are quite different than the native, wild plants found in Thailand. Plants from both of these regions will also be quite different from the genotypes abundant in northern and central Africa.

Landrace Cannabis Species

A cannabis field is seen near a vineyard on the outskirts of Deir al-Ahmar in the Bekaa Valley, one of the poorest regions in Lebanon and notorious for its cannabis production, on October 3, 2017.
Photo by Joseph EID/AFP/Getty Images

Cannabis Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis are the three scientifically recognized species of cannabis and the categories under which all landrace strains fall. Though modern cannabis science is slowly beginning to prove that there may be more to cannabis genetics than we think, these three types are generally accepted by the cannabis community and are the names you will hear in any dispensary or seed bank.

Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa is the first species of cannabis to be identified by botanists in the late 1700s. Cannabis Sativa, meaning cultivated cannabis, originated in Asia and Northern Africa, but it didn’t take long for it to find its way to the west as the Silk Road brought spices, fabrics and smokable goods across Asia to Europe.

Cannabis Sativa is most often found growing in areas close to the equator, which provide the ideal growing conditions for this strain.

There are, however, varying types of Cannabis Sativa that originated in different parts of the world. Some of them include Acapulco Gold, originating in Mexico and Panama Red, from in Central America. These are all original strains of weed belonging to the Cannabis Sativa group of landrace strains.

Cannabis Indica

Indica is the landrace species of cannabis which gave us the word Kush–short for the Hindu Kush Mountain range where it originates. Indica strains with the name Kush name and genetics can be traced back to the mountains of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Cannabis Indica didn’t really make its way to Europe freely until the American hippie counterculture of the 1960s, which was heavily influenced by Southeast Asian culture, brought this new strain to North America.

This original strain of cannabis is shorter than Cannabis Sativa, and is well adapted to growing north of the equator. Cannabis Indica has been used to create most of the popular hybrids such as Northern Lights and Blueberry Kush.

Cannabis Ruderalis

This is the strangest of the original marijuana landrace species. As a result of the impossibly harsh environment from which it originates – the Himalayan Mountains and Siberia – Ruderalis is one of the most adaptable and resilient species. Forced to cope with low light conditions of its home soil, Ruderalis has adapted to flower with minimal light, and is the basis from which auto-flowering seeds were created.

This plant is the smallest of the landrace species and, though it is resilient, it’s mostly been used by breeders rather than growers due to its extremely low THC content. This species is also often used for industrial hemp, but is a parent to the popular hybrids Gorilla Gold and Low Ryder.

List of All Landrace Strains

Many breeders shy away from these native cannabis strains. They can be slow to grow, produce smaller yields, and take a lot more care than more modern strains. But, cultivating and preserving these strains may be one of the best things we can do to preserve these orignal cannabis plants.

There are several landrace strains that make up the backbone of many modern hybrids. Some of these strains include:

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