Landrace Strains: The Ancestry of Modern Cannabis

Landrace strains are the original progenitors of the strains that many of us know and love today. 

Evolving naturally over thousands of years, these rare types of strains are the backbone of the modern cannabis community and industry. Unfortunately, despite their impact, not many are aware of their existence, history, or the significance that they still hold today. 

By the end of this article, you’ll be able to explain the concept behind landrace strains, what a landrace strain is and where these cannabis sativa strains originated and discover whether actual landrace strains still exist!

What are Landrace Strains?

landrace strain guide

When it comes to cannabis, landrace strain can be thought of as a  geographically isolated cannabis strain—these cannabis plants bred with one another within these isolated areas generation after generation.

As a result, these strains are often highly adapted to the specific climate of their home region. This inbreeding led to very stable genetics over time, always growing in the same geographical climate. The names of these cannabis varieties are well-recognizable. Examples include Hindu Kush, Durban Poison, and Acapulco Gold.

There are both indica and sativa landrace strains. These original cannabis varieties are the only true pure sativa and pure indica varieties. Landrace sativa and indica strains have been bred with one another to create the lineage that ultimately resulted in many existing hybrids.

Another term for original landrace strains is heirloom strains, and you may see breeders and sellers of seeds use this term instead.  Almost every modern strain can be linked to these early varieties.

Some of the most well-known landrace marijuana strains originate from India, Africa, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The earliest original strain is thought to be Hindu Kush from regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As humans took the seeds containing these first landrace strains’ genetics to new countries, the cannabis plant continued to evolve.

Early waves of movement created a rapid spread of landrace varieties in South Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Relatively newer types of these strains spread throughout South America, Jamaica, and Central America.

While not the first members into the strain zeitgeist, Central and South America quickly gained some of the world’s best heirloom strains due to its natural environment.

Landrace sativa examples include Durban Poison, Acapulco Gold, Chocolate Thai, Panama Red, Lamb’s Bread, and Punto Rojo.  Indica landrace varieties include Afghan Kush, Pure Afghan, and G13.

Where do Landrace Strains Come From?

Like all flora and fauna around the world, landrace strains are a result of evolution. There are different landrace cannabis strains found in places all over the world. What they all have in common is their geographical isolation and genetic evolution over time. 

These landrace strains have adapted to a specific region where they grow. Many landrace strains are maintained by using identical or similar genetic varieties of that strain. Others continue to evolve and adapt naturally.

Within nature, cannabis plants come in male and female forms (plus the occasional hermaphrodite). Left to their own devices, these plants pollinate one another and continue to change slightly from one generation to another.

Where these landrace strains are grown in cannabis farms, cultivators may more tightly control the pollination situation.

For example, every male plant may be culled so that females remain unpollinated. These non-impregnated female plants then emphasize bud formation in their growth cycle instead of developing seeds. When the next growing season comes around, cultivators plant anew from novel seeds.

These seeds may come from a pollinated female plant grown long ago.  When cultivators allow female cannabis plants to become pollinated, they often pick the best mothers to gather seeds for future growing seasons. All the while, these landrace strains continue to be grown in the same geographical region.

Are There Any Left?

landrace strain cultivation

Once landrace seeds are transported worldwide, they are no longer growing in the same natural environment. Furthermore, once these landrace plants are bred with other varieties, they are no longer 100% landrace strain.  This means landrace strains will never perfectly match the ones you find in their natural habitat.

Since many cultivators do not pollinate a landrace strain with itself, many will get diluted by new plant genetics.

Over the last several decades, breeders have bred landrace strains with new strains. This new plant is then bred again in the next growth cycle, and so on. This simple fact leads to the conclusion that anything you find in North America is likely to be a true landrace strain unless the grower paid significant costs to import fresh seeds, of course.

Depending on how many times the strain has been hybridized, more or less specific features are left from the original landrace strain. You may also understand now why there are so many more hybrids on the cannabis market. Everything aside from the strains listed above is better described as sativa-dominant and indica-dominant.

Now, this does not mean there are no heirloom varieties left. You just have to travel to a specific region to find some.

Even so, once you get to that location, you’ll have to find a cultivator who has worked hard never to use imported seeds.

You may just find a natural descendant of ancient strains somewhere in the world with some effort and luck. Finding actual old seeds that come from a long-dead heirloom plant itself would require even further luck.

With that being said, here are a few of the best-known landrace cannabis strains.

Sativa Landrace Strains

  • Acapulco Gold from Mexico
  • Lamb’s Bread from Jamaica
  • Durban Poison from South Africa
  • Kilimanjaro from Tanzania
  • Panama Red from Panama
  • Colombian Gold from Columbia
  • Thai and Chocolate Thai from Thailand

Indica Landrace Strains

  • Afhani (Pure Afghan) from Afghanistan
  • Hindu Kush from the Hindu Kush mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Tashkurgan from Afghanistan
  • Sheberghan from Afghanistan
  • Pakistani Chitral Kush from Pakistan
  • Mag from Iran
  • Puna Buddaz from Hawaii
  • Moloka’i Purpz from Hawaii

Forefathers of the Cannabis Industry

Even though you might have a difficult time finding these strains by yourself out in nature, you can experience their impact and significance through the many strains, products, and extracts that are derived from their lineage.

Despite their inaccessibility to the general public, these types of strains are still thriving in their native areas. If you find yourself visiting Central America or the Hindu Kush region, be on the lookout for these ancestral strains in the wild – you might just be fortunate enough to spot one!

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