Simply put, a landrace strain is a cultivar of cannabis that is genetically pure. Over many centuries of growing cannabis, humans have crossbred the original plant many, many times. This creates the different characteristics of the different strains—or cultivars, more accurately—that we know and love. Your beloved Blue Dream is a relatively novel creation, basically.
Landrace strains, however, hew closer to the cannabis that grew several millennia ago in Central Asia. While there is no such thing as an “original” cannabis strain, there are several wild cultivars specific to different regions of the world. Once they reached a certain area, they adapted to that area’s climate and conditions.
Growers and cannabis lovers have been interested in landraces for quite some time, but that interest has been renewed with legalization. While taking these strains out of the environment that made them unique might defeat the purpose, people are still keen to try. So what are the landraces, and what makes them special?
The Landrace List
You’ve probably already heard of a lot of landrace strains without even knowing it. They pop up in pot culture quite frequently. Things like Acapulco Gold are not just made up for the sake of sounding cool in Half Baked. That’s one of the landraces (although Maui Wowie, pictures in the same scene, isn’t).
The following are some of the more famous landraces:
- Hindu Kush (India)
- Afghan (Afghanistan)
- Durban Poison (South Africa)
- Panama Red (Panama/Central America)
- Malawi (Malawi/Southern Africa)
- Lamb’s Bread (Jamaica)
Of course, there are more than just that. Many people look at landraces in terms of region, sorting them by where they grow indigenously. Indeed, what makes a landrace a landrace has a lot to do with where it was first cultivated.
What Makes a Landrace?
What makes strains landraces is that, while humans may have spread them around, not much changed after that. All modern cannabis comes from two original species—indica and satava—with a bit of ruderalis out there in the wild. However, when early humans encountered cannabis in the wild, and cultivated it, the regional strains they developed are what we now consider landraces. The idea is that some intrepid fellow discovered the fun and functional properties of the cannabis plant, and began growing their own.
Since then, cannabis cultivators have bred the plant into something very different from those first crops, as evidenced by strains like Gorilla Glue #4. Its namesake didn’t even exist until very, very recently! Landrace strains qualify as landraces when they are directly descended from those original regional genetics. As in, they have not been extensively crossbred to optimize certain phenotypes. Instead, they’ve just been grown and harvested like normal for centuries. So, considering that hybridization is at a point where species distinctions have almost ceased to mean anything, finding a true landrace is impressive.
Why All the Fuss?
While being landraces does make them special strains, it doesn’t necessarily enhance their potency. In fact, they are probably less potent than the stuff that modern growers can produce. Instead, landrace strains are interesting because they present a clearer picture of what prehistoric cannabis might have been like. Much like natural wine, which also enjoys a cult following.
However, unlike natural wine, which is natural because it does not use any additives or added yeasts to achieve fermentation, taking a landrace out of its land kind of defeats the purpose. You can grow different species of grapes anywhere in the world, and still produce a natural wine with them, but while you might find a pure landrace seed, growing it in a modern indoor operation would produce a very different end product.
That said, there are still people who try to capture that vintage experience for you, although most people marketing landraces are selling seeds. If growing your own is your thing, you can definitely find some cool genetics. While you’re at it, make sure to check out the Landrace Preservation Society, an Oregon company that aims to catalog landrace strains and connect enthusiasts with true genetics.
Should You Smoke Them?
Absolutely! If you can get your hands on one, it’s worth trying out a landrace. It may not send you to cloud nine like your favorite 30% THC Blue Dream, but it will expand your knowledge about the origins of cannabis. Also, many enthusiasts contend that landraces produce a superior terpene blend, which often enhances the experience more than THC alone. And, if you’re traveling, and you have a way to safely try these strains in the regions they hail from, absolutely do it. Smoking a landrace from its native land is probably the closest you can currently come to experiencing true terroir in cannabis!