Cannabis Strains

Landrace Strains Are the Oldest Cannabis Strain

Landrace strains

The oldest cannabis strains are collectively categorized as landrace strains, a term used to describe any genetically distinct varietal that’s indigenous to a specific geographic region, where it has—over a long period of time and isolation—adapted to the area’s climate and traditional cultivation techniques. Part of this process is natural acclimation, but local cannabis growers have also selectively bred these landrace strains over many generations, choosing for propagation individual plants that show desired traits, like drought resistance in an arid climate or mold resistance in a place with chilly nights and dense fog.

Often these landrace cannabis strains are named at least in part for their region of origin: Think Panama RedMaui Wowie, and Malawi Gold. Further back, according to most scholars, the cannabis species originated as a feral annual plant in Central Asia approximately 15,000 years ago, and from there spread worldwide along ancient trading routes, which means that all strains throughout history share a common ancestor.

North America’s earliest pot smokers came up puffing on pure sativa landrace strains native to Mexico, the Caribbean, and points further south. Back in those pre-sinsemilla days (1900–1970), every bag of grass came with a large supply of free seeds, but those seeds wouldn’t grow well in northern climates. Pure sativas take weeks longer than indicas to mature, and thus require a longer, warmer growing season—a problem that became a crisis in the United States when the War on Marijuana began focusing on border patrols and shutting off foreign supply lines.

As demand for cannabis spiked in the late 1960s, the situation grew so dire there were well-publicized cannabis droughts. Then enterprising cannabis breeders in California and elsewhere discovered that by crossing these landrace sativa strains they were used to smoking with landrace indica strains brought back from Nepal, Afghanistan, and other stops along the then-popular Hippie Trail, they could produce hybrids with the best traits of both subspecies. Thus, they transformed homegrown American cannabis from ditch weed laughingstock into the envy of the world.

And how exactly did we get from a handful of landrace strains to Zkittlez and Blue Dream? Through a series of incredible breeding breakthroughs that largely took place behind a heavy veil of prohibition. So be warned that while it’s well documented that the McIntosh apple was first discovered by John McIntosh in 1811 in Canada, the stories of the world’s greatest cannabis breeders are a lot murkier (which definitely comes with the territory when your creative output happens to be illegal).

Reposted excerpt from original article written by DAVID BIENENSTOCK

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