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What Are Landrace Strains?

Written by Sam North Jan 13 2023

Cannabis legality – and weed culture in general – is in a stage of pure, unadulterated, mind-boggling growth that would’ve been hard for even the most conscious pothead to predict just a decade or two ago. 

And with this expansion has come some pretty wild new technologies, potent-as-heck forms of consumables, and (most importantly) stunning genetic advancements. The list of current-day strains available to everyday stoners and medicinal patients alike is genuinely amazing.

But before all these newfangled hybrids and designer creations were at our fingertips, there were good, honest landrace strains. We are talking about some of those old-school classics. Strains that you hear the more wizened cannabis enthusiasts talk about in hushed tones, with a far-off glimmer in their eyes, usually graced with a soft smile, as they recall in detail how these landraces once snuck into their rolling papers regularly.

Walk into any quality dispensary and you may see one or two of these special offerings on sale, but for the unenlightened among us, the term “Landrace” may not hold any particular meaning whatsoever.

So…

  • What are landrace strains? 
  • What exactly makes them so special? 
  • And how can you get your hands on them?

Let’s dive in and find out.

What Are Landrace Cannabis Strains?

In layman’s terms, a landrace cannabis strain is simply a strain that is native to one particular area

Almost every strain available on the market today has gone through a rigorous and deliberate breeding process, with the intention of bolstering characteristics that we all find desirable in some way or another. Whether it be the THC content, the CBD percentage, the bud structure or coloration, the aroma or flavor, or any number of less obvious traits – modern-day breeders have been grinding and toiling to enhance certain cannabis properties for more than half a century (and who really knows exactly how long humans have been tinkering away at our favorite plant).

Landrace strains, however, did not go through the same kind of selective-breeding program that we see in uuse today. With the sea of genetics available for modern-day strain hunters to pull from, there are really not many limits to where the plant can be pushed.

And while there is nothing at all wrong with this, landrace options speak to the natural selection processes that have been going on in the cannabis world before we ever got our filthy little paws on the green gold. They offer a view into what cannabis once was, and how it has changed since then. 

Are the landraces we see today totally devoid of any human interaction?

Landrace strains are naturally occurring, bred by mother nature – possibly with a little helping hand from our passionate, pot-smoking forefathers. The big difference is that humans, and nature itself, just didn’t have the same genetic pool to use for cross-breeding purposes

These strains have slowly evolved over millennia to thrive in a certain environment, and have resulted in weed cultivars specific to a certain geographic region. The landrace cannabis strains available today represent the oldest, most original cannabis genetics available and are prized for their unique terpene and cannabinoid profiles, as well as having a few other key benefits.

The Benefits Of Landrace Strains

Thanks to the act of natural selection over untold generations, these strains have hugely stable genetics with little phenotype variation. This means that growers can rely on producing repeatable results year after year, which is rarely the case with new school genetics (unless the crop is grown from clones and not seeds).

They also offer great environmental robustness, as they have had the time to evolve over many thousands of years, and have learned to thrive in their own locale. Take the Hindu Kush or Afghani landrace weed strains as an example. The mountain range where these two originate is up around the northern tip of the Himilayas. No surprise then that this area battles through pretty extreme winters, and summer temps that can swing way above the recommended range. As such, certain landrace strains are well-suited to harsh climates and offer a level of resilience not seen in many other cannabis varieties.

This is a trait that can be hugely beneficial to both hobby and commercial growers, especially outdoor growers in areas that experience larger environmental fluctuations (temperature and humidity) than are usually considered ideal for cannabis cultivation. This makes them perfect as not just a standalone strain option, but also as a gateway into the pursuit of cannabis breeding. The rugged characteristics that many landrace strains offer are a perfect addition for home growers looking to start a breeding/strain-hunting project of their own. 

Landrace strains are often highly sought after by connoisseurs and old-school stoners who want to experience the unique landrace flavors and effects –  and take a little trip down memory lane. The terpene profile offered by these strains can often be hard to replicate with modern hybrids, so many growers look for landraces as a way to experience the cannabis of old.

Before we go any further, let’s have a little look at the recorded history of cannabis, and the landraces that it references…

A (Very) Brief History Of Cannabis

It’s safe to say that human interaction with the Herb stretches back to a time before books, a time before records, and before history, at least as we understand it. 

Cannabis has been an integral part of human culture for eons, and landrace strains are the descendants of these ancient varieties that have formed the basis of our modern cannabis experience.

We can trace back weed usage surprisingly far back. Cannabis has a long and chequered recorded history dating back all the way to 2500 BC Chinese Imperialism. This was during the reign of Emperor Shen Nung, the man considered to be the father of Chinese herbal medicine. The use of the plant was recorded for its medicinal properties, but it is safe to assume that it was already being used for recreational fun as well.

Cannabis is mentioned in both oral and written histories of ancient cultures spanning the entire globe. From the supreme being Shiva, who revered the plant and counted it among his most prized possessions, to the gods of the Vikings, who passed cannabis around the mead hall of Valhalla as they plotted, feasted, and celebrated battles to come.

The general consensus is that cannabis was first found in the foothills of the Himalayas, and slowly spread outwards over the preceding centuries. No one knows with absolute certainty the exact location of where the very first, native cannabis plant prospered, but most agree that it was probably in the Pakistan/Afghanistan region.

So how did it come to find its way into Chinese herbal medicine all those years ago, and onto the rolling trays of today?

Like any member of the kingdom of plants, cannabis is an explorer at heart. During the time that landrace strains were starting to be developed, land and sea travel was commonplace – albeit far more difficult than it is today. Cannabis was able to explore and visit new lands, with landrace strains popping up in every geographic region it passed through.

People would accidentally cultivate landraces by collecting and planting seeds from the wild, or create landrace hybrids by deliberately breeding landrace strains together. But really, it mostly comes down to natural selection. When allowed to grow wild (and in certain parts of the world, landrace cannabis strains are still growing wild today), landrace strains will adapt to their environment and produce offspring that are better suited to the region. Wild weed crops have the freedom to explore all characteristic avenues, unabated by the human hand. This is landrace evolution in action.

Many of these region-specific strains of our past have been lost to the annals of time, but the landrace varieties that we do have access to now date back centuries and offer a unique taste and experience, while also offering the people connected to the land these strains hail from, the chance to partake in what they may see as a culturally significant experience.

Landrace Cannabis Strains Available Today

So, while we have definitely lost some of the landrace genetics that our ancestors would have enjoyed, there are more than a couple of options still available.

Landrace cannabis
Landrace cannabis first started growing naturally in certain parts of the world.

Landrace genetics offer the closest thing to pure Indica and Sativa options (although some are definitely hybrids), which is one of the main reasons why they are so highly sought after, even with the world of weed genetics pushing forward like never before.

Indica Landrace Strains

The Indica side of cannabis genetics evolved, for the most part, in the birthplace of ganga itself – the Pakistan/Afghanistan region (as well as Nepal, India, and the related region). 

Anyone worth their weight in bud should have heard of Hindu Kush (which originated in the mountain range that makes up part of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan), but that’s just one of a list of Indica landrace options still available. Others include –

Sativa Landrace Strains

Hailing predominantly from parts of Asia, and Southern or Central America (with a few Hawaiian and African bangers thrown in for good measure), Sativa landrace strains are known for producing a range of uplighting, invigorating effects. The Sativa dominant landrace cultivars you’re likely to come across are –

  • Maui Waui (Hawaii)
  • Lambs Bread (Jamaica)
  • Acapulco Gold (Mexico) 
  • Thai Stick (Thailand)
  • Panama Red (Panama)
  • Columbian Gold (Colombia)
  • Durban Poison (South Africa)
  • Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) 
  • Aceh (Indonesia)
  • Chocolate Thai (Thailand)
  • Puna Buddaz (Hawaii)
  • Moloka’i Purpz (Hawaii)

While these landrace options make up the majority of what you are likely to find offered in either flower or seed form these days, they are anything but the lot. Other options from landrace-adjacent regions include –

  • Pakistani Chitral Kush
  • Swazi Gold
  • Red Congolese
  • Malawi
  • Rooibaard
  • Luang Prabang
  • Altai 

Are landraces more potent than regular strains?

Regular strains? What does that even mean these days?

If we are talking top-shelf, new-age genetics then (for the most part) – no. Landrace strains are known for having lower cannabinoid levels than their potent as-all-hell descendants (although some do still top the 20 to 25% mark), but that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make landrace cannabis strains any less desirable

A better question might be – 

Are landrace strains as enjoyable as new-age options, from a current standpoint?

There’s a lot more than pure cannabinoid percentages that goes into the quality and subsequent enjoyment of a certain strain.

In a recent episode of the podcast “Cannabis Cultivation Science”, there was a discussion about this exact point that I found pretty interesting. In a blind study (not peer-reviewed, but still worthy of conversation), it was found that the vast majority of cannabis users preferred strains that had interesting aroma and flavor notes over purely high THC options.

That’s exactly what landrace strains offer. A smoking experience that is a little left field, and different from the diesel and citrus heavy strains that dominate today’s market.

Is It Hard To Find Landrace Strains?

Yes, and no. It depends is the best way to put it.

If you live in a region where a landrace is still free to grow wild then you are one of the lucky ones. Many landrace strains are held in high regard in the lands they hail from, and are thought of as well-guarded secrets in some form.

But, as medicinal and recreational cannabis legality slowly creeps across the globe, more landrace options become available to the wider cannabis community.

There are a bunch of seed companies now offering landrace options. Here at Premium Cultivars, we are proud to offer a few of the best landrace strain seeds currently available to the open market. These include

STRAIN NAME SATIVA OR INDICA DOMINANT FLOWERING TIME DOMINANT TERPENES
MAUI WOWIE FEMINIZED  SATIVA 8 – 9 weeks Caryophyllene, Limonene, Myrcene
DURBAN POISON FEMINIZED  SATIVA 8 – 9 weeks Myrcene, Ocimene, Terpinolene
ACAPULCO GOLD FEMINIZED  SATIVA 8 – 9 weeks Caryophyllene, Limonene, Myrcene
AFGHANI FEMINIZED  INDICA 8 – 9 weeks Limonene, Myrcene, Pinene
HINDU KUSH FEMINIZED  INDICA 8 – 9 weeks Caryophyllene, Limonene, Pinene

If these options don’t fit the bill, no worries! We have a bunch of interesting, top-shelf cultivars available that stand out from the usual crowd – check out our top-selling exotic strains.

The Wrap-Up

So, there we go. Pretty much everything there is to know about landrace cannabis genetics, and where they sit in the modern day. No matter if landrace cannabis strains are your thing or not, they offer an interesting window into the genetic heritage of today’s more popular strains.

But if landraces float your boat, then you’ve come to the right place – Premium Cultivars has some of the best landrace strain seeds available on the market. Grab some, and let us know in the comments how they go!

Sam North

Sam North is a content writer with a passion for everything cannabis. After working multiple seasons on weed farms absorbing the ins and outs of cannabis cultivation and culture, he decided to transition into a role that would allow him to work from anywhere, anytime. Sam now writes for multiple weed publications. He has extensive experience with a wide range of canna-agriculture styles, from smaller artisanal farms to large-scale commercial operations, and is here to share his knowledge to give you all the best chance of cultivation success. About this Author

Sam North

Sam North is a content writer with a passion for everything cannabis. After working multiple seasons on weed farms absorbing the ins and outs of cannabis cultivation and culture, he decided to transition into a role that would allow him to work from anywhere, anytime. Sam now writes for multiple weed publications. He has extensive experience with a wide range of canna-agriculture styles, from smaller artisanal farms to large-scale commercial operations, and is here to share his knowledge to give you all the best chance of cultivation success. About this Author

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