What Are Landrace And Heirloom Cannabis Strains?
With hundreds of new cannabis strains emerging every year, many have never heard of the origins of the weed savoured nowadays. The talk is about landraces - the forefathers of all hybridized strains sold today.
A landrace can be defined as a wild growing cannabis variety that evolved in the isolation of a specific geographic region. Over the ages, those isolated strains began to take on their own distinct characteristics best suited for survival in the particular region in which they evolved. Those strains are oftentimes named after their native region, such as Afghani, Colombian, Thai or Hawaiian and hints to these varieties are sometimes found in the names of their crossbred progeny.
The strain hunters
During the 1970s and 80s, cannabis aficionados traveled the world and began collecting landrace strains to cultivate them in their own local gardens. These strains are called heirlooms and were then propagated in other environments like California and Europe.
Arjan Roskam, the founder of Greenhouse Seeds in Amsterdam, has recently caught attention through his Strain Hunters project and the documentaries that accompanied their travels. Arjan and Franco Loja, his colleague, travel the world to find and collected largely untouched landrace strains to retrieve original genetic material that can be used to developed new strains with. Landraces are very important for breeding purposes because they are the winners of the natural "survival of the fittest" game.
Different climates formed strains with different appearance and cannabinoid composition - although they are members of the same family and there is very little distinction between them from a botanical point of view.
The origins of cannabis sativa
The cradle of Cannabis sativa landraces is Asia, Anatolia, and Northern Africa. These landraces tend to be much taller (up to 3-4 meters) and lankier than their Indica counterpart, with greater internodal spacing, and long, often airy, flower clusters and a significant stretch during their very long flowering period. The leafs are slender and exhibit deeply jagged serrations. The aroma of Sativa flowers is often described as fruity and floral. Cannabis sativa landraces have adapted to a life near the equator with longer summers and more intense sunlight and are not able to mature properly at even mild Northern or Southern latitudes. Some famous Sativa strains are Thai Stick, Acapulco Gold, Durban Poison, and Panama Red.
The origins of cannabis indica
Cannabis indica landraces were naturally developing in the mountain regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Indica landraces exhibit a much shorter (only up to 2 meters) and more compact stature and are more resinous than their Sativa cousins. Indicas finish their flowering earlier, showing only little stretch during their flowering period. The leafs of an Indica are broad and exhibit much less deeply jagged serrations. The flower clusters of an Indica plant are tightly packed and very dense. The aroma of Indica buds is often described as musky and earthy. The plants are well adapted to growing in mild Northern latitudes. Two of the most famous pure Indica strains are Hindu Kush and Pure Afghan.
Eastern Europe, the Himalayas and Siberia are the roots of Cannabis ruderalis, the cannabis oddity. Cannabis ruderalis is not only the smallest member of the cannabis family, reaching heights of just 1 meter, but also the least potent when it comes to cannabinoids. Its most exceptional trait is its capability to start flowering without a change in the light levels, which is an adaptation to the harsh climates in extreme Northern and Southern latitudes. In these regions the summer days can be as long as 20 hours, but the season lasts for a very short time. Breeders cleverly harnessed this genetic trait to create the autoflowering strains we know today. With autoflowering plants it is possible to harvest a plant in as little as 60 days from germination, which allows for two or more harvests per season in temperate climates.