There has been a lot of talk about Landrace (LR) strains over the last few years. From Acapulco Gold to Malawi, people across the world claim to have landrace variants of many popular strains. These cultivators claim that their genetics are some of the oldest known to man. They take pride in the native, indigenous or heirloom nature of the cannabis strains under their care.
As humanities scientific understanding continues to grow, we have found that CBD may be better for treating pain and muscle spasms than THC. Without access to strains that had not been selectively bred, people would not have been able to create strains like Charlotte’s Web or LSD. Breeders needed to combine plants with new characteristics than what the market had available so they turned to the untapped potential of landrace strains.
What is a Landrace Strain?
A landrace strain never been crossed with a different phenotype and has grown in its natural environment for as long as people can tell. Like the Giant Tortoises of the Galapagos Islands, these plants have spent a long time in genetic isolation. Cultivators have taken the best of each generation and bred it with the next for many human lifetimes.
This isolation (and the resulting ) makes these varieties highly stable and extremely vigorous since only the best were kept. Over generations, people grew the plants that performed best for their environment. In the jungles of Durban South Africa, the plants needed to be able to grow above the trees so only tall plants grew well enough to survive.
Historical records (some dating as far back as 2900 B.C.) tell us cannabis has lived with humanity for thousands of years. Cultivated for food, fiber, and for religious and medicinal purposes, cannabis is one of the oldest known agricultural plants and has many uses. According to the best available research, cannabis originally evolved in Central Asia and spread to nearly every region of the planet thanks to humans.
Outside of Asia, landrace strains are the result of escaped cultivars (strains that were selectively bred by humans) which gradually adapted to their environment over time. Over the centuries, other cultivars would have interbred with these feral escapees. Due to the complex nature of the winds and plant/animal interactions, even the wild plants native to Central Asia are not believed to be untouched indigenous strains.
Why Are Landrace Strains Important?
Not all cannabis is created equal in the eyes of growers. Plants that produce large colas full of cannabinoids like THC are traditionally prized over low yielding variants. Over generations, certain traits get bred out of or in to the genetic lines. People use this to make bigger and stronger plants than could be obtained otherwise.
This breeding method also has the effect of removing many of the less understood compounds. Since the same trichomes produce THC and CBD (and only one is psychoactive) growers selectively bred out the ability to produce CBD. That way all of the trichomes could focus on producing THC instead of some deciding to make CBD.
Where Are the Real Landrace Strains?
In today’s cannabis market people rarely see the pure landrace strains. On sites like Leafly and Cannafo, most of the sativas (the red tiled ones) are not pure sativas. Instead, they are sativa-dominant hybrids that exhibit strong sativa-like attributes. Same thing goes for indicas and hybrids. Landrace strains also exhibit these hybrid traits but to different degrees.
Landrace strains were embraced worldwide during the 1960s and 70s by growers who began collecting them in their own local gardens. Once the landrace strains were removed from their local growing environment, they became heirloom variants. For marketing reasons, most breeders don’t differentiate between landrace and heirloom.
These heirloom strains were then propagated in places like Hawaii and California. As the landrace movement grew, people who hunt for these hard to find strains became sought after. People like Arjan Roskam, founder of Amsterdam-based Greenhouse Seeds, and his colleague Franco Loja have spent millions obtaining these landrace varieties for use in their selective breeding.
What Landrace Strains Are There?
Here is a short list of some popular landrace strains:
Malawi Gold originated in Southeastern Africa. Grown on the shores of Lake Malawi (the third largest lake in Africa) the plant was adaptable to its local conditions. It’s genetic flexibility was perfect for the wildly changing environment which is why many phenotypes can be found in the market today. Aromas and flavors given off by the phenotypes of Malawi Gold help differentiate between the varieties. Two main phenotypes exist. One gives off a fruity smell while the other is a woody one. The fruity plants are normally smaller than the woody ones.
Afghan Kush Indica:
The plant is medium height with dark, broad leaves which makes it perfect for growing in the northern Afghani mountains. Its heavy, sweet aroma and taste mix with spices and incense to create a deep flavor. New smokers often find that this strain gives a very potent high that easily turns sedating. Perfect for people that are having trouble sleeping.
Hindu Kush Indica:
Cultivated in the Hindu Kush Mountain range for generations where it grows wild, the flowers of the fertile hillsides and valleys make the world’s finest hash. Years of selective breeding for resinous, indica-dominant plants with feral varieties have resulted in short, stocky bushes covered with huge, shiny trichomes. Known to relieve symptoms of pain, nausea, and stress while providing a pleasantly strong, earthy scent.
Lambs Bread Sativa:
Also called “Lamb’s Breath” Lamb’s Bread produces a bright green and sticky flower with a sativa dominant high. The effects have been known to help generate energy and positive introspection. Stress melts away under the warmth of the Lamb’s Bread buzz. This plant comes from Jamaica and it has been reported that Bob Marley himself enjoyed it.
There are literally tens of thousands of strains across the globe with a small percentage of them being landrace varieties. Because of the geographical nature of the landrace title, most strains retain the name of the area where they originated. Yet some places have made more of a name for themselves than others and it can be far easier to obtain their seeds or clones