What is a Landrace? Where Does Your Favorite Strain Come From?

By: Matt D.
July 15, 2019

Isn’t it all just weed? you might ask when presented with a menu of cannabis. What makes Super Sour Skunk any different from Lemon OG Haze? Where does this stuff even come from? To better understand the answers, a good place to start would be to understand what a landrace strain is, since all modern cannabis can be traced back over time to a combination of landrace crosses.

Landraces are indigenous strains that grow in the wild, unbothered by mankind. Over time, they’ve adapted to their environment, whether that’s a tropical jungle, high on the side of a mountain blasted by UV rays, deep in a shady valley, in a marine region misty with ocean air, a volcanic region, or elsewhere.

Its thought that cannabis first originated in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This original “Crop Zero” was then spread by human activity along trading routes or through colonial activities. Either through accident or design, cannabis ended up growing wild across the globe. Over time, these different cannabis plants adapted to their new environments, and took on different characteristics suited to help the plants thrive. Some grew taller to reach for the sun. Others flowered earlier to reproduce before the seasons changed. Others stayed short to better survive windy climates. Plants that flower in colder weather turn different colors than plants in hot climates.

Breeders in the 70s began to cross different plants from different regions, sometimes to experiment, sometimes by accident, and sometimes looking to isolate specific traits. Perhaps a breeder wanted shorter plants, or faster flowering times, or better mind-bending effects, or interesting aromas, or more powerful medicinal attributes. These early crosses became the backbones that many of our modern strains are built upon.

Of course, breeding isn’t as simple as taking a Jamaican landrace and crossing it with a Thai landrace. The resulting offspring will be as varied as four human siblings might be. It’s a long process and takes many generations to isolate desired traits, breed out unwanted ones, and create a stable hybrid whose seeds will produce uniform plants. But that’s a different post for a different time.

While modern hybrids like Gorilla Glue, Sour Diesel, and Sherbet Cookies rule the landscape now, there are still some landrace strains available for those intrepid enough to track them down. ATG carries one landrace: Durban Poison is an African sativa named after a South African port town. Other landraces include Lamb’s Bread (Jamaica), Thai, Acupulco Gold (Mexico), Mazar-i-Sharif (Afghanistan), and Panama Red.