Heirloom cannabis strains maintain landrace genetics on American soil. Discover the heirloom strain list and learn all about these original weed seeds. What makes heirloom strains so special and how are they different from other kinds of cannabis found around the world? We’ll answer these questions and more in this article. Indigenous to certain locations, landrace strains are the original cannabis strains. But where did they come from? and how have they influenced todays cannabis strains?. Find out all you need to know, right here.
Heirloom Cannabis Strains: The Ultimate Guide On Ganja Originals
There’s a special feeling to biting down into an heirloom apple, genetically identical to what our ancestors used to eat. Its pedigree gives it an air of importance that subjectively improves smell, taste, texture… everything. What if we told you that you could also smoke heirloom cannabis?
These marijuana strains have been around for a long time, surviving in their original form despite the prevailing breeding practices. This fact alone speaks of quality. It’s no wonder that heirloom marijuana has such significance in canna culture.
Join us for a deep dive into these genetically unadulterated weed cultivars. We’ll discuss the relationship between landrace, hybrid, and heirloom strains, explain their importance for current and future market diversity and describe the classics available today.
What is heirloom cannabis?
Heirloom strains have several definitions among botanists, but they all share one component—long years of genetic similarity. When we speak of these cultivars, we’re referring to cannabis that stayed the same for at least 50 years.
Heirloom marijuana seeds get passed down between generations of dedicated gardeners without any cross-pollination. As a result, the offspring weed crops display very similar traits to their parents.
Natural processes are the name of the game with heirloom cannabis. Apart from avoiding cross-breeding among cultivars, gardeners produce new seeds via open pollination. The fertilization of a female cannabis plant occurs naturally via wind, birds, and insects.
These efforts have one simple purpose. Heirlooms need to remain as comparable to their landrace parents as possible (barring genetic changes due to nature). Speaking of landraces, how do they relate to this weed category?
What is the difference between landrace cannabis strains and heirloom strains?
You might’ve heard of heirloom cannabis while reading into the history of your favorite crop, but talk of it isn’t that common. If you’ve spent any amount of time exploring weed, though, you must know about landrace marijuana.
Landraces are cultivars that occur naturally in some environments, developing without any interference from humans. The distinction between landrace and heirloom marijuana is slight but relevant, and it mostly has to do with geography.
Landrace strains originated in Afghanistan and India for indica and Thailand and South America for sativa. These crops became heirloom cannabis after people took them elsewhere for cultivation purposes. How did this happen, then?
Many stoners traveled Asia and the Middle East in the ‘60s and ‘70s, following a route that we today know as the ‘Hippie Trail.’ These eager amateurs ran into marijuana and had a taste of indigenous landraces, and some took seeds back home.
Even absolute rookies know what followed. Breeders took hold of these landrace weed seeds and grew them in alternative environments. They began experimenting with cross-breeding to create new, exciting, more optimized strains of ganja.
Not everybody was into this modern approach, though, and some decided to cultivate more traditionally. Most heirloom strains developed in Hawaii and California, where the conditions are ideal for growing Thai and India-native weed seeds.
These new weed plants were no longer landraces in a technical sense, as they developed in new natural conditions. Heirlooms as we know them today were born.
What is the difference between heirloom strains and hybrid strains?
Let’s repeat what we know so far. Heirloom cannabis originates from landrace strains, taken from their natural environment and grown without genetic modification. They’re the response to the widespread hybridization that took place from the ’70s onward.
What about hybrid weed crops? Aren’t they also the product of landraces, crossed and crossed again until only the most desirable qualities remain?
That is true. Most cannabis on the market today is hybrid, displaying some qualities from its landrace parentage. Breeders play around with genetics to increase THC levels, boost flower and resin production, and make cultivation a breeze.
Remember how we said that heirloom cannabis seeds are technically not pure landraces? That’s because, no matter how much we try to preserve the original genetics, some changes occur due to a dynamic natural environment.
The difference between heirloom and hybrid lies in the scope and intentionality of genetic modification. Where heirloom cannabis sees minimal, natural changes, hybrids are altered with a clear purpose.
Now that you have a general picture in mind, we’ll zoom in on the details about heirloom strains to answer the questions of curious cannabis enthusiasts in the community.
Where did heirloom cannabis seeds originate?
Today we have heirloom cannabis seeds thanks to those pot pioneers who trekked the Hippie Trail in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They got hold of landraces and cultivated them under different conditions. This practice caused some genetic changes, but not across the board.
Some pot gardeners found that offspring strains displayed traits of their landrace heritage. Here’s where heirloom cultivation became most prominent:
- Hawaii and South California for Indian and Thai landraces
- North California for Afghani and Hindu Kush landraces
These parts of the US displayed the perfect environmental conditions for landrace seeds. Of course, California later became a hotspot for cross-pollination, but some small marijuana farms held on to the heirloom strain originals and passed them down to future generations.
Why are heirloom strains unique?
Your opinion on this type of weed can go in one of two directions. Cannabis buffs who value tradition will itch to get an heirloom of their own. Others might wonder why anybody would bother when you have so many easy, optimized hybrids at your disposal.
We can’t tell you why you should or shouldn’t do it. We can only explain why heirloom marijuana seeds are unique and why they’re still relevant.
These heirloom strains travel from one rank of growers to the next. Each generation’s task is to maintain genetic purity, aiming at the maximum similarity between the parent and offspring marijuana plants.
Heirloom cannabis has never been cross-bred with other strains, which brings it as close to pure sativa or indica as possible in the Western world. Two groups benefit:
- Growers enjoy unadulterated genetics otherwise unobtainable on this side of the globe
- Breeders find it much easier to isolate desirable traits (growth characteristics, aromas, and adaptability) for crossing
Why are heirloom marijuana seeds rare?
Heirloom cannabis seeds aren’t something you’d run into in your local dispensary. At this point, only a select association of growers and breeders gets the opportunity ever to tackle these beauties. Why is that so?
Ironically, the boom in weed cultivation made the originals less accessible than ever. Ease became the keyword, and that’s not what you usually get with heirlooms. For that reason, botanist-historians are a rare group that still manages marginalized heirloom marijuana.
There’s another factor in play here, and it also boils down to the industrialized nature of growing weed.
When commercial seed banks get their hands on heirloom marijuana seeds, they’re not very eager to share them with everybody else. They use this delicate collection of fertile plants to make in-house hybrid production easier and maintain them as a trade secret.
Why are heirloom marijuana strains important?
Why do people go through the trouble of maintaining heirloom cannabis in this day and age? Because they’re the closest to landraces that we can get here in the US. Their genetic heritage preserves original cannabis species.
Without heirlooms, we’d already lose some indigenous strains. Landraces are in danger due to natural environments, wars, the commercial use of land, and the war on drugs. Heirloom marijuana seeds act as little sanctuaries, safekeeping the plant genome that started it all.
If you don’t care for tradition, consider the unexplored potential that still lies in those gene pools. Cannabis breeders already performed magic with a few little seeds that entered the country, and that’s while the field was still in its infancy.
Just think about how recently marijuana became more accepted. With the right practices, the potential medical, psychological, and purely hedonistic cannabis uses are endless. People who carry out these possibilities will appreciate a pure genetics base for their experimentation.
Benefits of heirloom weed strains
Okay, you now understand why current and prospective breeders care about heirloom strains. What about regular growers? With so many varieties available, why should they consider this fairly limited option?
Most weed cultivators who grow for smoking purposes are better off with crosses. There are certain benefits of heirloom cannabis worth considering, though.
For one, hybrids can be unstable. Of course, if you purchase from reliable dispensaries, they’ll sell already stabilized weed seeds only. Smaller seed bank supporters might see issues in this regard, with new crosses displaying too many sativa or indica properties.
On the other hand, heirloom cannabis seeds are as stable as they come. Their predictability comes from their landrace heritage, letting you cultivate pot and always know what you can expect in your garden.
What’s more, heirloom marijuana can be higher in cannabinoids. Genetic modification can influence flavor, effects, and cannabinoid production, making hybrids feel less ‘pure.’ Heirlooms boast balanced levels of THC, CBD, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds.
New strains can bypass this issue with first-rate breeding practices, but you have to be careful about your purchase spots. Balanced quality is pretty much a given with heirloom marijuana seeds that made their way back into the States.
Heirloom strains list: Meet the predecessors
Given everything we’ve discussed so far, you won’t be surprised that the heirloom strains list isn’t long. Let’s explore the cannabis gene pools we still maintain in America.
Heirloom OG strain
Heirloom OG is an indica cannabis cultivar. It likely originated as a cut of OG Kush that arrived in California in the 1960s.
Hawaiian heirloom genetics
Cannabis didn’t originate in Hawaii, but the scenic island’s been home to many gorgeous semi-native strains.
Not real landraces, these gene pools developed a tropical twist specific to their new environment. They’ve been around since the ’70s, which is just enough time to warrant discussing the Hawaiian heirloom genetics.
Heirloom purple strain
Purple weed strains are a superstar cannabis class, popular for their gorgeous bud pigmentation.
Purple Kush is the heirloom purple strain found in the US. It’s a pure indica that arrived from the Pakistan-Afghanistan region during the Hippie Trail and was grown in Oakland, California.
Taste the canna origins
Congratulations, ganja historians. You’re now a bit more familiar with the origins of all those vibrant hybrids we know and love. It all started with landraces, which eventually turned into heirloom cannabis. Breeding technology exploded, and the rest is history.
Have you tried cultivating with heirloom cannabis seeds? Share your thoughts below. Check out the rest of our blog to learn more about the amazing weed world. We write about various topics, from pot history overviews to practical guides on growing and smoking.
When you’re done exploring tradition, visit our seed store. Take in the massive selection of hybrids that make up the modern cannabis landscape and revel in the possibilities.
About the author: Parker Curtis
Parker Curtis has around a decade of cannabis-growing experience, specialising in soil-less and hydro grows. He’s mastering outdoor, greenhouse, and indoor grows.
What Are Heirloom Cannabis Strains?
You’ve probably heard of (and most likely tried) heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and so on, but heirloom cannabis? This is indeed a thing and has been for a good number of years, at least in the cannabis culture strongholds of North America.
What’s the Difference Between Heirloom and Landrace Strains?
So what makes heirloom strains so special and how are they different from other kinds of cannabis found around the world? You may have read on this site about landrace strains and why they are so coveted. We wouldn’t have heirloom strains today if not for landrace seeds. But despite their similarities, there is quite a distinction to be made between landrace and heirloom varieties.
In a nutshell, landrace strains are characterized by their geographic origin and their ‘purity’ so to speak, in other words, their lack of cross-breeding with other varieties from around the world. They have been native to a particular area or region for hundreds if not thousands of years and have developed their own unique, stable features thanks to inbreeding and natural selection. Some notable examples include Thai, Durban Poison, Lamb’s Bread (Sativas) as well as Hindu Kush, Afghani, and Mazar I Sharif (Indicas).
Generally speaking, the term heirloom refers to a traditional variety of a plant not associated with large-scale commercial agriculture, in other words, the plant genetics have been passed down from one generation to the next on a small, local scale. In the cannabis world, however, the term refers to highly valued landrace varieties grown in a different location. Simply put, how mother nature intended them to be, just grown in a different location than they’re used to.
Origins of modern strain hybridization
The origins of modern strain hybridization go back to the 1960s with the Hippie (aka Hashish) Trail that ran from Western Europe through the Middle East to India and Thailand. Hash enthusiasts would collect the seeds of landrace strains found along the way and bring them back to places like the Netherlands and the United States, where they would try to recreate the phenotypes of the originals. These varieties, specifically ones grown in California and Hawaii, would end up becoming what are now known as heirloom strains.
Landrace varieties native to the areas along the Hippie Trail ended up performing very well in Northern California, particularly Indicas from the Hindu Kush mountain range, as the terrain was similar thanks to both locations being on or near the 35th parallel. Sativas from Thailand grew very well in Hawaii due to the similar equatorial/tropical climate and the rich, fertile soil. In both cases, however, plants did produce slightly different phenotypes as a result of the different terrain and geographical conditions, making them distinct from identical seeds grown in their places of origin.
What makes heirloom cannabis strains so desirable?
Much like landrace varieties, heirloom strains are thought to be the real deal, just as mother nature intended cannabis to be, meaning they haven’t been affected by human intervention. To some that might sound boring, however, to growers and breeders alike, they offer stability and consistency. For purists, heirloom varieties produce reliable results with every generation and are just what the doctor ordered. For breeders, on the other hand, they provide a stable backbone for creating hybrid strains that are found in many dispensaries and seedbanks today.
Thanks to their consistency, they can be used by breeders to repeatedly produce certain phenotypes of completely different varieties and maintain genetic stability. For example, by crossing a stable Indica heirloom known for its low height and high levels of THC, with a stable Sativa known for a particular flavor or aroma, it is much easier to produce a stable hybrid containing all of those genetic traits. In many ways, cannabis breeding is similar to the breeding of animals, in that genetics can produce different results with each cross and/or generation.
Modern cannabis hybrids can be particularly unpredictable with their phenotypes and as a result might contain an unnatural ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes (for example very high CBD/ very low THC), considerably varying from their parents, which underwent natural selection and are more genetically stable as a result. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot produce a stable hybrid. Some of the most popular and reliable strains currently available in dispensaries and seedbanks are hybrids of heirloom strains, which means they ultimately trace back to landrace varieties.
What’s In A Name?
A good way of telling that a modern hybrid cannabis strain has stable heirloom genetics is by looking at its name. Until recently, cannabis was thought to be either an Indica or Sativa. Modern hybridization would lead to genetic dominance of one variety over the other, so a name would have to be given to distinguish as to whether it leaned more towards Indica or Sativa. Since many of the landrace Indica varieties were found in and around the Hindu Kush mountain range, the name ‘Kush’ was chosen to refer to the phenotypes these strains would typically produce. The ever-popular and classic OG Kush, as well as the famous Bubba Kish, are good examples of heirloom varieties that have been crossed to produce consistent and popular Indica dominant hybrids.
The naming history for Sativa varieties is a little different. It is believed that in the 1960s the “Haze Brothers” hybridized some Sativa heirloom strains resulting in the Original Haze, which was then brought to the Netherlands where it was hybridized even further, leading to the numerous Sativa-dominant strains found throughout the coffee shops in the land. These varieties would typically be taller and lankier in stature and would be fruitier and more citrusy in terms of aroma and flavor, hence the ‘Haze’ in the nomenclature. If you have ever tried Critical Haze or Amnesia Haze, you will recognize the Sativa genetics shared by both.
Ultimately the difference between landrace and heirloom strains boils down to them having the same genetics but grown in different areas. Both are prized for their genetic purity, stability, and reliability. Perhaps they do not offer the eclectic terpene and cannabinoid profiles of the most recent hybrids available today, however, there is something to be said about cannabis varieties with the genetics they have attained through natural selection. They have an unmistakable charm that connoisseurs will come back to time and time again. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to go.
What are landrace and heirloom marijuana strains?
In today’s world of weed, the biggest trends usually represent the latest in strains or products. But as cannabis connoisseurs learn more about the plant, what’s ‘old’ is quickly becoming ‘new’ again. Recently, there’s been a rise in popularity for the nostalgia of classic cannabis. Especially with heirloom strains and landrace strains. So, what exactly are these genes? And, what do they mean to the industry today? Let’s find out more with our ultimate guide to landrace and heirloom strains, and why you need to know.
What are landrace strains?
To put it simply, landrace strains are the OG’s of the industry. They’re the originating strains that grew naturally. They’re also indigenous to certain geographical locations. Over time, many landrace strains have transformed into the genes we know today. But the original landrace strains are classified as being an original species. Meaning, they’ve never been cross-bred and are natural to the region where they came from.
Most landrace strains come from the middle east, or Pakistan and Afghanistan specifically. But others have also been traced back to the islands of Central America, Africa, India, Thailand and Vietnam, too. Let’s learn more about some of the more notable landrace strains that are still quite popular.
Get to know notable landrace strains
So, what are some of the most notable landrace strains that you’d recognize today? Some of the most infamous include –
Hindu Kush – Between Afghanistan and Pakistan lies a mountain range that stretches about 500 miles. This mountain range is to thank for many landrace strains. Including its namesake ‘Hindu Kush’. The Hindu Kush strain is pure indica. Like many genetics that originate from this area due to the climate and soil conditions.
Af ghani – Similar to Hindu Kush, Afghani can be traced to the Hindu Kush mountains and is pure indica, too. The strain genetics are notorious for being highly resinous. Making it ideal for hash, concentrates and oil goods. Also known often as Afghani Kush, the gene is highly sedating. Plus, the strain is well-loved by growers for its maximized yields.
Acapulco Gold – Acapulco Gold is a rare landrace strain that originates from Acapulco, Mexico. The dominantly sativa gene has longtime been held as a classic staple for what perfect growth should be like. The plant grows with a beautiful natural structure, and produces high levels of THC.
Durban Poison – Coming from the port town of Durban in South Africa, Durban Poison is synonymous with an energizing buzz. The pure sativa has a notorious sweet and spicy earthiness that produces round and fluffy buds. Growing Durban Poison has become quite popular for its adaptability to a wide range of outdoor conditions, and climates.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s, when growers began experimenting with improving genetics. Like cross-breeding two species to produce ‘hybrid’ versions of classic strains. Luckily, growers have been able to stabilize many landrace phenotypes. Plus, with modern growing innovations the industry is making it even easier to grow these landrace strains, now. With feminized regular versions, and autoflowering versions, too.
What are heirloom strains?
Another term that’s recently trending across the industry, is ‘heirloom’ strains. Similar to landrace strains, horticulturally heirloom strains reference a genetic that’s gone ‘unchanged’ for a long duration of time. Through cross-breeding landrace strains, heirloom strains are brought or transported to other areas. Instead of being natural to one region, heirloom strains can come from any geographical location. Many of the heirloom genes we’re familiar with, have come from the Caribbean, and the US. Predominantly, the states of California and Hawaii. In Hawaii, the climate conditions were ideal for many sativas that originated in Africa, and Vietnam. While northern Cali was similar in climate for landrace strains originating from the Hindu Kush region.
Some examples of heirloom strains that come from landrace strains include –
- OG Kush (Hindu Kush)
- Jack Herer (Afghani)
- Amnesia Haze (Acapulco Gold)
- Girl Scout Cookies (Durban Poison)
The importance of landrace and heirloom strains
With so many hybrids now emerging onto top-shelves, what exactly is the importance of landrace and heirloom strains? They’re an example of refined, pure and natural versions of original cannabis genetics. This produces more reliable and vigorous growth overall. While also producing a more accurate level of THC cannabinoid content. Unlike most hybrids that boast maximum potency. These factors also allow cannabis connoisseurs to enjoy the pure, unadulterated joys of classic marijuana, like its original version.
For breeders, and cultivators – heirloom and landrace strains also serve as a more stable option for mother plants and cross-breeding. Meaning, you can use the trustworthy genetics to continue breeding fresh genes that are beneficial for specific effects, aromas, etc. You’re more likely to produce a high quality hybrid, with original landrace or heirloom strains, versus overly genetically modified species.
A throwback to classic cannabis roots
Now that you know more about heirloom strains and landrace strains, you can have a deeper appreciation for the cannabis plant overall. These strains are to thank for our thriving industry today, and should be held with the ‘highest’ honors. When you’re ready to begin growing premium versions of many landrace or heirloom strains, look no further than 420 Seeds . We offer the widest selection of cannabis seed types, for your growing pleasure and pride