Foundational Cannabis: Landrace Strains

The earliest known strains of cannabis grew in the mountains and valleys of Central Asia.

The earliest known strains of cannabis grew in the mountains and valleys of Central Asia.

Cannabis has been traced back tens of millions of years to the rising of mountain ranges in central Asia.

As the mountains began to rise, the cannabis plant began to produce trichomes to protect itself from UV rays. In further attempts to protect itself from inhospitable conditions, cannabis produces different compounds to act as it’s immune system. Like many plants the cannabis plant produces different terpenes, aromatic essential oils, to act as its immune system. What is unique is the production of cannabinoids, which can act as a natural pesticide and in other ways to protect the plant based on its environment. Terpenes and cannabinoids are very taxing for the plant to produce, so the plant doesn’t produce them for our enjoyment, but to ensure it lives long enough to reproduce and pass along it’s genetics. 

Environmental Factors Produce Unique Characteristics

The Novel Tree Medical carries several landrace strains in various forms.

The Novel Tree Medical carries several landrace strains in various forms.

From heavy trichome production that can capture pollen, to the production of specific terpenes that can attract pollinators or deter predators, many of the things we utilize in the cannabis plant are ways the plant is protecting itself and ensuring its genes will be passed along. Which compounds the plant produces depends greatly on its environment. As the cannabis plant began to move through traditional trade routes over the last 10,000 years, plants became isolated in specific climates, and over many generations began to adapt to those environments. Plants that found their way closer to the equator with longer growing seasons and warmer weather grew taller, and lankier. The stretch of the plant and the lower density of buds acted as a way for the plant to increase air flow and cool itself. 

Landrace strains you may have heard of:

Durban Poison • Afghani Kush • Colombian Gold • Maui Wowie

Plants on the Move

For thousands of years Cannabis was very much allowed to grow in response to its natural climate. As cannabis prohibition was enacted in the United States, plants would be brought in from South America where the equatorial climates produced plants exhibiting more invigorating and euphoric effects. In the 1970’s, the US government supplied the pesticide Paraquat to south American countries to spray on cannabis plants. It was then sold in the US, poisoning cannabis users. This led to a surge of people beginning to grow their own cannabis. 

Into Modernity

Many began growing under artificial light in basements, and anywhere else that would provide an adequate environment. Many of the tall sativa plants were ill-equipped to be grown in a basement, so this is where we see the beginnings of hybridization. Many liked the euphoric energizing effects of sativas more than the sedating couch lock effects of Indica. However, the short stout growth and shorter growth cycle of an Indica plant was better suited to indoor growing.  

As people began cross-breeding indicas and sativas, it became increasingly difficult to find traditional landrace strains like the Thai, Colombian Red, Acapulco Gold, Maui Wowie, and Durban Poison. Furthermore, all cannabis on the market today can be tracked back to a single plant millions of years ago. The massive variety  we enjoy in the market today is thanks to selective breeding and the plant’s natural response to different environmental factors. 

By Matt Kovarsky